Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Are We Really Praying? Pt. 2

By Hector Cerda

*To understand the message I am trying to convey in this blog you must read part 1. If you have not done so please click here

Peace & Dignity Journeys 2012

Greetings folks. Once again I will share with you some stories and experiences with the communities that the Peace & Dignity Journey passed through for 2012. If you have not read Part 1 of “Are we really praying” I strongly suggest you do so first then come back to this writing because I will continue to refer to what I think is “prayer” and actions. If you already read part 1, I want to remind you that the type of prayer I am referring to for the sake of this article is one that I think we take on only by praying for what you seek to achieve with the help of the almighty creator, then taking action and going forth to make your prayer successful. Remember that your thoughts and actions are your prayers and cannot be separated.

But hold on just one second. In this writing I will also talk about another part of prayer that I think also must be addressed. That is the power of miracles. Later in this essay I will discuss miracles and the sacred hand of the creator that once in a while touches us or our communities. Allow me first to describe what I personally see as miracles. Keep in mind this is only my perspective and is used for the sake of understanding this article.

***Note: The section below that I wrote on Miracles was written on August 5, 2012 just after I left the West Coast Inland Cali route for the East Coast NYC/Taino route. Since then, I still maintain what I think is a “Miracle” and the remainder of the article was written after my arrival home in January of 2013.


Sometimes we think we control our own destiny. We like to know that every day our life will be secure and our needs met. That is ok. I think a well prepared life is necessary to fulfill a good life. The one thing we don’t have control over are “things” that arise in our life that disrupts that pattern that makes us feel secure. Such things can occur like encountering an illness, loss of a job, a relationship, a relative passes away or circumstances that puts our well being at risk. Disruptions can also occur in our communities. The change in leadership and/or priorities of what our community values most. I think that when a person or community is suffering from such ailments, those who want to see good things happen within their community, take action to secure a positive outcome. Sometimes after so much trying and hard work, it can become tiring and feel as if the work has gone nowhere.

This is where miracles come into the picture. A miracle for sake of this writing is a time when there is a shift of energy that cannot be explained but maybe only because that is what the creator intended to happen. A miracle is when some strange turn of event, happening or something comes our way that is very unusual, maybe unpleasant or awkward but in the long run, the event is beneficial to us. I think that all life on this planet has its original instructions firmly imprinted within its DNA or atomically based structure. Flowers do what they are suppose to do, birds and rocks and trees all do what they are genetically structured to do (but not sure if rocks have DNA). We humans are also created in such a way that we are supposed to live in a way that allows us to use our sacred gifts given to us by the sole creator. When we as a person or our communities become ill, or want something to happen so badly, we might try with prayer to heal and sometimes fail to come to a realization that sometimes we cannot change what is happening. We might need a miracle……and only the creator can make that happen. The catch to these miracles is that it happens when we least expect it.

Similar to Part 1, I will discuss specific communities and events that have happened from British Columbia Canada to Northern Mexico. Each community I discuss will begin with a heading of the name and other details that will help you identify it and possibly encourage you to venture out on your own to research the issues I will bring up with each community. Let us Begin.

Esk'etemc First Nation, Alkali Lake - British Columbia Canada

Alkali Lake has received the Peace & Dignity runners for as long as I have participated since the 2000 run. Something very special about Alkali lake can be felt the moment the runners can see the community from the dirt road coming in from the north. Set in a circular pattern, Alkali Lake has the feel of a community with much potential and for those of us involved with PDJ for many years; we learned long ago the reason. The story I have heard of Alkali Lake is one of transformation and healing whereas the community was very consumed by alcoholism. It was over a series of changes in the Nation’s leadership and outlook for the future that Alkali Lake began to heal. The story also comes from one little girl saying she had enough of her parents drinking booze and would no longer be part of their lives if they would not stop. I do not know who the little girl was that did so, but the way I heard was that it only took one little child to change the thoughts of her parents and it had an everlasting positive effect on the entire community of Alkali Lake. If anyone wanted to see the transformation of Alkali Lake out of alcoholism, there is a good film called, “The Honour of All” which is not easy to find. But find it. Worth watching.

For 2012, as the runners arrived to Alkali Lake, we did not realize there was something big happening. Everyone was out of town and over there near the Fraser River. The place I know as Churn Creek where after 86 years, a petroglyph rock was being returned to this region after being kept at a museum in Vancouver. It was a beautiful sight to see… a Nation undergo the repatriation of something sacred that once was taken away. The rock was brought in by a huge truck with a crane, as elders and leaders walked the path singing the songs to bring the rock home. It was here at the gathering at Churn Creek where we received much support from one of the local Chiefs Hank and his wife Nadine.

Members of the Shushwap Nation gather at Churn Creek to bring home a petroglyph rock

I personally like to mention Alkali Lake because of its unique history as a community. There is also one other special place about the communities that live near the Fraser River. According to what many folks have shared with us, the Fraser River does not have any dams along its path. Damming rivers for electricity or creating reservoirs has devastated the health of many nations that depend on salmon as the lifeblood of their culture. For some reason, the Fraser River has no dams which are detrimental to salmon survival. Later I will discuss a miracle happening in relationship to salmon and dams, but for now I will finish by saying that it doesn’t matter how much anyone thinks we need electricity from dams, more than keeping the salmon alive…the payoff is not worth it. Here where I live in Fresno California we once had salmon in two beautiful rivers the San Joaquin and Kings River. These two rivers were dammed and it destroyed the ecosystem for salmon to return, and it destroyed the cultural identity of First Nation people here in the region. For the folks of Alkali Lake and nearby communities of the Fraser, they should never allow their river to be dammed, and if it happens, the salmon and the culture of First nations along that river will surely be dammed.

Lummi First Nation, BellinghamWashington U.S.A.

The runners have been hosted many times before at Lummi nation. It is one of the many places that runners were introduced to the cultural importance of canoe journeys and traveling on water. Many times over we think that running is the only means of carrying messages and moving around but the waterways is another important factor in how our ancestors connected to each other. The arrival to Lummi was at first very relaxing because a small group of folks received us but later we learned that there was an entire stick game tournament to be taking place at the long house we were sleeping in. We were told that it was in part to honor us and it felt pretty darn good. We also had some of our very own runners, Junior, Pedro and Connor form a team and they did very well but they lost to another team that was very good. The stick game was really a sight to see in that it brought many people together, something that should be promoted more often. We had received some songs and given time to play the stick games further North in BC Canada and all runners wanted more. It was rekindled when we arrived to Lummi. Soon after, we would continue to play stick games with other runners’ thorough California. I am not too sure how far that momentum followed into the course of the journey.

Stick game tournament inside longhouse at Lummi
It is important to note however that at Lummi, there were talks of trying to take a canoe across the water over to Swinomish Reservation. For many runs past, there were talks of incorporating the Peace & Dignity Journeys with canoes on the coastal region of Washington. There was enough support and excitement that we decided to do it for one day. It was not easy. The runners split in two groups to take a canoe across Bellingham bay past Lummi Island, past Samish Bay, Padilla Bay and eventually into Fidalgo Bay landing ashore at Seafarer Memorial Park in Anacortes. During the process, there were many porpoises to look at, and enough cold sea water to freeze us to death. We had a good group of people supporting us and it was not until we finished that we were told that by the skipper that for sure we were expected to capsize. It was a miracle that we did not. The staffs were taken across the water in this way that I think was the first time for Peace & Dignity Journeys. Rather than carrying staffs across the water, they were wrapped up safely and kept in a bundle on the canoe, as we, the runners instead held paddles and moved across the very element we were praying for. The canoe was like a living breathing staff of its own, with runners inside giving it that life to move forward. I only pray that in the future we can find a way to see such integration of Peace & Dignity Journeys and canoe journeys together.

Swinomish First Nation, Anacortes -  Washington U.S.A.

After arriving to Anacortes from Lummi, we had to return the following day to continue running into Swinomish. The Spiritual Center was the place we gathered for sleep. We were also fed at the tribal gym. For me personally the Swinomish community has always had a very mysterious and unexplainable atmosphere. Almost as if there are songs being sung, and dancers dancing that can only be heard if you listen very carefully. The region along the water has a power of awe that when running though it, feels very Godly and powerful. It is also a power that must be respected. Bringing the run over the water into Swinomish proved to be a very eventful feeling I believe for both the runners and the community. Swinomish is one of those many communities along the coastal region of Washington where native people were definitely swindled out of their traditional right to the land. The waters carry so much wealth with the ability to travel and supply food that it is no wonder why settlers would want to take it yet might not have the same respect that the Swinomish do.

Swinomish was also the place where the West Coast route split into 2 groups for the state of Washington. For the first in Washington the runners would become 2 separate groups with one local organizer, JoJo Peters from Swinomish taking a group towards Seattle and eventually inland, and the other group would be led by a runner, Charlotte Penn from Quileute. The state of Washington would receive Peace & Dignity Journeys through more communities than it had ever done before thanks to these persons committing the time to do so. Prior to arriving to Swinomish a runner named Alana joined the inland Washington route to help carry the staffs. She also helped lead us across the water from Lummi to Swinomish on the canoe. Other runners also joined us from various locations of the region and if I did not name you I apologize. Each year the coastal communities have canoe journeys and maybe this might be the year we can see Peace & Dignity runners come together to travel the waters by canoe. It most definitely was a miracle at least for me, to see runners move across the water with the staffs.

Quileute First Nation, La Push -  Washington U.S.A.

There are four major communities along the coast of the Olympic peninsula they are; Makah, Quinault, Quileute and Hoh River. Of these four the one I choose to talk about is for many reasons. We have had runners from Quileute run with us in past journeys. Quileute has some of the most beautiful beaches that would attract anyone to come appreciate such beauty. Yet I mostly chose to discuss this community in regards to what I think is known as cultural theft. This occurred with the “Twilight” movies. But first, it is good to share that as guests to the Quileute nation, the runners were well taken care of and given a place to stay. For some of the runners they learned how to weave with Cedar bark. The runners were also gifted the materials to make more projects from the various colored cedar bark strips. Later there was a cultural sharing of dances. The dances we were shown in Quileute were very special to the runners because there was a lot of meaning and storytelling behind those songs and dances. One of the hardest dances was when the men had to be hunters and most of the rest of us were animals. Then part of the song we had to be hunted and the men that hunted us had to physically pick us up and carry us. It was nice to watch some of the younger male runners try and pick up someone bigger than they were. Too funny.  

The part of coming to Quileute that is not funny in any way is learning about how cultural identity theft continues to take from outside First Nation communities. Many of you might be familiar with the Twilight movies that portray vampires and werewolves against each other in what seems to be a never ending battle over a woman. These movies contribute to what I call cultural identity theft, where someone takes the culture and ideas of a people and makes lots of money and never asked for permission or included the people, and that is what I think happened with Twilight. The sad part is that even many of our own young native teens fall into the exploitation of the culture being done by Hollywood. It was sad to see that places around Quileute such as stores and homes actually had signs that catered to tourists.

Since the making of Twilight, the culture of the Quileute community has seen many tourist coming to find vampires or werewolves. This creates a false identiy of Quileute culture

The Quileute community has also received high volumes of tourists looking for the vampires or werewolf characters and their homes or schools. Some people reading this might say that at least it brings in tourism and helps the local economy. Maybe. The sad part is that it is exploitation and misrepresentation of the Quileute Nation, by taking their sacred teachings of the Wolf and commercializing it through a movie, thus creating a false representation of the community. I often ask myself if the folks who made Twilight ever used the millions of box office hit money to help do something that really matters to the Quileute community like oh I don’t know maybe help them with relocating homes to higher ground since they are in a Tsunami danger zone. Maybe helping to fund a local community museum and culture center so that tourists who come to seek “wolves” can get an accurate representation of Quileute culture. Maybe if the folks who made the Twilight movie really cared, they would help the Quileute and its neighboring tribal nations resolve a challenging court case that infringes upon their fishing rights under the Treaty if Olympia. I personally have been fortunate to experience the beaches and community of Quileute First Nation prior to the fanatical Twilight craze. I pray that someday others will get to experience the same without the eyesores of tourists arriving, seeking adventure with vampires and werewolves.

Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Warm Springs -  Oregon U.S.A.

Peace & Dignity Journeys had not been to Warm Springs since the 2000 run. This past run brought many interested people and that interest grew into a tributary run from Warm Springs to Portland Oregon. This tributary stands out in my mind so much because there were only 6 runners that covered the 110 mile stretch in 3 days. From the beginning of the run we had assistance from 3 other runners who ran the first few miles to the territorial border of the reservation. After that it was 6 of us the rest of the way. I did not think we could actually make it in time or in one piece. Our route included running directly past Mt. Hood. Our first day we covered I believe 40 miles and stayed at a place called Frog lake. I though to myself that there must be so many frogs if that is what they call it. When we arrived I didn’t see any frogs, yet after taking a walk to the lake there was a vast network of pollywogs swimming along the ridge of the lake. They came by the thousands and thousands moving counterclockwise seeming to form a freeway network just swimming and swimming. As I got closer to the lake and actually waded a few feet in, I noticed that there was a complex network of veins and paths of pollywogs swimming thorough the entire lake. I felt as though I was looking down at a huge ecosystem of baby frogs creating their own highways and freeways thorough the lake, and then some would change lanes and merge into other paths and swim from one path to another, and sometimes there would be an occasional pollywog that would go off the path and swim and do its own thing. I was amazed at such a sight. Never had I seen so many pollywogs and I began to wonder. How dependent such life-forces are on the care of the water. It must have taken thousands of years for almighty creator to have arrived on the importance of the complex system that lives at Frog Lake. I began to wonder how many fishes depended on these pollywogs for food. How people would depend on those fish to feed themselves. How many birds would probably enjoy a meal after catching a frog to eat? And how many mosquitoes would be eaten and kept to a minimum after all these baby frogs begin to grow and eat larger insects.

A small snapshot of the thousands of pollywogs at Frog Lake

We left Frog Lake the following day to run past Mt. Hood to a campground where we saw deer. They didn’t even become afraid; I realized they were desensitized to human beings. That was a bit scary to see a mother deer and her babies just walk right up to us as if they were 100% safe from someone wanting to hunt them for food. But what stands out to me is that the day we finally ran into Portland, with only about 15 miles to run, I got lost. And I eventfully got split from the group. I tried my hardest to find my way back to the group and for the first time I decided to leave my cell phone in the car. Big mistake. I did know where I was going so eventually I ran to the Native Center that was hosting us, but after taking a wrong turn for about 4 miles, I ended up at the edge of the Columbia River. It was such a sight to see. As I looked to the east from the direction I came, I could see Mt. hood far off in the distance, and it was like a blessing to realize that I and 5 other runners ran together to carry a prayer from Warm Springs, on the other side of the mountain I was staring at, only to get lost and end up at the Columbia and see Mt. Hood, as if it were greeting me a goodbye one last time. I was tired, sore and realized that the view was well worth it. I was still lost and had probably about 8 miles to get to my destination, which I did.

Winnemum Wintu First Nation, Redding -  California U.S.A.

Earlier in this article I mentioned that communities along the Fraser River enjoyed a dam free river and that was necessary for the sustenance of salmon. The history of the Winnemum Wintu is one of heartbreak but also of a miracle that we have been able to learn about on the Peace & Dignity Journeys, but first here is some background. The Winnemum Wintu traditionally lived along the McCloud River in Northern California, a river that was abundant with salmon spawning grounds. During the 1870s a hatchery was placed along the McCloud River and Chinook salmon eggs were exported through the entire world. Some of those eggs made their way to New Zealand and over time have created a family of salmon that been there ever since. In time, the McCloud River was damaged by the placing of Shasta Dam. Salmon would make their way from the coast of California far into the Sacramento River and eventually the McCloud. Recently the Winnemum Wintu has moved towards bringing back the salmon to their region. By realizing that the same salmon that once were in their rivers, are alive and well in New Zealand. This story of hope, bringing back the life sustainment of a people can prove that miracles happen when we least expect them. I personally mentioned this community because for many California tribes, Salmon have disappeared, and for those who live further up North currently battling it out with Enbridge and the Pipelines coming through your territory, you have every reason to fight back. Here in Fresno CA I sometimes talk about how we had two rivers that come around us, the San Joaquin River to the North one had salmon but have gone away due to Friant Dam. The Kings River to the South of us once had salmon but they too have gone away due to the Pine Flat Dam. It is not worth placing a damn if it means the salmon will not come back. And for those communities that have dams, do what you can to get other ways for the salmon to pass through.

D-Q University, DavisCalifornia U.S.A.

It is very important to mention this University. Although not a First Nation, it is a University built by First Nation people to serve First Nation people seeking higher education. It was also built on the foundations of the Eagle & Condor, people of the North and of the South coming to a University to study and share with one another. Sadly the current state of D-Q is one that is non-functioning. The campus once served as a US Army facility and was shut down, only to be taken by Native people under a Federal law stating that surplus land not being used was to be returned to Native Americans. Thus D-Q University was born, but of course the story is much longer than that.

I mention D-Q University because it was once a flourishing tribal college in the United States. Education for First Nation people is vital to our people in the fact that it is at Universities where research and movements are taught, created and instilled into the political, social and economic realms of society. The mist important part that tribal colleges contribute to our people though is that it’s a place that allows for First nations to still hold on to culture and spirituality. It was important this time around for the Peace & Dignity Journeys to arrive at D-Q being that both are movements based off the prophecy of the Eagle & Condor. As a teenager it was once my dream to attend D-Q, whereas D-Q had an outstanding outreach program in math and science often sending recruiters to local communities to teach natives the importance of science. They came to my community regularly and took us on trips to encourage us to attain higher education. Yet when it was time, there was no more D-Q. Due to some failed leadership in the past, D-Q lost its accreditation and has not been the same. I personally felt that over time, certain leaders of the tribal college forgot the mission and purpose of the campus, to bring together knowledge and wisdom of the North and the South and wanted it only to serve one specific group of Natives. Yet there is much hope with the current Board of Trustees. When the Peace & Dignity run arrived, there seemed to be people from all walks of life and different generations from the history of D-Q. It is important that everyone know that D-Q was born out of the cooperation and leadership of all First Nation peoples currently living in the region of D-Q, it was not the work of one individual nation.

Taino Tributary Route, New York City -  New York U.S.A.

During the West Coast route I left the runners only to join another group that originated in Puerto Rico. Some years ago, folks from the Caribbean heard about the Eagle and Condor. They realized that their region was not represented in the run due to the fact that the Red Tail hawk was the bird most sacred to the Taino of the Islands. So for 2012 a route began from Puerto Rico, over to NYC and with a small handful of runners and one van, we were going to make our way across the Eastern coast into Florida and eventually across the gulf coast into Texas. I was able to meet so many Taino folks from Puerto Rico and one who was married to a First nation’s woman from Canada, one married to a First Nations woman from Ecuador but they all had New York accents. I realized that I was in a ride of my life with the Taino route. They were loud. They were crazy, and they were great people.

We did have some obstacles ahead of us. Scheduled to arrive in Florida by the 20th of August, and eventually run to Houston Texas. We had only 8 runners, about 15 days to get there and by the fifth day running, four of our runners were going to have to come back home. This was not good for the timing of the route. We also heard of the fellow Midwest route that was broken down in Chicago so we made a plan to connect the Taino route through Pennsylvania and meet the runners from Chicago.

GMO Corn. These signs were visible along the route through Indiana and Ohio

Running the route across Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana was very long and lonesome. Most of the locations we stayed at were campgrounds or RV parks. We did get hosted by a Native American Center in Pittsburg, and by another Native American Center in Cleveland. Yet there were also many Taino families along this route. In the time we spent running this particular region I noticed that there were so many graveyards. Run about 10 miles and you see another one. Run another 10 miles or so and another graveyard or cemetery. Many of them right beside churches. And this was also the heart of the entire corn industry, but we saw tons of genetically modified corn. Many fields we ran by had little signs with the brand and species I guess you could say of the patent and company making the genetically modified corn. It was very scary to actually see corn being advertised as “Agrigold – yieldguard triple” or “Dekalb RoundUp Ready Technology” as if corn actually was made by the almighty creator to be that way. I didn’t realize corn needed to adapt to specific “technology” before being consumed. I realized after running through these corn regions that GMOs are creating very scary times for us and the future generations. Do we really need to do such things to the seed of our future? There was hope however as we saw some farmers proudly labeling their farms as organic and non-genetically modified. Some farmers were actually calling out, shaming their neighbors for the GMO corn. It is important to note that the signs are not the names of corporations who own the farm, they are names of the company that sold the farmer the seeds or the fertilizer, and the signs are there to advertise that brand. The signs also serve for research purposes to see how the corn grows. Funny thing is, people still think its safe, but why would farmers sell us something that is used to “research” on us as if we are lab rats. Well actually that’s what they are doing. We saw this all the way to Chicago.

University of Illinois, UrbanaIllinois U.S.A.

After completing the Taino Route and leaving Chicago, we realized that there were not many places that were going to host the runners until we got to Kansas. We still had so many more days of camping at RV Parks and campgrounds. One place that took us in for 2 nights was the Native American House at University of Illinois. If there is anything important to mention about this campus community is the continued racism that has been allowed to take place with the campus mascot. There is a documentary film released that discusses the racism a Native American student faced at the University of Illinois for bringing up the mascot issue. I could not do justice trying to write about it, but the name of it is “In Whose Honor?” which is worth watching if you can find it. To this day there is still non acceptance of native people in the U of I community yet the community as a whole wants to play Indian with the mascot. As I was told by a young boy from the community, they don’t like us Indians but yet they want to be us!

"Chief" Illiniwek, mascot for University of Illinois does a wannabe dance. The University can no longer have the mascot due to its participation in the NCAA sports

When the runners arrived to the U of I we spoke to several students about the journeys and how we come a long way. It was interesting to see the students attending the campus in such a community that perpetuates racism. One thing that I realized only after looking at a map of the United States in the Native American House is that manifest destiny pushed as many First Nation communities as far to the west as possible. Literally to west side of the Mississippi river. It finally clicked in my head why we were camping out at RV parks and campgrounds more than anything. There were very few almost no land based First Nation communities on the map which is why it was hard for us to find host communities in the region. We left the U of I with very little energy, as we began to get up at about 3am to beat the sun. It was getting hotter and hotter each day.

Haskell Indian Nations University, LawrenceKansas U.S.A.

The community of Lawrence along with other parts of Kansas was well organized by a former alumnus from Haskell University names Sylvia Fred and her husband Nate. They previously ran with the route further north I believe when the runners were in Minnesota. After we had joined the runners from the Taino route to the Midwest route, they had since left and did some work for Kansas organizing. Running to Haskell was actually led to a series of many greetings with so many people involved with the Four Winds Native Center, this is where we actually slept and ate. Four Winds actually had a vegetable garden and organic corn growing, unlike the GMO corn we had continued to be seeing for so many miles. We had the opportunity to meet so many different First Nation students from all around the U.S. and participate in many discussions. One of the coincidental things that happened was that we went to a student meeting to meet so many people preparing for a ceremony, and we learned that the ceremony was being put together by the community for the son of the staff member who hosted us at University of Illinois. It was so nice to see her and her son a few days after we left them and to learn that they too were connected with the Haskell Indian Nations University.

More GMO corn in the Midwest. Scary times folks. Birthing children might someday become patented

Haskell University has an old cemetery on its campus. It was once an old boarding school site. We visited the cemetery of children from 37 different tribes. I saw that some runners had a hard time seeing such a site. The importance was prayer for those children that died either through abuse, possibly trying to escape and drowning in the marshes outside the campus, disease or the fact that some children died from being separated from their families. There are 103 headstones with the names of children and their Nation on the headstone, but 10 of them were not marked. As runners I realized the importance of the staffs we carry from so many nations across the continent. I felt it was important to pray for each and every one of those children although I did not know who they were, I realized I knew that the same spirit that they once were, is the same that is inside my current nieces and nephews growing up and wanting to spend time with their family, learning from me as their mentor. I prayed that the children who passed on at this residential school could be something that those of us with little ones in our family can continue to live for. I also realized that many of the nations on the headstones of the children in this cemetery are the same nations we were running through or had yet to run through. As I walked around praying for each child making offerings, I saw that there were quite a bit from California tribes. I saw, Modoc, Mojave, Piute, and so many other nations, of young children that were killed for not following the U.S. Government into the New World or what I like to call for our current times, the New Age.

Headstones at Haskell University Cemetary

For anyone reading this, it was important to pay respects to that cemetery and remind ourselves the attempt by the U.S. government to exterminate people’s identity, culture and connection to the land. In no way whatsoever should anyone feel apprehensive towards seeing such a site. The University was established further on for much good at the sacrifice of these children.

Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, White Eagle – Oklahoma U.S.A.

There was something very normal about our arrival to the territory of Oklahoma as we arrived into the Ponca City region. We were greeted by an expected racially apprehensive Sherriff of Kay County who thought it would be nice to bother us and assumed we were “those Indians” with weapons out to put someone in danger. One of our runners was apprehended by the sheriff claiming to have gotten calls that there were suspicious folks on the road. We were in the middle of empty fields. There was nothing to “steal” but blades of grass and rocks. To make such a complicated story short and simple, a runner was apprehended possibly at gunpoint and I stress that word possibly, and then handcuffed, placed belly down on the hot scorching ground and all this after being told to lay down one of the sacred ceremonial staffs on the ground for the officers safety. It was completely a racially charged approach especially to run through so many communities and learned how Indians are appreciated only as mascots with lances and bows and arrows, yet when a real native appears, law enforcement officers with real weapons actually become afraid. If you want to see the video visit:

The runners did arrive to the Ponca Tribe at White Eagle Oklahoma. We were very welcomed in an honorable way by so many families and people that it made up for the hostile greeting by Kay County Sheriff, as we came into Oklahoma. The runners were hosted at the United Methodist Church in White Eagle. The most memorable moment I recall was the following morning. I think we had two young teenage boys and a couple young girls lead us through their community and one of the boys mother decided to join us and run. It was by far one of the most heart felt moments because this woman who decided to run with us, she stated that she obviously was not a runner. We ran about 1 mile through the small community of White Eagle and this woman found the spirit within herself to run. She was huffing and puffing and giving her best, the sun had not come up yet and she was sweating like a rainforest. A few other runners all surrounded her and we encouraged her to run and she felt like giving up but she did not. As she was running she would shout aloud, “I’m not drinking anymore soda pop” and she said that a few times over as she finally reached the end point to the vans parked beside the highway where her kids also were waiting. We all celebrated the triumph of this woman who went beyond her comfort zone to pray with us through her community. She came along with us with her vehicle and the youth that joined us ran with us for part of the distance and later had to leave for a race they had to go to later that day. Sometimes I think that we know we are capable of doing things we think we cannot do, it only takes ourselves to tell ourselves that it can be done.

Choctaw Nation, Durant – Oklahoma U.S.A.

This community stands out to me because I heard probably the most powerful sermon at the church the night we stayed with the Choctaw Nation. I will come back to that in a bit but first, I want to share that prior to arriving into the Choctaw Nation we had just spend about 10 days running through Oklahoma and it was not as easy as I thought it would be. The weather during summer is very humid. A type of humid that had us sweating salty gobs of sweat all over ourselves in just 1 minute each time we would hop out the van to run. It had actually been this way for a long time since we left Chicago. Most of the Midwest had a very arid heat that usually I enjoy but not this type. It was not a place where I felt anyone could live for too long without saying “God how did we end up here?” yet we still found gracious folks who supported us and gave us the nourishment to move along as we prayed.

Arriving to a small church at the Choctaw nation, we were met with a huge meal and people of all different ages. We were then invited to join a sermon inside the church which included Choctaw hymns. They were not something I could understand and as I sat next to a woman, she had her bible and her book of Choctaw hymns. She saw I was peeking over at her book and she smiled at me, sharing the book so I could follow along. I cannot say I understood what was being said, but the language flowed very well with the grammatical structure of the sentences on the pages. It was flowing like water down a small stream, and the songs sung out loud matched so beautifully each and every letter and word. I began to think what the northern runners from Canada felt like when they come south and cannot understand Spanish yet they sit there and just listen. Although this was a very different language, one that people have suffered very harsh times to keep alive.

Later that evening, we heard some of the most powerful, inspiration words. The pastor or maybe the correct term I can say the brother that led the congregation that night shared words about why the world is the way we see it now. Similar to the words of Psalms Chapter 23, Verse 1, the almighty creator God, created us on this earth with everything we will ever need, exactly the way it was. I agreed to how he shared the words but he almost lost me when he mentioned that god created the earth for man to rule, that we as humans are the owners of the land and had full control over it. I still kind of disagreed not knowing where the heck he was going as I thought to myself “Control? Ownership? What nonsense!” yet he clarified what he meant in saying that God made the earth for us to live from and feed ourselves, and that we had an agreement with God that as “owners” we were stewards of the land. Caring for it based on the original instructions given to us at time of creation. As owners of the land we would have all we would ever need. So long as we remember this “glory” that God gave to us we would forever receive all we could ever need. Yet something happened. Somehow humans were tempted to move away from the glory that God gave us and that when we let our guard down, looking away from the light, that sacred connection between god and ourselves, we reached for other things…things we thought we needed, but we did not need them. They became wants…wants that have been detrimental to our well being as humans. Over time this is what has happened to our society and our world that we have lost, disconnected or turned away from the hand of God and reached for the hand of those evil things that have put us here today. As he closed the sermon he told everyone that we as runners carry the message of what we are supposed to be doing. It was simple and moving. I was reminded why we are praying, and why we as runners, decided to take the trek through the hot, humid weather I just mentioned. I was re-energized and ready to move further south.

Austin  Texas, U.S.A.

Arriving to Austin Texas had special meaning for me. A year before the run started, Jose Malvido and I traveled to Austin to meet with a large group of interested folks wanting to host Peace & Dignity Journeys. Texas was going to be the focal point of three routes coming together, which later did not happen that way yet the work that was done to host the runners coming though showed. When we arrived to Austin, it was already late about 10pm. prior to arriving we lost some runners and the weather was raining. We took a couple rest days in Austin and I recall visiting a spring and sacred water place at a park. I do not remember the name of the park but myself, Yari a runner from Puerto Rica, Teo from Canada and Alberto from Washington all enjoyed swimming in the water which also included some fish. I started to think about all the places we visited in regards to praying for the water. And I know some persons reading this part may become offended and that is ok. I realized that for so long runners were collecting water to pray with just not enjoying it for what it truly is there for. I prefer water to swim, bathe and enjoy in its whole physical sense. It was such a blessing to dive into the water, swim in it, feel it all over me and feel clean. I began to remember how Peace & Dignity Journeys is experienced on the Central California route. Any runner who took that route for 2012 and any other journey since 2000 would tell you they truly experienced the waters of California like nothing else. Waterfalls, natural waterslides, waterholes, rivers, lakes and so many bodies of water that runners had the opportunity to enjoy in the physical came to mind as I was in Austin. I felt that the prayer was not to collect water and capture it in a bottle but to enjoy it and pray that I and many more to come will have access to the water as I have. Nothing more. Keeping water in a bottle for the sake of saying I collected water from so many sacred places means nothing if you cannot enjoy it for what it was truly meant for.

Hurricane Isaac affected four states that we were supposed to run through at the same time it arrived 

Finally, Austin stands out to me because it was a place where I learned about weather on the East Coast route would have really placed a difficult burden on the Taino if we would have ran towards Florida. Because I want to focus on miracles for this writing, I want to mention that when I took the lead with the Taino route, I was at first heart broken that the route could not pass through the entire East Coast into Florida and then towards Texas. The decision to change the route to meet with the runners in Chicago was not an easy decision, but arriving to Austin, one of those moments when you go “Hmmm now I know why it happened that way” went off in my head. You see the Taino route was scheduled to be in Florida by August 20, 2012. Hurricane Isaac hit Florida that same time. I also learned that there was a state of Emergency in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. I don’t know how that would have placed the runners in regards to safety and support but I do know that it would not have been something we would have wanted to experience. For me personally it was a miracle that we avoided that region for the time being.

Ejido La Luz,  – Coahuila México

We had already passed the border coming from Texas, and this community was our first place to stay in Mexico. Ejido La Luz was one of those communities you wouldn’t expect to visit so soon going into Mexico. What I mean by that is the access we had to a clean natural spring. When we ran into La Luz, it felt different. We had to pass a guarded entrance and realized it was an Ejido. Ejidos are communities of farm lands that are used in a communal fashion for growing crops. This system dates back to ancient times where all the families that are part of the Ejido and work the land have the rights to the land not some corporation or group of people sitting in an office somewhere else.  Should some issue face the land or someone want to do anything on the land, the entire community of the Ejido must come to a decision. It is not like regular town municipalities. Arriving to La Luz, we were greeted by a few folks there and as we ran through, more and more onlookers were curious to whom these runners were going through their land. We ran past a very beautiful clear river which flowed into small ponds and water holes. Further back as we ran up the side of this river, we saw fish and trees growing out of the water, small cascades and lush green lily pads. Further up we reached the mouth of the hole of where the water was springing up from the earth. As we arrived, practically the entire community was there. We talked about what we were doing but most importantly we reminded the community to never let anyone come in and take their spring waters from them. I personally did not want to just talk about how sacred the water is and collect it, I asked if we could swim in the water and then it happened.

Then we left and actually came back. First we did not expect to stay at this community; we were only going to go there to collect water. Our original place to stay was at a town called Villa Union but for some reason or another it didn’t happen that way and when we were at La Luz, some elders there told us that we are more than welcome to stay there with them as they liked what we were doing, praying for the water. So we returned and stayed there, only to go swimming again at the water springs. We slept in a small church and received food and other support from the community.

The day we left, one of the women that helped host us sent us with a prayer for her husband named Armando. He had gone missing many years ago. A small wooden cross with his name and a picture of him was sent with us. No one knows what ever happened to him. She is the gatekeeper to the entrance to La Luz. It was my feeling that her husband might have been victim of so many of those crimes against people that stand at the gate and protect such beautiful places like La Luz from corporate greed….from those evil entities that “want” to control and destroy the land for the gain of a few. This might not be the case, but it always seems to me that many communities we run through there is such a similar story towards those who are protecting the land. La Luz translates to “the light” in English. As I experienced this community and all of its sacredness, I came to the realization that there truly is the light in this small community and in the prayer we carry as well. There truly is the light in the water that purifies us all. And that there truly is light in so many communities across this continent. That light which each and every one of you come from, can only survive so long as you continue to pray and fight for it. Spend time on your land; enjoy all the needs God has provided for you. Keep that light alive and strong, never let any evil that wants to put that light out pass, cause you never know how many miracles you just might create with that light.


To say that some of the things I heard or experienced are miracles I cannot prove. I would like to think that they were. As you read along what are your thoughts? Is it a miracle that that in a community in BC Canada, a young girl was the catalyst for pulling her people out of alcoholism? Was it a miracle that over 100 years later a tribe can possibly reclaim their connection to salmon that died away from their traditional fishing grounds only to learn the same salmon are in a river on a land mass thousands of miles away? Was it even a miracle that one of our routes managed to avoid a possible catastrophe of a hurricane?

I leave that up to the reader to decide. Only you know when you think a miracle has happened. I just think that waiting for miracles does not let us off the hook to keep our connection of prayer to the almighty creator, God. My purpose in sharing some of these experiences was to help any of us from our communities realize that prayer is important, and sometimes a miracle might come our way. It has not been easy to write as any PDJ runner can tell you that they are things one can only experience. But as a veteran runner I can tell you that having run more than one journey allows one to put into words that can be shared. I will not be writing anymore about the experiences for the 2012 journey as it does become emotionally difficult to recollect the thoughts, and at times it is very exciting.

Although after arriving home from the 2012 run there are some other things I would like to write about, some very serious concerns I think anyone who believes in the almighty creator would be interested in reading. 2012 was what many called the year of global consciousness, some type of awareness that was suppose to happen worldwide. I always disagreed with such stories and maintain that it was propaganda for the continued assault on the cultural identity of First Nation people, our relationship to the land and connection to God. If you are interested in reading this article I encourage you to stay tuned. I will deliver and I will not hold back what I have observed on this matter. Thank you for taking the time to read.

Coming soon...
Fail? Why the 2012, Worldwide, Unified, Global Consciousness, Awakening Never Happened and What it’s Still All About.