The Peace and Dignity Journey in Tucson: some oral recountings


On September 12, the 2012 Peace and Dignity Journey arrived in Tucson. The journey is a relay through indigenous communities, starting in Alaska and concluding in Central America, in which the runners are accompanied by small caravans of organizers and supporters; some arrived in Tucson after going down the coast from Alaska and then turning east from the San Diego area, passing through Yuma and the Tohono O’odham Nation. Others had traveled from the east in Florida, while still others from the upper lowlands in Saskatchewan. Occupied Tucson Citizen editor Ken Lee spoke with some runners at the Aztlan Boxing Club in South Tucson to hear about their journeys’, which are recounted here.

To quote from their website, the “Peace and Dignity Journeys was started in 1992 to continue in the spirit of the traditions of our ancestors. Every four years Indigenous communities all over North, Central and South America witness and partake in the tradition of receiving runners with ceremonies unique to their community, sharing stories, song, dance, and the wisdom that comes from community elders and ceremony. Peace and Dignity Journeys runners start simultaneously from both ends of the continent in Chickaloon, Alaska and Tierra del Fuego, Argentina traversing the entire continent by foot from community to community and joining together for a final gathering in Central America. The 2012 run is dedicated to Water, reminding all who have forgotten that Water is an important resource and a shared resource for all.”

Since they left Tucson on September 14, The Peace and Dignity Journeys continued on it’s way and is now hosted by the Itza, Mopan, and Qequchi Maya nations in Uaxactun, Guatemala , where they had a week of festivities as part of its closing ceremonies, which officially ended Dec. 4.—Ed

Adi Ejekayani, Mexico City

“in nau hau language, Ejekayani signifies wind.”

“My Grandmothers are descendants of O To Mi.”

“I am having a good time enjoying the traditional hospitality, food, ceremonies and songs of the people I have met since I began my journey in Chickaloon, Alaska. Four years ago, I ran with a group that began in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.”

“I identify myself as Meshika because I was raised in that tradition, the same people as the Aztecs. We are the people from Azatlan who migrated to Tenochtitlan in Valley of Mexico City, mixing with many peoples there, and en route. We call ourselves Meshika, as the original Aztecs are still here in Azatlan in the Four Corners area. Meshika recognizes all of the tribes who joined the migration.”

“The Peace and Dignity Journeys is one of the instruments of the grand prophesy of the Eagle and the Condor. The Eagle of the North and the Condor of the South fly together, signifying the coming together of all of the people of the continent.”

“The ancient grandfathers said there would be a time of a reconnecting of the people of the Continent. This prophesy has common threads woven through all of the people of the continent. Our Elders carry on the oral traditions passed down through history and this might best be described as a remembering of our unity as a people.”

“In 1990 was the first Continental Encounter of Indigenous Peoples and elders from many different (parts of the western hemisphere) came together. Elders from all parts of the hemisphere gathered in Quito, Ecuador in 1990 and they shared in common the coming to fruition of the grand prophesy of the Eagle and the Condor which foretells the unification of all of the people of Ichachilanka (The one continent that is the Western Hemisphere).”

“There are many people working towards the fulfillment of the prophesy. The Peace and Dignity Journeys are just one part of the manifestation of the Grand Prophesy”

“The encounters have been in many different places. ’92, ’96 and 2000 the encounters were in Teotihuacan near Mexico City, Mexico. ’04 and ’08 were held in the Kuna nation in Panama, and this year the people of Guatemala will host the encounter.”

“Each of these Journey’s have had a purpose, a continental prayer that we lifted up together…, in 1992 they ran for the children, ’96 for the Elders. 2000 was for the Family and ’04 for the essence of Woman. My first run in ’08 was for protection of sacred sites and this run is for water.”

“I have the special task of collecting water from sacred sources all over North America. I both collect and share back the sacred water at each of the sites I gather the water from. Women have a very special role as keepers of the water, we have a closer relationship to water. The dying water is speaking to us and this is why women are rising up all over the world.”

“The Hopi had received instructions from the water, that involved the bringing together of the sacred waters. I am doing that during this Journey, mixing the sacred waters collected and sharing back the water that has already been gathered. I keep record of the details as to where the water is gathered from, who gave the water and also the history of the sacred water source for records and am carrying this water to the encounter.”

“Water is the source of the connection of our souls and we are the vessels of life. This is a sacred responsibility that is part of the manifestation of the grand prophecy. It is important that this be shared in order to raise consciousness as we come together in this time of great peril to secure life for the generations to come.”

Conner Handley, San Diego, CA Yaqui

“I started running on May 19 at Watson Lake in the Yukon.”

“This run is about reconnecting and unifying the native people of the Continent. So we start up in Alaska on May 1 and we visit as many indigenous communities as we can, sharing the message of unity while protecting our waters to continue life for the future generations.”

“Connecting our people and getting to know one another like we used to. Before the arrival of the Europeans, we used to run, that is how we traveled the continent. That is how we came to know one another is we’d run. So we are doing this in the way of our ancestors.”

“So we run into a community because that is how we used to know each other. We share and break bread and talk about our issues, share ceremonies, share songs, do the things that we have always done. That is what we are trying to bring back.”

“For the first time in my life, I was able to drink clean water from a stream. Alkali lake, BC. There was a little creek running through someones back yard, we were there with a family of 4 generations that could all speak their language. We sang their songs that they have sung for thousands of hears, swam with them and drank of their fresh water. It was a beautiful experience to have that interconnectedness of it all. That speaks to what this is all about for me.”

“A woman from that place joined us. That is part of it, too. As we run, more runners join in from all over and join together on this Journey to Guatemala. We will arrive Nov. 28 in Uaxactun, Guatemala and there will be a six day ceremony there to culminate the run.”

Nick Diaz, Ignacio, CO. (Colorado corner of the four corners area) Current Denver resident.

“I Identify as a Chicano which, in my mind, is a Mexican American who chooses to embrace his indigenous heritage. Mexicans have dual heritage, both indigenous and Spanish blood, so many embrace their Spanish heritage through language and culture. First our land was colonized and now our minds still are. We have to de-colonize our minds and remember that some of the blood that runs through our veins has been here since the beginning. Here in the US, like in Mexico, being indigenous is sometimes a bad thing, so many people disconnect themselves. There are even those here that say, ‘I am not Mexican, I am Spanish, both denying their Mexican and their indigenous heritage.’ Because it is bad to be either here in the US, they emphasize their European heritage. The Peace and Dignity Journey is an opportunity to re-connect with ourselves.”

“Issues that have been unfolding since 1492, now are coming more to the forefront. When they came, they took what they though was the prime land and the prime water, it was just a matter of theft. Those that they couldn’t eradicate, they put together on lands.”

“But the water issue is even bigger. With all of the pollution, a lot of people don’t have access to clean water and the problem is growing as fresh sources of water are threatened.”

“There are local issues that are very important, and I think that this is part of this Journey here is we collect the stories. We hear the stories about how water affects people in the different lands we go through in different ways and we bring them together.”

“There are those in Canada who have plenty, and they come down here and find those who have less. So there is a disconnect there, those who have often think everybody has. Whether it is a social disconnect that might be perpetuated by the media, or a personal disconnect which stems from just not seeing beyond our own community, we have an opportunity to reconnect through this Journey”

“We get to spread awareness. When we were in Alaska, the people would tell us ‘when you go down south, tell them we are still up here and tell them about these problems and ask them to send prayers and good thoughts up here,’ and that is how we get to reconnect and spread the awareness in a good way that brings unity. To let people know that we are facing the same problems and to raise awareness that way.”

“Got involved in the run in 2008. It fit what I was doing personally. I have always been a runner and I heard the run was coming through and I signed up. Running for me has been a form of therapy. I enjoy the solitude of off-road running. Clear my mind of city life, what people call the rat-race. Running is a way to wash all of that out of me and to recenter and refocus myself. So when I got involved with Peace and Dignity Journey and running in a prayer way, I realized that is what I was doing already and I found other people that were doing it, too.”

“Running in a prayer way: when you lay down a prayer for something, you should make an offering to the Creator. I do not have riches and wealth to offer, but who knows if that is what the Creator wants. So I give my sweat and my fatigue and my muscle soreness up as an offering for my prayer. I think it is the most personal thing that I can give to the creator, I give of myself.”

“Began run in Chicaloon Alaska, but returned to Denver to help organize before rejoining the run from Eagle Butte to Pine Ridge, South Dakota before returning to Denver again. The Colorado regional committee was responsible for the route from Eagle Butte to Taos, NM. “

Once the runners arrived in Denver, I went ahead of the runners along the planned route to Taos to help cross the t’s and dot the i’s to ensure that everything went smoothly. As a coordinator, I considered myself a scout.”

I then rejoined the runners between Salida, Colorado and Santa Fe, returned to Denver to get my affairs in order and then joined runners in El Paso and am now on the run for the duration. I can put my pen and paper down, put my organizing to the side and just run now.”

“On the passing of:

Gustavo Guiterrez, some people call him the Grandfather of the Run was the original North American Coordinator credited as one of the people who helped bring this run to pass along with many other people. He was well known from involvement in civil rights and farm worker organizing, was loved and respected and we experienced a loss when he passed away September 1, 2012.”

Vincent Malone, Schurz, NV Paiute, Washoe, Miwok


“My journey is about going home a changed man. When I left, I didn’t like who I was and they said the run changes you and I said let me go on it. It came through and grabbed me and I grabbed it and we have been holding on ever since.”

“I am an alcoholic and I was drinking and doing drugs, it is all around me in Reno. That’s why I wanted to leave and come back with strength to not do those things any more. Running and praying to clean my soul, my heart, my mind so that when I go home I am a changed man for the better. There is a physical change, I lost a lot of weight and am stronger and more fit. I am learning about our ways more. I have been carrying a staff collecting prayers and have learned how to handle that. Like you cannot let it touch the ground.”

“When I come home it is about being a better dad to my kids in a way that they haven’t had in their lives. Now I can offer that to them, now that I am drug free.”

“My prayer starts with me. I ask the Grandfather to forgive me for the bad things I have done in the past, and those bad things I will do in the future. I pray for the community I am from, the community I am running through and the communities I journeyed through. I pray for water. I pray for the Creator to bless the runners that are running with us that they may be kept safe. And anything else I can think of, even my enemies receive prayers.”

“I had never run and prayed before. Every step I ask the grandfather to clean the bad things out of my soul out of my heart and out of my mind. It is deep in me, so every day I have to pray for that so I can run lighter. With those things taken out, I am not as heavy as I was when I started.”

“These things have been taken away little by little. I was an angry, jealous person full of rage and hatred, but those things have been lifted from my soul and my heart and my mind, and I am lighter now. I am definitely a better person now.”

“When I go home, my run is not going to stop, I am going to run every day. I will keep running for my people and my community and myself. I have been given many things. In forty-one years in this world I have never been given an eagle feather, during this run I have been given five and I was given this staff. Those are gifts from people who have felt my heart and see the person that I have become. To say you stay this person, when you go home and you get weak, have these and think of this and stay strong.

Divorced four months ago, numbed by alcohol and drugs, I want to put my family back together.”

“My wife of twenty-two years, who built my family, I want her back, I want them back. I will stay sober and take the steps to reconnect with my family. My children deserve to have a mother and a father and that is my duty. I am going home to get my family back.”

David Ortega, Tohono O’odham

“On this run, I felt it so I ran. I have problems with my knee, but I was not bothered by it.”

“But then I ran up this mountain, it was a pretty nice incline. I was telling the people running with me, ‘I am going to run ahead of you guys, because I might fall, or something might happen to me on the way up so I want you behind me.’ We were running to get the water from a cave that had a natural spring, and they all agreed, ‘OK.’ So I took off in front of them and was just taking my time. And I was going up and my knees were burning, my thighs, my calves, my chest, and I thought, Oh, man, I had better stop. So I kinda stopped and I looked behind me and my runners were way down there. I had left them down there, and they were barely struggling to get up behind me. We were laughing about that, because with that, we got to our point, and they were laughing, they were saying ‘we were here to take care of you and you just left us here and you ended up up here and you had to take care of us.'”

“It is empowering, young people saying that to you, so I felt good. That was one of my good experiences. It’s almost like being reborn again, like, my senses. I always had them, I just never tested them. Live actual test, running, that’s what I mean by empowering.”

Personal observations of the interviewer:

Although all of the runners were engaged, engaging and articulate describing the Journey, what it meant to them personally, and what it represents as a larger expression of their community, young Ejekayani was most intense and interesting. She described water as the spiritual essence that we all have in common as human beings, and spoke of it as if it were alive and communicating with us. At one point in our conversation she put her hands to encircle her womb, explaining that women have a closer relationship to water and that is why they are rising up all over the world as the dying water speaks to them. She is young, beautiful and vibrant, taut and trim from running every day for months. I cannot recall a young person with such a stern yet fervent set to her eyes and a furrowed brow as she told the story of her journey by way of the her translator. They were crossing the international border into Mexico the next day and were taking a well deserved rest as others prepared for the crossing and the organizers prepared the vehicles for the last legs of the journey across Mexico and Central America. They had a duty to tend to the sacred staffs all laid out carefully on a blanket. They kept the sacred staffs, full with prayers, with the sacred waters she had collected. She spoke of unity remembered, and water as life, and sacred land, culture and tradition. I began to understand that her claims, their claims, are my claims, and the claims of humanity, for that which will sustain life for future generations. I prayerfully lift up these claims as righteous, representing the needs of all of humanity, and pray for unity to secure them. I am grateful for the unity manifest through the Peace and Dignity Journeys, and hopeful unity will manifest itself through us and all of our communities.

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