Runners bring water in relay to MAR-5 for upcoming Water Rights Day

Kyle Knox

Gila River Indian News



On Sunday, Nov. 22, 10 runners trekked 12 miles from the MAR-1 site in District 1, Blackwater, to MAR-5 in District 3 carrying water in a traditional gourd canteen as part of the upcoming 16th Annual GRIC Water Rights Day Celebration, which recognizes the Arizona Water Rights Settlement of 2004 and the lengthy legal battle to secure the Community’s water rights.


“This year it was decided to run the water as we have in the past although we did not have an in-person event. We decided to limit the run to a few Community members to run the water and pray for the Community during this tough time,” said Alie Walking Badger, Special Events Coordinator with the Communications & Public Affairs Office.


Walking Badger and other organizers with the Gila River Health Initiative scaled back this year’s run in accordance to CDC COVID-19 safety guidelines.


The Nasewytewa family, District 6, and the Quintero family, District 1, divided the miles between them to jointly complete the route. 


Thalia Ayala, District 1, ran for the second year and said, “It’s important to run this water because it’s sacred. At one point we didn’t have it, and now that we do, it’s good to run it because that’s what makes us river people.”


Lee Nasewytewa, District 6, ran for his third time. “The history and importance of the holiday keeps me coming back to run the water because whether the celebration is in person or virtual, running the water means a lot for the Community,” he said. 


Footage of the run will be screened during the Virtual Water Rights Day Celebration, which will be aired on Gila River Broadcasting Corporation channels 19.1 and 29.1 on Thursday, Dec. 10 at 6 p.m., and will also be streamed live on the Gila River Indian Community’s Facebook page.


“The fact that we were able to run the water this year was a success in itself, and we look forward to once again running water for future Water Rights Day events,” Walking Badger said.