A group that left New York in June arrived at Lake Casitas on Thursday after running across the country to celebrate 500 years of survival and focus attention on the need for an independent American Indian Olympic team.
The run was organized by Kelly Looking Horse, a Sioux Indian who grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and led cross-country runs in 1984 and 1988.
This year, the group of 32 representing 10 tribes left Manhattan on June 15. After dwindling to as few as eight runners, 28 are scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles on Saturday.
"We're telling people, 'Hey, we're alive,' " Looking Horse said. "I'm a full-blooded Sioux Indian. I speak the language, I'm religious. We're still here."
The group travels 80 to 130 miles a day, taking turns running and driving in the four vehicles carrying their gear. Four other vehicles have broken down along the way, Looking Horse said.
Often, the group has had to rely on the charity of others to keep the trip going.
"See that trailer," Looking Horse said. "It was given to us by a Chippewa man in Turtle Mountain, North Dakota."
A Ford Fairmont was donated by a woman in Washington and a Dodge Van was bought from a church group in Harrisburg, Pa., for $800.
In addition to signs warning drivers to mind the runners ahead, flags are posted on some of the vehicles, including one of four horizontal lines colored red, yellow, black and white.
"God put these four colors on earth, equally," Looking Horse said. "So far, we are all enemies, we're not doing a good job. We have to have unity among all people, so we can last another 500 years."