Interview with Oliver Bear Don’t Walk IV (Crow)
In 2010, at the age of 17, Oliver broke the American Junior 50k Track record by more than 71 minutes. The previous record set in 1984 was 4:21:09, and Oliver finished with a time of 3:10:07. Choosing not to run for his school team, he began training with a personal coach for longer distance races such as 10k, half marathons, and full marathons. Some of his other achievements include World Junior Mountain Qualifier, USA 15k Trail all-American (5th, US Championships), USA all-American (15k), 2x National Junior T&F Qualifier (10,000 meters). He says running provides an outlet from school, people, and stress.
Oliver graduated from Nooksack Valley High School in 2011. He is currently attending Stanford University and is considering a math major.
1. Did you experience racism growing up, and if so, how did you overcome it?
None of the adults in my life were racist towards me or Native Americans. I did, however, experience a lot of jokes during my time in high school. Most of them were not made in an overtly hateful way, they were “just meant to be funny” if that can actually be said about names like wagon burner, river/prairie nigger or buffalo fucker (I apologize if those were offensive for you to read). Besides names like those I often heard people say that I only got into Stanford because I was Native American, which was never easy for me to hear. It turns out that a lot of the Native Americans here have heard that as well, which I would guess is true for many minorities who get into college.
2. Do you stay in touch with your native heritage, if so, how?
I don’t live on a reservation so it’s hard to keep in touch with my culture, but every summer my family and I go back to Montana and go to Crow Fair (A powwow put on by my tribe). When I’m older I plan on learning my language and living on the Reservation so that I can know where I come from.
3. What's your favorite book or movie?
My favorite movie is V for Vendetta or Fire on the Track. My favorite book is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott card. Both the movies and the book are about a little guy with his talents going up against the world.
4. Who are your heroes? Why?
I don’t want this to sound vain or arrogant but I don’t know if I have heroes. I do, however, model myself after the good things I see in people. Steve Prefontaine’s guts, Billy Mill’s risk, my father’s dedication to his friends and family, my mother’s ability to persevere, my grandfather’s ability to keep a cool head, and my great grandmother’s faith in something greater than herself. At all times, I try to carry those different pieces of people with me.
5. What are your aspirations as a runner?
At the moment I’m injured and so it’s to simply just run. To run to the tops of mountains and to the edges of cities. Beyond that I want to run in the Olympics and other world events, but for right now all I want to do is run.
7. Bear Don't Walks are doing great things; Marjorie is head of the clinic in Billings, and I believe another is Scott with Rhodes Scholars. To what do you contribute their successes (can you speak for them)?
Those are both true, I also have a cousin, Rose Bear Don’t Walk, who will be attending Yale next fall and is a Gates Millennium Scholar. I’m very proud to come from such a high achieving family, though I don’t know that I can speak for all of their successes. One very broad part of their success may be from the fact of knowing that a lot of your family, and of your people, don’t have the opportunity to do what you want to do. What I mean is that before Scott went to Oxford I’m sure he knew the plight of his family members and wanted to do better. I can’t say for what reasons he wanted to do better, but for me personally I want to be able to set an example for others and be in a position to help when I meet someone who has lofty goals. Lofty goals aren’t bad, not knowing how to achieve them is the only bad part of setting lofty goals. I guess I got a little side tracked with that, but all in all the Bear Don’t Walks do have some success stories and I’ve never met someone in my family who wasn’t willing to help another to do well in life.