Women Find Safety, Community in KwePack Running Group

Updated: July 17, 2019 06:36 PM

Sarah Agaton Howes created KwePack in 2011, a running group for women from the Fond du Lac reservation and the surrounding area, including the city of Duluth. 'Kwe' means 'woman' in Ojibwe.


KwePack promotes safety for women while providing an atmosphere where runners feel comfortable in workout clothing and in the running community. 

Around 80 runners typically run with KwePack in various community events and marathons, but drew a group of around 125 women for their National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women event on May 5th. 

The event draws attention to the women that are reported missing in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. In 2016, according to the National Crime Information Center, more than 5,700 Indigenous women went missing, with 96 of those cases showing connections to domestic violence and sexual assault. 

"I know in today's news there's a lot of the stories of addiction and murdered and missing Indigenous people and these really sad negative things, and I think it's good for people to be able to see something positive," said KwePack member Trish Staine.

While promoting awareness for Native American women, the group finds ways to support each other. KwePack hosts fundraisers at their events that help other women afford running shoes, athletic attire and marathon fees. Many of the women joined when they were faced with personal challenges, finding solace and meaning in the running community.

"Anishinaabeg are known as the people of the heartway. We think, speak, run, and lead with our hearts out front for ourselves and our people. We are going ahead, standing and running in the gap, to share a healthy, active community for our people. We created this space, carved out a space for this collective of specifically Indigenous women. Sometimes if a space doesn't work or exist, then it's best to create your own where we can be victorious, celebrate one another, and relentlessly cheer each other on to dream bigger," said KwePack member and Duluth’s Community Relations Officer Alicia Kozlowski. 

Coming up, KwePack plans on running in the Healing Run, a 5K walk/run, in Sawyer, Minnesota July 20th, at 10 A.M.. The Fond du Lac Spiritual Run and August 3rd, and the Moos Mountain Marathon in September are also on KwePack's 2019 agenda. 

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