A conversation with Kutoven “Ku” Stevens, student athlete and host of the 50-mile Remembrance Run from the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center & Museum in Carson City to the Yerington Paiute Reservation. 


NM&VG: What was it like growing up in a small Nevada town like Yerington?

KS: I grew up in a colony around a lot of Native Americans. My dad always took me to different ceremonies like the Sun Dance, and we also had a sweat lodge in our backyard. These are really big Native American staples in our culture, so I grew up in a pretty traditional way. 

NM&VG:  How did you become interested in running?

KS: I fell in love with running very early on. My dad was a hobby jogger and would take me out in the stroller with him. Eventually, I’d get out and start running by him, and then I was beating him in races. The first race I completed was a local half mile when I was 4 years old.

NM&VG:  What inspired your idea for the 50-mile Remembrance Run?

A young Native American man, Kutoven "Ku" Stevens, running while wearing black t-shirt and shorts and a green baseball capKS: It was around the time they made a discovery of 215 unmarked Indigenous graves on the grounds of a former boarding school in Kamloops, Canada. When my family heard about that, it hit close to home. My great-grandfather had gone to a boarding school, which he ran away from three times at only 8 years old. He made the 50-mile trip through the desert from Stewart Indian School back to the Yerington Paiute Reservation. 

NM&VG:  What did you want the run to accomplish?

KS: We wanted to raise awareness about these boarding schools and reignite interest in the subject. A lot of people I’d talk to thought it was something that only happened once, but they didn’t realize the schools were part of a bigger cultural genocide that wasn’t taught in basic education. We thought of different things we could do. My dad had always wanted to put on a backpack and do the full 50-mile trip to get a better understanding of what it was like for my great-grandfather to go through something like that. It was right before my senior track season, and I was a pretty good runner at that point, so I decided to run it and do a few posts here and there to try and raise awareness. Eventually, more people wanted to join, and it became this really big thing. 

NM&VG:  What was the most difficult part of the run for you? 

KS: Obviously, it’s not an easy journey. It’s 50 miles, so no matter how good you are at running, it’s a pretty tough thing to go through. After the first run, I distinctly remember cresting over the final ridge and seeing my valley, my hometown, and just being overwhelmed. It was really emotional for me to finally complete this journey and understand what my great-grandfather went through: putting myself in his shoes and imagining how he felt after running countless miles, not even sure which direction he was going at times and just trying to get back home. 

NM&VG:  Will there be a return of the Remembrance Run?

KS: We haven’t made a solid decision yet, but we’ve thought about hosting Remembrance Runs across the U.S., including Yerington. It’d be a lot to undertake, but I think it would bring a lot of change since it’d bring awareness nation-wide. I’m hoping that it allows people to gain a deeper understanding of Native American history, including information about the boarding schools. That’s all I can hope for at the end of the day. I can’t change the world all at once: just piece by piece.

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