Ku Stevens will run 50 miles in remembrance of his great-grandfather’s escape attempts from the Stewart Indian School in Nevada.
When Stevens’ great-grandfather, Frank Quinn, was a child, he was placed in the Stewart Indian School, a military-style boarding school. Stewart and the roughly 200 schools like it were compulsory, often written into the treaties that granted Native Americans their own lands. If a tribe did not send their children to a government- or church-run school, usually well away from their lands, they could be stripped of their reservation.
In the school, students were not allowed to pursue their own traditions or cultural practices, to speak their own languages, or see their families. While many students remember the schools as being generous with sports programs, facilities, and curricula, plenty more remember the experience as a long-term kidnapping.
Frank Quinn certainly did not appreciate the school’s pool in lieu of his freedoms. At just 8, he escaped three times, running 50 miles across the desert to his home on the Yerington Paiute tribal reservation.
Ku Stevens calls his proposed act of memorial “The Remembrance Run.” It will take place later this summer, and he invites anyone who wishes to run alongside him. He was inspired by the discovery of over 200 undocumented graves of children at a residential school in Canada earlier this year.
“The point of it all is to educate people on what happened to our people and what happened in Canada. This is another thing to recognize what kinds of things they did to be with their families,” Stevens said to the Reno Gazette Journal.
The Stewart Indian School was closed in 1980. In 2020, a museum to the history of the school and the residential schools program was opened in its buildings. The museum features accounts of the wide array of experiences from former students, from positive and heartwarming, to chilling and damning.
Photo: the desert Southwest with mountains sacred to the Paiute tribe in the background. Credit: Shutterstock