Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
July 29, 2000 - Issue 15

Native American Runners Cross Continents for Unity

Peace and Dignity Run Update:
by Chris Smith Press Democrat Staff Writer

Grasping ceremonial staffs and sprinting along the shoulders of busy roads, a dozen ancestors of Native Americans trekked through Sonoma County in what could be the ultimate run for health.

Having set out from Alaska, the runners are headed south for a convergence in Mexico with a second group that is running north, from Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America.

Participants who camped Monday night at Ya-Ka-Ama, the Indian educational and agricultural center near Forestville, said healing is a key objective of the Peace and Dignity Journeys.

Indigenous people from up and down the Americas are joining in, some for a mile or two and others for the long haul.

They are running and praying to heal the addictions and hopelessness that haunts large numbers of Native Americans, the loss of native culture wrought by 500 years of European domination and assimilation, and the disunity that hampers efforts by widely scattered indigenous peoples to defend themselves and their autonomy.

"Running is good for the spirit," said Fred Vasquez of Gilroy, a retired state employee who also has served as a Native American spiritual leader at Soledad State Prison.

Vasquez said he has been ill for much of this year, but he feels better to be running. But the main reason he is taking part, he said, is because he believes the exercise is a potential source of pride and inspiration for young Indians who join in from reservations, villages and homes across the Americas.

"It's a good interaction for the kids," Vasquez said as the southbound runners, aged from their teens to their 60s, prepared to head out from Ya-Ka-Ama on Eastside Road. "Hopefully it will motivate them."

This is the third Peace and Dignity run by descendents of indigenous people in North, Central and South America.

Rafael Reyes of Phoenix said the first run was undertaken in 1992 after elders at a trans-American summit urged a return to the tradition of seeking spiritual purity through long-distance running.

Reyes said the native peoples of the south are symbolized by the condor, and the peoples of the north by the eagle. "The elders say that when those two birds meet, our people will be reunited," he said.

Reyes said the goals of unifying Native Americans from Alaska to Argentina include greater economic development of indigenous communities, improved education for those communities' children and preservation of the many native languages and cultures.

There are several groups of runners heading south through North America. The runners passing through Sonoma County said they will meet up with a Central Valley contingent on Aug. 6 in Los Angeles.

The runners from the north and the south plan to meet in October in Teotihuacan, outside Mexico City.

An international indigenous summit will follow, with issues at hand to include the future of Native American youth, self-sufficiency, regional disputes and national and international legislation affecting indigenous peoples.

Read "Canku Ota's" article on the Peace and Dignity Runs
Peace and Dignity

Visit the Peace and Dignity Website

Peace and Dignity



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