If you asked for my opinion, I’d have to tell you that I would prefer to walk a mile on hot Legos before I’d ever choose to run a marathon. But others aren’t so wary of long distances. In 1992, massive groups of indigenous and Native Americans began to run.
|Elder men of a native community carry prayer staffs.|
In Native American culture, an Eagle represents the spirit of the northern continents, while a condor represents the south. The year of 1990 began talk of an ancient tradition of bringing the eagle and the condor together to celebrate resources and community. Two short years later, the Peace and Dignity Journey began for these people. Natives from the northernmost tip of Alaska to the southern islands of Chile began their spiritual journeys towards Central America, bearing prayer staffs of every community. Vanessa Inaru Pastrano, a native Taino woman and the director for the Taino community’s Journey, explained that it was a culmination of prophecy: that “native nations will come together again.”
|Julia Jorge, Taino, and me dressed|
in hand-made “fancy” regalia
I suppose a bit of background is necessary here. My best friend is native Taino, and I finally was able to convince her to drag me along to “one of her Indian meetings” (a bit ignorant, I know). We attended a Summer Solstice ceremony in Youngstown where Inaru, as they call her, presented the Peace and Dignity Journey to those in attendance. I was able to contact and meet with her a few days later to get more in-depth information about the re-born tradition. The opportunity to meet with this leader and discuss the Peace and Dignity Journey was eye-opening to say the least. Eager to spread awareness of this event, Inaru first explained the basics. Each tribal background had a regional leader—which was her position for the Tainos—who organized the caravan-style community and regional runs. Each group carried with them decorated staffs representing the prayers of each community. These people adorn themselves in regalia, traditional clothing, and gather to dance, sing, pray, and of course, run. For the Taino people, the Run of the Redtail Hawk branches from New York State into Georgia and will thus follow the Trail of Tears into Texas, a journey that Inaru estimates at about 3 weeks.
The Journey itself takes place over a 9-month period every 4 years. The next Journey will take place in 2016, and according to Inaru, will tentatively be themed “Original Seeds.” Starting from the grassroots up, she emphasized that participants do not accept corporate sponsorship and rely only on the resources and care of wherever their journeys take them. “When we learn to respect each other, then the love comes in”—a message truly represented by their faith in community.
This journey, as well as all those for other tribes, is about bringing nations together, raising awareness of issues of the indigenous, to pray for communities, and to give young people the opportunity to learn the traditions of their elders. And yes, non-natives make participate as long as they have a native sponsor. “After all,” Inaru explained, “we’re all part of the human race.”