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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 18, 2002 - Issue 61


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Spirit Runners Encircle Sacred Test Site Ground

by Frank X. Mullen Jr. Reno Gazette Journal
Fifteen tired but happy Western Shoshone Spirit Runners plan to hold a prayer service this morning at the gates of the Nevada Nuclear Test Site after running and walking in a 240-mile encirclement of the most radioactive ground in the nation.

"We are praying for the land and the people," said Johnnie Bobb, the Western Shoshone National Council member, artist and spiritual leader who started the annual run around the site's perimeter two years ago.

"Through our prayers and with the help of other people, we will keep more nuclear waste from our lands."

The Run on Sacred Lands is designed to bring attention to Nevada's fight against the federal government's plan to bury high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain next to the Test Site. The runners said the event also underscores the injustices suffered by the Western Shoshone in the last 200 years.

"We are letting people know we are still here," said Santiago Lozada of Sacramento, a member of the Battle Mountain Shoshone band who participated in last year's run. "We are still here, and we demand respect."

The Indian runners traveled from Warm Springs to Mercury along the western edge of the Test Site during the 2000 and 2001 events, and this year they ran from Warm Springs to Mercury around the western perimeter of the site, completing the circle.

The Western Shoshone continue to claim their ancestral lands in central Nevada, stretching from what is now the Idaho border to the southern tip of the Silver State. The Shoshone have been offered monetary settlements from Congress for the government's treaty violations, but the leadership has turned down the offers.

"This land is not for sale," Lozada said.

Rudy Luis Lozada, Santiago's brother, said the desert run was hard but rewarding.

"It's wonderful to run and see our ancestors, the rock people, all around," he said. "We run, pray and think. It's a deeply spiritual thing."

The runners passed the ground where their ancestors lived for untold generations. They said they knew they were passing the graves of the ancient ones and that the spirits of the departed Shoshone people were with them.

The runners stopped to plant willows carried by support vehicles and said prayers into the planting holes. They said they prayed for the mountains, the animals and the people, so that the nuclear fallout does no harm to them.

Santiago Lozada said the people they have seen on the run — from passing motorists to rural residents — have been very supportive. Truckers blew their horns and people waved from the roadside, he said.

"The Yucca Mountain issue, the nuclear fallout from the Test Site, are not just Indian issues or white issues," he said. "It's a cause for all people. It's poisoning the sacred lands and poisoning the people."

The runners covered about 120 miles to a point just south of Alamo by Tuesday night. They were expected to arrive in Mercury, the town outside the Test Site entrance, late Thursday night.

This morning, they plan to be at the annual Peace Camp near Mercury, where the Shundahai Network, a Western Shoshone advocacy group, will welcome the runners. The network also plans a Mother's Day Action Against Nuclear Testing on Saturday in Mercury.

"(This morning) we will form a morning circle and say prayers and then talk to the guards at the Test Site gate," said Bobb, a member of the Yomba band of Western Shoshone. "We will tell them about the reasons for our run and about our ways.

"The guards and state troopers will warn us about trespassing, but this is still Western Shoshone land. It is they who are trespassing."

Newene Sogobi Mava'a Mia 2002
(Walk On The Sacred Land)

We will be walking and running for the Western Shoshone people – for our land rights – to take back Shoshone land that our grandmothers and grandfathers once took care of with their footsteps. Step by step they went from place to place to hunt and gather where food was found and where doctoring took place. Most of all, Shoshone people are buried here, and their spirits are with us. When we pray and sing there will be happiness, joy and love in our hearts as we stand strong for our ancestors.

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