Image from "Run With the Sun" page of
Image from “Run With the Sun” page of — being called e longest indigenous prayer run in U.S. history.

Local Native Americans are about to complete the longest indigenous prayer run in U.S. history. “Run with the Sun” is the brainchild of Lakeside resident Bobby Wallace, a member of the Barona Band of Mission Indians, in hopes of protecting waters across America.

“It’s been awesome making changes in people’s minds about water everywhere,” Wallace told East County Magazine in an interview. “We started running, traveling with the water over every footstep of this continent, over every major waterway, with a prayer for all water.”

The effort is supported by the Barona, Sycuan and Viejas tribes in San Diego’s East County as well as participants from other tribes across the United States.

The run began June 12, 2022, in Maine, with runners collecting water vials from tribal members nationwide.

On June 14, they will arrive in San Diego and hold a ceremony on the beach near Friendship Park at the international border, followed by a “Run for the Sun” concert June 16 at the Sycuan reservation.

The concert will feature multiple stages with many bands.

Wallace says he came up with the idea while walking across the Mojave Desert in 2019, concerned that “water was getting killed everywhere” due to the effects of pollution and climate change.

Then an Ojibwe friend in Canada told him: “Bobby, we need to start this. Water is getting so polluted everywhere, so we need to bring awareness and prayer.”

The first leg of the run began at the West Quoddi Lighthouse at the border of Maine and Canada at “the very northeast corner of the U.S., the furthest place you can go” in the nation, Wallace recalled.

There, tribal women including from the Haudenosaunee from New York, Passamoquoddi from Maine, and Navajo fromArizona blended waters from their areas with waters from the San Diego River and the Pacific Ocean, historic Kumeyaay territory.

“When they poured the water in, I watched them and looked out at the ocean,” Wallace said, recalling a tidal surge that swept to shore over everyone’s feet but his.

After completing half the continent last year, the run was suspended in winter, a peace pipe and staff with eagle feathers left in the Midwest to keep the prayer alive.

Earlier this year, runners including Wallace, his son and nephew resumed the run through Kansas City to Arizona, heading to California.

Across America, Wallace says people were receptive and concerned about water quality. He voices concern over a recent Supreme Court decision prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating wetlands not connected to the sea, as well as over raw sewage being pumped into the Pacific Ocean from Tijuana, Mexico that has caused numerous beach closures in San Diego County in recent weeks.

In a small Colorado town, Lamar, where runners set up a campground, Wallace told ECM: “On the last day, we were sitting there and this little school bus came by. Little kids were waving at us. This whole town knew what we were doing.”

He adds: “It’s been like that everywhere we went. People know now that water is getting horrible to drink.”

For Native Americans, the issue is spiritual as well as a health concern. “In our belief, water is alive,” said Wallace, who grew concerned that “water is getting killed everywhere.”

On June 14, runners will near the end of their journey, arriving at Friendship Park around 5 p.m. near the international border, where the polluted Tijuana River flows into the sea.

Native American bird singers will celebrate the arrival, followed by prayers and a pipe ceremony. Then waters from across America will be merged with the Pacific, with a prayer for all waters.

Wallace hopes these efforts will “bring more attention to clean water, but also to our planet as a whole. … If everybody does their part, we can make things better.”

After the beachside prayer ceremony, runners will continue on through local mountain and desert tribal areas, ending at Sycuan on June 16, where an awards ceremony for participants will be held from 10:45 a.m. to noon.

The two-day concert will start immediately after the ceremony and run June 16-17 at the Sycuan reservation on Dehesa Road in unincorporated El Cajon.

The music festival will feature artists of all genres, including national acts, international recording artists, local bands, cultural performances, vendors and local artisans. The festival will be an opportunity to showcase those in our community and allow people to have a unique experience.

For a full list of bands and entertainment, or to buy tickets ($40 per day general admission, $100 VIP), visit this page.

“Everything is open to everyone,” Wallace says of the prayer run and concert, “because we’re all in this together.”

Miriam Raftery is editor of East County Magazine, where a version of this report originally appeared. East County Magazine is a member of the San Diego Online News Association.