PEAK, Ariz. - Tohono Oodham elders on horseback and young
runners packed in vans, joined the Fourth Annual Peace and Dignity
Journey, as runners arrived after crossing 5,000 miles from Chickaloon
Village, Alaska on their way to Panama.
the international border, William Antone of GuAchi District was
among Tohono Oodham elders traveling with runners from the
sacred mountain of Baboquivari Peak, home of Iitoi the Creator,
to tribal headquarters in Sells, Ariz.
are a lot of prayers and offerings on this whole journey. The main
thought of this run is strengthening our spirituality. There are
a lot of young people taking part and they will be the ones to carry
on. They are our future leaders," Antone said.
Anghill of GuVo District, mother and college student, was waiting
for runners at the Tohono Oodham capitol in Sells when she
learned that women are being honored by the run.
a blessing for the women to be honored. I am honored that this is
for me," Anghill said.
Smith Sr., 70-year-old Oodham who lives a quarter-mile north
of the international border in ChuKut Kuk District, was among the
elders who escorted runners into Oodham land on horseback.
Smith said this was the hottest horseback ride of his life.
Gila Bend, often the hottest place in the nation, temperatures climbed
to 120 degrees. "That is the worst place weve ever been
to ride in hot weather. It was really an experience." But Smith
had no regrets.
told my wife two weeks ago I am going to ride in that Dignity Run.
I said, This might be my last ride."
the time came, Smith, Sy Johnson, president of the Oodham
Boys and Girls Club, and Johnsons father, 73-year-old Larry
Johnson, saddled up and rode. The journey took runners across Oodham
ancestral lands. Smith said, "We followed them into the old
Oodham village. That village went underwater some years ago
and has never been the same since."
and Dignity runners from the north began in the Chickaloon Village,
Alaska, and another group of runners departed from the south at
Tierra del Fuego in South America on May 1. Both groups will meet
in Panama City in October.
said the run, held every four years, honors women this year because
women are the embodiment of Mother Earth and keepers of wisdom by
virtue of womans capacity to bring forth and sustain life.
Prayers are being offered for the healing of Mother Earth.
the Tohono Oodham Nation, runners from Hickiwam District,
ages 7 to 17, found their struggles were the same as those faced
by indigenous people everywhere. Oodham elder David Ortega
of GuVo District said the run is a way of holding fast to the culture
and encouraging young people to learn the traditional ways. "We
forget that we have elders that do the teaching," Ortega said
as he held a sacred staff and prepared to greet runners in front
of the council chambers.
is out in the open and we get sidetracked," Ortega said of
peoples busy lives. "We are not just doing this for ourselves,
but for all indigenous peoples."
Frank, youth from Gu Achi District, had just enlisted in the U.S.
Marines. "I am running for the servicemen."
Councilman Mike Flores said he hopes the young runners will run
into the future with the memory of the beauty of this land and work
hard to preserve it. "They should look out at the richness
of this land and remember this is our ancestral land."
the run began in Alaska, Athabascan Chief Gary Harrison spoke of
the vision of the run for the future. "What the run means to
me is a prayer that all of the people in the world can get along
in peace and dignity. Its not only for the people on this
continent but for all the people in wars on other continents as
well. Even though it may not end all strife, it may be a step in
the right direction for all people of the world to try and come
to an understanding of one another, so they can try and live in
peace and dignity. Every step is a prayer and I hope to see you
Alaska, Richard Martin said, "The Family Staff is carried the
entire trip and has always been a main component of the run. It
represents not only the family of man but also the nuclear family
- mother, father and children. It starts with three feathers - eagle,
condor and macaw representing North, South and Central America.
When it reaches ceremonies in Panama, it will have accumulated 300
Phil Emerson, an elder, said the journey started in 1992, first
honoring children, then elders, the family, and now women. "This
year we honor women. We pray to fight drug and alcohol abuse, and
take better care of our women.
they give us life. Prayers are for our nation, ourselves, the little
ones and those yet to be born."
prayers and ceremonies on the Tohono Oodham Nation, runners
departed for Pascua Yaqui in Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. The entire
trip will cover more than 15,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina.