Sovereign Original Land Owners

"Columbus Day"? "Indigenous Peoples Day"? "Billy Mills Day"?

In the past 48 hours, I’ve scrolled past hundreds of social media posts imploring me to think carefully about how to commemorate this October 14th. Though I’m generally inspired by my peers’ vociferous denunciation of “Columbus Day” in support of “Indigenous Peoples Day”, their messages of resilience and education are coupled with accusatory reminders of genocide and slavery that ultimately steal the wind from my anti-Columbus sails. 

This is not to say that I think our Nation’s shared heritage of treating Indigenous peoples badly should be shrouded. There are millions of Americans (& Native Americans for that matter) living fat and happy lives on hallowed ground that they absolutely take for granted. Increased exposure to the uncensored histories of colonialism might be just what this country needs to awaken the masses from their near-catatonic state of consumeristic bliss.

But why wait for “Indigenous Peoples Day” to educate the oblivious? Why alienate potential non-Native supporters of the holiday by using it as an annual opportunity to point fingers and stoke the fiery burn of white guilt? Why not use a federal holiday to celebrate the achievements of a true American hero AND the survivance of Indigenous Peoples?

Fifty-nine years ago to the day, Billy Mills- a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe- ran for gold in the 10,000 meters at the Games of the XVIII Olympiad. Perhaps more improbable than sailing a carrack across an ocean and making landfall on a “new” landmass during an age of royally funded imperial exploration, Mills managed to run a personal best of almost 50 seconds and out-kick the defending world record holder. 

If you haven’t already, you MUST watch both of the following videos:





Though I’ve come to terms with the fact that non-runners might not experience the spine-tingling euphoria I feel each time I watch those videos, I dare any human being to tell me Billy’s story isn’t awe-inspiring. To this day, he is the only American ever to win gold in the 10,000 meters. If that’s not enough, perhaps it’ll help to know that he also ran a personal best in the 5K on the way to his landmark victory. For 28 minutes and 24.4 seconds, Mr. Mills refused to accept the impossible and laughed in the face of every person who every told him a half-breed from Pine Ridge would never amount to anything. If that’s not the essence of resilience, I don’t know what is.

Unfortunately, “Columbus Day” doesn’t fall on October 14th every year. But the truth is Billy’s contribution to the spirit of humanity extends far beyond 10/14/1964. In the last few years I have had the good fortune to spend a great deal of time with Mr. Mills. Not once has he forsaken the opportunity to talk with me about what he likes to call “Olympic Idealism”- global unity through the character, dignity, and beauty of global diversity. From the living room of his own home to a podium in front of an audience of thousands, Billy uses his voice to advocate for unity, education, ambition and reconciliation. 

On the anniversary of "The Greatest Track & Field Battle of the 20th Century", I can’t think of anyone better to replace Columbus than Billy Mills. If you need any more convincing, maybe Billy’s own words will do the trick: “It’s the journey, not the destination, that empowers us.”

My advice: stop marveling over the fact that Banksy sold “$225,000 worth of art for $420” yesterday and go for a run.

Respectfully Submitted,



Billy imparts some of his knowledge on the Wings of America family at the 2013 Hopi Runner’s Forum in Moenkopi, AZ.

Indian Peace Medal ca. 1801

This example of a U.S. government-minted “Indian Peace Medal” can be found on the second floor of the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. These signs of “Peace and Friendship” were given to Indian leaders by agents of Manifest Destiny until 1869. Lewis & Clark gave a number of these medals on their 1804-1806 expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase. Please click here to learn about more about these peculiar tokens of sovereignty. 



Watch Horse You See on PBS. See more from PBS Online Film Festival.

According to director Melissa Henry, “Horse You See is a film that celebrates life and the Navajo language, and shows us what is the essence of being a horse.” Awarded Best Children’s Film at the Talking Circle Indigenous Film Festival in 2009, this hypnotically repetetive “exposé” details the lot of a Native-speaking equine named Ross. Any one curious about the cadence and inflection of the Navajo language will surely enjoy a few minutes of viewing.

Native(X) Interview With S.O.L.O. Co-Founder Dustin Martin

Thanks to Mac over at Native(X) for taking the time to collect some insights from a few of the movers and shakers in the Native fashion/design realm right now. Native American Heritage month should also be about the NOW and we at S.O.L.O. surely appreciate the fact that Mac agrees. Click HERE for the full interview.


When Santa Fe Indian School Cross Country coach Jonathan Tafoya asked S.O.L.O. to cook up some fresh team apparel to debut at their Cochiti Pueblo invitational last weekend, we jumped at the opportunity. Here are some photos of the production run and inspiration. Blessings to the Braves and Lady Braves. We hope to see them tees on the podium come November. 

Mountain pattern “sash”

Three prints. One Screen. 

Revolt-runner statue in the rotunda of the newly-built SFIS administration building

Native Pride. Leave it to Damian (Junior Gong) Marley and Skrillex to use a stereotype against The Man. Bass Face. XD

An intereseting rendering with obvious inspiration. Can’t endorse the tunes but image gets a tip from the hat. 

An intereseting rendering with obvious inspiration. Can’t endorse the tunes but image gets a tip from the hat. 

Ralph T. Coe Collection- The Met

Currently nestled in that transitory space between Greek terra-cotta and the first-floor of the modern-art wing at the Met is a selection of spectacular pieces from the collection of Ralph T. Coe. First lured to the aesthetics of Native America by a totem pole he encountered in NYC in 1955, Mr. Coe spent the good part of his life collecting the most-exquisite “arts & crafts” he could find in Indian communties across North America. Known as “Ted” to those in the art world, Ralph Coe and his collection were instrumental to the creation of the 1976 exhibition Sacred Circles: 2,000 Years of North American Indian Art at the Hayward Gallery in London. The show made a powerful statement by treating the material culture of Native America as living art rather than “artifacts”. 

Faw Faw Coat, ca. 1900, Otoe-Missouria, Oklahoma

When we stumbled upon the items a few months ago, we were perhaps most struck by the impossibly precise details of every piece. Without a doubt, Mr. Coe had an eye for quality craftsmanship. Then again, with the opportunity to buy bead and needle-work from the turn of the 20th century and jars from masters like Nampeyo, good ol’ Ted would have been a fool had he procured anything less.

If you happen to be in NYC anytime before October 14th, be sure to take a gander. Location: The Michael C. Rockefeller Wing, Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas Special Exhibition Gallery, first floor  

Jar Nampeyo, ca. 1910, Hopi (Tewa), Arizona

To learn more about Ralph Coe and collection currently on display at the Met, click here.

Signs & Symbols


                 Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997), ”Indian with Pony”, 1953, Woodcut

This graphic print by America’s most prominent “pop” artist currently hangs in an exhibit entitled “Sign & Symbols” at the Whitney Museum in NYC. Curated to “shed light on the development of American abstracition during the critical postwar period of the mid-1940s to the end of the 1950s,” the show is riddled with allusions to Native America. Though some artists blatantly identify the American Indian as their subject/inspiration, others choose a more subtle approach to interpreting “Native”. We were perhaps most taken with Steve Wheeler’s “Lauging Boy Rolling, 1946”:



The exhibit runs through October 28th, 2012. Give it a look if you get a chance.