Walkers bring peace message to Gallup
scruffy band of multi-ethnic followers chanting


Gallup, New Mexico

Thursday, May 4, 1995

[photo, not shown here, captioned:]

-- Malcolm Brenner/Independent

Zen Buddhist monk Yusen Yamato, left, leads Global Peace March walkers in prayer outside Gallup City Hall Wednesday afternoon. The marchers left from the United Nations building in New York on Jan.15, the birthday of Martin Luther King, and hope to arrive in San Francisco on June 20 for a week-long Global Peace celebration.

Walkers bring peace message to Gallup

By Malcolm Brenner
Staff writer

Gallup -- The Zen Buddhist monk in the yellow robe and his rag-tag band of two dozen followers stood in front of City Hall Wednesday afternoon. One held a frying pan full of burning sage and wafted the smoke over them with a feather.

"Global Peace Now!" Yusen Yamato, the monk, shouted three times. Then to a slow drum beat, he entoned a droning Buddhist chant.

If the scruffy band of multi-ethnic followers chanting with him looked like they had just walked in from New York City, it was because they had. The United Nations 50th Anniversary Global Peace Walk '95 had arrived in Gallup, on its way to San Francisco.

Since starting on Jan. 15, the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., the interfaith group has passed through 12 states, covering 3,600 miles, or close to 8 million steps, as one of the marchers put it.

When they arrive in San Francisco on June 20, they hope to be accompanied by 10,000 marchers from San Jose.

Along the way, the marchers have been seeking letters of endorsement from the mayors of the cities they pass through. In New Mexico, Taos Mayor Frederick A. Peralta declared the city a Global Peace Zone. Santa Fe Mayor Debbie Jaramillo proclaimed April 26, when the marchers passed through, Global Peace Walk Day.

Charlotte Bigthumb, secretary to Gallup Mayor George Galanis, said the marchers' advance coordinator reached her too late Tuesday for Galanis to have a prepared statement ready. But he supported their goal and would send a letter of support to their base in San Francisco.

The march is Yamato's brainchild. "Our ancestors left a message several hundred years ago that someday all human beings would recognize that the globe was important," he told the Independent, speaking in a heavy Japanese accent.

"Globe is our house and our altar. Someday, all human beings have to pray global peace now, bring back knowledge and life, otherwise nobody can be living in this world."

David Williams, the group's advance coordinator, said Yamato conceived the idea of the march after he was asked by San Francisco's Martin Luther King Community to conduct a prayer service for their celebration of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

The march has been a long one. Williams originally planned on walking 30 miles a day; they've been averaging 19. By using what he called "relay walking" they can sometimes cover 60 to 80 miles a day.

They camped Tuesday night in a rest stop about 15 miles east of Gallup on I-40. After leaving Gallup they headed for Window Rock, where they spent the night with Larry Anderson, formerly the Fort Defiance delegate to the Navajo Tribal Council and an ex-member of the American Indian Movement.

Williams hoped they would be able to obtain a letter of support from the council. After that they're headed for the Hopi reservation.

"I heard about Indian land," Yamato said. "Not only Indian, all traditional people outside the barbed wire fence suffering by this culture. This culture separate wrong and right, take all medicine out of life. Now these wars all over emergency. Now everybody pray, bring to this Mother Earth peace."

Marching with them is Felipe Chavez, a Yaqui Indian from the Sonora Mountains. A sun dancer and an alcoholic in recovery, Chavez carries a staff covered with sacred objects different tribes along the way have donated; feathers from the Lakota and Chumash, among othes, representing all indigenous peoples and the coming generations.

"We're concerned about what it's going to be like when it's our time to go to the Spirit World," he said. "Are they going to have to clean up our mess?"

Recent sever storms, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions might be Mother Earth's way of purifying herself, he said.

"We're too comfortable to see what's happening around us," he said. "Comfort is creating blindness amongst our people. They're leaving their heritage, their roots, their culture to become part of the American Dream that's destroying the earth."

Asked about the Peace Walk's funding, Williams chuckled.

"Boot strap, ad hoc," he said. "No big organizations are behind us. We operate on the donations people make to us along the way. Some people have done benefits for us. We're making it by."

While the march has been peaceful, the group has had left some odd happenings in their wake.

A week after they prayed at the site of a proposed nuclear waste dump in Ohio, an earthquake occurred, Williams said, causing local authorities to re-evaluate their support for the project.

"Since the beginning of the walk, Yamato's sense of the world is htat maybe a major war would break out or something," Williams said. "Just about the middle of this, the Oklahoma bombing took place."

He called it "a signal of the nature of the war to come."

Yamato said it was "part of the purification if society doesn't take care of human life."

Whle some Americans fear the imagined imposition of "one world government," Yamato's goal is for the world to unite spiritually, not politically.

"Life, human life, this is most important," Yamato said. "That's why future generations want to bring together life and land."

Donations to the Global Peace Walk may be sent to the Yucca Foundation, 1827 Haight St., Suite 85, San Francisco, CA 94117.