MOST GIRLS HER AGE WERE HEADING TO CANCUN FOR SPRING BREAK, HAPISTINNA
"GRACI" HORNE, 20. WENT TO IRAQ TO PRAY FOR PEACE.
grew up in Minnesota and I'll be a freshman at Savannah College
of Art and Design in Georgia this fall. Both places are a long way
from the Middle East, but when my dad, Chief Arvol Looking Horse
got a chance to go to Iraq, I immediately wanted to join him. Beloved
Community, an educational church group organized a trip for spiritual
leaders to go to Baghdad and asked my dad to be the Native American
representative. He invited me to accompany him on behalf of the
youth (I'm Lakota/Dakota). Before we left, I went to a local drugstore
where I'd applied for a job, to let the manager know I'd have
to postpone my interview. She said, "I think they should blow
up Iraq and start all over." That gave me even more drive to
go, to educate myself and others about Iraqi People and culture.
flew to Amman, Jordan, where we met up with 11 other international
peace activists. The plan was to stay overnight, then take a car
across the border to Iraq the next morning. That evening, as we
were checking in to our hotel in Amman, a car bomb blew up the Mount
Lebanon hotel in Central Baghdad, killing 27 people. The hotel,
popular among foreign visitors, was only two blocks away from where
we would be staying. I was terrified, but I knew Iraq needed our
we got to Baghdad, ruined buildings were everywhere we all
coughed constantly because the air was filled with dust. Our first
stop was an arts center for kids, which encouraged then them to
get creative instead of dwelling on the chaos around them. A Russian
Shaman from our group got the kids happily twirling to prayer dances.
Some little Iraqi girls I talked to kept saying, "I love you,
I love you" -- the only English they knew. It was so cute!
of my skin tone, people thought I was Iraqi. When I explained that
I was Native American, they said, "Oh, you're a soldier?"
If I said I was Indian, they thought I was Hindi. Finally, someone
told me to say I'm Asli, which means Indigenous. One day, I got
in trouble at the Jordanian border crossing because I was using
my video camera. When I was pulled into a general's office, he asked
where I was from. I said I was Asli American. He said I was the
first Asli American he'd ever seen. I said, "Well, take a good
look!" and he started laughing.
I went to Iraq, I didn't really support the American Soldiers. My
opinion was that we should help the Iraqis, but our troops shouldn't
be over there. Still, when I saw the soldiers in Baghdad, my heart
went out to them. My bad feelings disappeared - I know that everyone
of them had a reason for being there, whether to defend their country
or to put themselves though college with military scholarships.
our last day in Iraq, we performed a peace ceremony at the bombed-out
International Baghdad Theater. There were about 30 representatives
of different religions participating. Three young Sunni Muslims
led a singing and drumming prayer on huge hand drums. It was enchanting
-- the rhythms started off really slow, then got faster. I drifted
into their music and forgot that I surrounded by rubble.
we went outside and discovered we were causing a scene - people
were stopping and staring at us. As we planted a wooden peace pole
that said May Peace Prevail in languages from around the world two
guys pulled up in a car and started yelling at us in Arabic. Our
security guards pointed their guns at them, and we all got really
quiet. Then the guys in the care took off. It was really intense.
night I got to visit our driver Sahili's family in New Baghdad,
a neighborhood near the army base. Sahili's wife Jennifer, his mother,
brother and sister-in-law treated me like family. Jennifer was learning
English and she wrote to me a note that read: "My name is Jennifer,
thank you for coming, don't forget me. I love you. Love, Jennifer."
I keep that note with me always, and when I hear daily news of violence
in Iraq. I worry about my friends.
at home after my journey, I'm trying to be more open, more understanding.
I'm trying not to judge other people. Before this trip, I wanted
to go into anthropology, but I have since decided that I want to
make documentary films. I want to help people understand the similarities
in all our cultures