Dillon Shije, Advocate for Native American Health and Wellness
Dillon Shije, professional runner, has fond memories of running and racing as a kid, growing up in Zia Pueblo Indian Reservation in rural New Mexico. “I wasn’t very fast to start out with, but I really enjoyed the camaraderie that we had, competing against kids from other Pueblo and Native American communities in the state.” Dillon became more serious about his sport in high school, and, along with two other high school athletes, was featured in the documentary, Run to the East, which chronicled his journey and progression from middle school to a collegiate athlete. The film highlighted the impacts of living on the reservation, and the culture shock that Dillon experienced in college. Reflecting on what motivated him at that time to continue pursuing his sport, Dillon says, “I wanted to prove that we (Native Americans) are strong and can be as successful academically and athletically, as anyone else.”
“I wasn’t very fast to start out with, but I
really enjoyed the camaraderie that we had”
Dillon was indeed successful, running for the varsity team at University of Colorado, while also completing a double major in Integrative Physiology and History. When he speaks with kids who also aspire to being a collegiate athlete, he stresses to them the importance of prioritizing academics, “because education is what will hold you up through life.” Dillon is currently training again to compete nationally, but he also has a goal to apply to medical school and become a doctor. He knows that with each goal, there are setbacks, and he has had his share.
While trying to qualify for the Olympics, Dillon experienced a serious injury that sidelined him from that goal. “I suffered physically and mentally, and ended up moving home where I turned to my culture, family and support system to find my roots again. When I speak with kids, I encourage them to really think about what is motivating them, and tell them to set more than just athletic goals. Running can be a catalyst to many other things in their lives.”
Dillon also has the opportunity to speak with parents, and encourages them to allow their kids to have fun, and not be so competitive at a young age. He is an advocate for native health and wellness and serves on the All Pueblo Council of Governors as a committee member, in addition to his professional work which includes motivational speaking, workshops, training, and wellness consulting based on Native American running traditions and cutting edge athletic practices.
Every Kid Sports is thrilled to have Dillon join us as a Champion, with a special focus on ensuring families are aware of our program and building out programs that support youth sports participation in indigenous communities throughout New Mexico.
– The Every Kid Sports team