SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Olympic legend Billy Mills (Lakota), 82, sat down to get his Covid-19 vaccine shot in his arm on Tuesday. The only American to ever win the 10,000 meters in Olympic competition praised scientists for working hard to get the life-saving vaccine developed and out to the public in record speed.

“I am well aware of the suspicions we as Native Americans have toward taking the Covid-19 vaccine. However, with a global pandemic declared by the World Health Organization, and if unchecked, the potential of the virus killing millions and millions of people until global immunity is reached, I decided to place my trust in our scientists who study and research infectious diseases,” Mills told Native News Online on Thursday.

If the pandemic goes unchecked, the majority of those who will die from the coronavirus would be the poor throughout the world, including a large percentage of Indigenous people – our relations, says Mills.

Speaking on the condition of today’s America, Mills is optimistic about the future of the country now that the Covid-19 vaccine has become available.

“We have much work to do. Today, America needs the vision of our elders and dreams of our youth to mature towards a full-fledged democracy of liberty and justice for all,” Mills said.

Billy Mills crosses finish line at 1964 Tokyo Olympics to win Gold Medal.

True to a true athlete’s mindset, Mills told Native News Online in late March as the country a few weeks into the pandemic we all must be disciplined about our daily lives and adhere to the advice to practice social distancing and washing our hands.

“In order to keep our freedom, we have to practice discipline. As a Lakota, I love to practice the attributes of a warrior. Our warriors were disciplined. They had courage, bravery and fortitude. Our warriors always reached out and helped others. The Lakota believe we should live our lives with virtue and values. I will do whatever I have to do to stay healthy,” Mills said.

Mills is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He attended Haskell Indian Nations University and the University of Kansas. Mills attended KU on an athletic scholarship and was a three-time NCAA All-American cross-country runner. 

Mills is one of the most legendary American Indian athletes in history.

During the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Mills won Olympic gold in the 10,000 meters, and he remains the only American to ever win the event. Mills’s win is considered one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history.

With the 2020 Olympics scheduled to be held in Tokyo last summer, Mills and his wife, along with some family members, had planned to attend the Olympic games in Tokyo in recognition of his Olympic victory in 1964. Their plans were halted when the Olympic games were postponed for one year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mills is still hopeful the games will happen this summer and plans to make the journey.

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Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected]