Ahead of Native American Heritage Month, the Toloma 5K will return to UC Merced on Saturday, Oct. 28 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event has been held since 2021, and not only raises money for Native American activities on campus but preserves tradition while acknowledging the campus's location on Yokut and Miwuk land.
The idea to hold such a race at UC Merced came from founding faculty member and Professor emerita Teenie Matlock and Assistant Professor Spencer Castro - both members of the Southern Sierra Miwuk tribe. The name "Toloma" derives from the Miwuk word for "Bobcat."
"The Toloma 5K serves as an important symbol for the gratitude our institution conveys in recognizing the land on which we are situated and the people who have been and continue to be its stewards," said Delia Saenz, UC Merced vice chancellor and chief diversity officer.
The race also pays tribute to a strong Indigenous practice. California tribes have a long history of distance running for purposes of both communication and competition.
"It honors those traditions and aspires to keep them alive for current and future residents of this area," said Saenz. "The funding can also help support events that build community among our Native American students and employees, and that foster connections between campus and the surrounding area."
In addition to the race itself, competitors and attendees can expect an award ceremony, a resource and vendor fair, campus tours, and access to La Galeria to view the Día de Los Muertos exhibit.
"It's heartwarming to see the growing support for this important event," said Amanda Putnam, Native American/Indigenous recruitment and outreach specialist. "Seeing the community acknowledge the location of the campus on Native American land, witnessing support for increased Native American programming on campus and inviting local tribal community members to campus makes Toloma 5K organizers proud to be Bobcats."
Day-of-race registration will be available from 7 to 8 a.m. This year, those who can't run or be present Saturday can support the event as virtual "runners." More information on the Toloma 5K can be found online .