Hannah Tomeo

Ambassador

Hannah Tomeo

Hannah, Colville, wants to help break down stereotypes.

My sophomore year I transferred to a predominately white high school for a better opportunity-it had the best academics and athletics not only in my city but competitive in my state. I still remember walking in to that school and feeling the intimidation and the exact thought of “What the hell am I doing here?”. I was told right away by my science teacher that it was in my genetics to be an alcoholic, my running coach told me she had coached indian runners before and we are all the same with no real potential in the running world, was the only one drug tested on the basketball team,and the list goes on. I’m sure you get it I did not exactly fit in. But then I received a word from my dad that would change my perspective, he told me I could either be a quitter or a success story. When I was younger he used to tell me I had the ability to change my last name, he was always metaphorical like that. He didn’t mean I could literally change my last name he meant I had the ability to change the way people thought of me when they heard it, but I didn’t only want to change my last name, I wanted to change my stereotype not only for the way non-natives perceive Indians, but how we perceive ourselves. I wanted to raise the standards for my younger siblings and other Native youth. I have dedicated my young life to this, I not only proved my teachers wrong, but my coaches too. I am enrolled in high school, but I do running start and take college classes, I have made state in cross country, first team, all Colville team, national races, I have raced for team Washington and team Hawaii, won the Miss Northwest Indian Youth Conference title, and as of recently I have decided to go to Portland State on Track and Cross Country scholarship. I do this because my hopes are that it will encourage my Native peers to see one of there own can make it and so can they. Our people are not the alcoholic, abusive stereo type we are given, and that is not the image that us native kids should be given. No we deserve to know that our people were scholars with the biggest trade system of our time and a sign language to connect us, our people were athletes, when settlers first got here they thought they saw ghosts because before them we didn’t have horses and would run everywhere and we were so fast they thought we were ghosts, and last but not least our people were spiritual and through christ all things are possible. I wanted to be a We R Native Ambassador because I want to be apart of this great project and help break down these stereotypes. Through running I found strength through struggles, it was my outlet and my way of going back to my roots. I remember when I first started at my new school and I had no where to sit at lunch and the people were mean, I would hide my back pack and go run during lunch I would run in the woods on the trails and find peace through nature. Running is almost as natural as breathing for me, it is in my blood. Natives were runners, before horses our ancestors would run everywhere. I run because I love it but I race because it brings happiness to my community I see it in my elders eyes and my younger cousins always say they want to be fast like me, but I always tell them no you will be faster. My hope is not to be the fastest, but instead I hope I’m just the trail blazer for a new generation of Native runners to come. Running is a healthy way of living that teaches you perseverance, and mental strength. So whenever I go back to my rez I run with a group of talented young athletes, cousins, siblings any native kid that wants to join. It brings me happiness that I can encourage others with my passion for running.

I often struggle with feeling native "enough."

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