One Drop at a Time

Alexandera Houchin near her home within the 1854 Ceded Territory in Minnesota. Photo: Hansi Johnson

One Drop at a Time Alexandera Houchin's Steadfast Journey of Self-Discovery

I grew up knowing my mom was Native, but the fact that she was adopted out of our tribal community as a young child made my identity seem like a fantasy. The only Natives I ever saw growing up were on butter boxes, in cartoons (Pocahontas, Popeye and Peter Pan) and in history books, depicted eating supper with Pilgrims. Of course, I didn’t look like those Natives and neither did my family members. So, if we didn’t look Native, if I was estranged from my tribal community and if I couldn’t be understood by animals like I saw in the cartoons, it seemed as though I should let my Native identity dissipate. In mainstream society, there is little Indigenous visibility. In the cycling world, there is even less.

Despite this, I’ve carved out a home of sorts within the realm of ultra-racing, a niche discipline in which mountain bikers spend days—sometimes weeks—racing long distances without any outside assistance. The ultra-racing domain is populated by a small group of people, many of whom I’ve come to know. I hold the women’s singlespeed records for the 2,700-mile-long Tour Divide Race, the Colorado Trail Race (in both directions), as well as that of the Arizona Trail 300 race. For just about every big ultra-race, I scan the roster for familiar names and see friends listed, yet I rarely meet other Native people. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever met another Native at a starting line. Deep in my spirit, I envision a world in which more Natives lined up to race but I’m not sure how to make that dream a reality.

Why bring my cultural identity into racing? In short, because my entire life—including my strength on the bike—is defined by my identity as an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe woman). From my identity springs a deep connection to my tribal community and a driving desire to be a contributing citizen of my nation. My spirit gets polluted by compounded self-neglect in my day-to-day life. Without racing, I feel a disconnect from knowing who I really am. I race bikes to escape my perceived inadequacies and reconnect with my spirit. I race bikes to stay accountable to my well-being. I race bikes because, through racing, I’ve found a way to incorporate ceremony into my life in a way that feels right. It was only after participating in traditional Anishinaabe ceremony in my tribal community, that I truly understood I was creating my own type of ceremony through racing.

This article is for our Subscribers and Plus Members.

Gain access by purchasing an online or print subscription.

Basic Free Subscription
$0 / Year

  • Access to the FH Dashboard

  • Bookmark favorite articles for easy access

  • Browse articles by issue

  • Receive our weekly newsletter for the latest content and special discounts

Sign Up

Plus Online Subscription
$19.95 | Year

  • Online access to the latest print issues the day they hit newsstands

  • Download print articles and take them with you on the go for offline reading

  • Access to the FH Dashboard

  • Bookmark favorite articles for easy access

  • Browse articles by issue

  • Receive our weekly newsletter for the latest content and special discounts

 Get Plus 
Free Trial

Premium Print Subscription
$34.95 | Year*

  • 4 Issues/year of our print magazine mailed directly to your front door

  • Online access to the latest print issues the day they hit newsstands

  • Download print articles and take them with you on the go for offline reading

  • Access to the FH Dashboard

  • Bookmark favorite articles for easy access

  • Browse articles by issue

  • Receive our weekly newsletter for the latest content and special discounts

Go Premium

Already a Member?

Login