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Boston Marathon adds Native features in wake of criticism

Patti Catalano Dillon (Mi’kmaq) set an American marathon record 40 years ago in the Boston Marathon. (Photo B.A.A.)

After facing criticism for scheduling its race on the same day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, officials with the Boston Marathon are trying to make amends.

The marathon, which is usually held in April but was postponed due to the pandemic, will run Oct. 11. The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.), which oversees the marathon, acknowledged that the day is recognized as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in cities and towns along the race route and has incorporated a variety of Indigenous-related aspects to this year’s marathon.

Patti Catalano Dillon (Mi’kmaq), a three-time Boston Marathon runner-up, will be interviewed at Fan Fest. She will discuss setting the American marathon record at Boston 40 years ago. Catalano Dillon is also featured in the 125th Boston Marathon Banner Program. She will serve as an official starter for the men’s and women’s open races.

“It’s such an honor to be asked and I’m so humbled and excited to celebrate both aspects of my identity—as a Bostonian and an Indigenous person,” Catalano Dillon said in a statement. “The Boston Marathon and the Native community both made me who I am today, and I am delighted to have an opportunity to celebrate them.”

The B.A.A. will also make donations to Native-related endeavours. B.A.A. will contribute $10,000 to Wings of America, a national organization with a mission of strengthening Native youth and their families through running. The donation will support youth programming. Dustin Martin, the organization’s executive director, will be recognized in a race weekend event.

At Fan Fest, Yatika Starr Fields, a painter and muralist who will run the marathon in support of Wings, will create a piece that focuses on gratitude to past and present Indigenous runners in the marathon. From Oct. 8-10 in Copley Square, Fields will work with local artists, community members and Indigenous runners to develop a piece inspired by Ellison Brown, who won the marathon twice in the 1930s and was a member of the Narragansett Tribe in nearby Rhode Island.

In August, the B.A.A. apologized for holding the race on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Shortly after, it announced it would donate $20,000 to fund the first-ever Indigenous Peoples’ Day Celebration in Newton.

The B.A.A. also said it will read a land acknowledgment prior to the race.

Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at