Peace Walk to Focus on Treaty Rights, Nuclear Threat

The Circle

News from a Native American perspective

February 1995

Peace Walk to Focus on Treaty Rights, Nuclear Threat

by Carol Kalafatic

On the almost tropical morning of January 15, 1995, approximately 20 people began a spiritual walk from the United Nations building in New York City to the Gandhi Peace Plaza in San Francisco, California. The Global Peace Walk opened with a sunrise prayer ceremony at Ralph Bunche Park, directly facing the building where member nations are said to gather to carry out their mandate to save future generations from the ravages of war and, among other things to establish "conditions of respect for the obligations arising from treaties." With the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. as their starting date, the walkers are scheduled to arrive in San Francisco on or before June 26, to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter.

"It's also the 50th anniversary of the invention of the atomic bomb," adds Wonono Rubio, a member of the Coastal Band Chumash Nation of southern California and one of the coordinators of the walk. "The world is in a unique position because we can destroy the world with pollution, weapons and warfare. But because of technological advances in telecommunications, awareness can be widespread. We also have the ability to save the world...we're all responsible, despite who caused the problems." For the past two decades, Wonono has worked with other Natives to resist and prevent industrial development on sacred lands such as Point Conception near Lompoc, California. The other coordinators of the walk are also peace activists: the Reverend Yusen Yamato, a non-sectarian Buddhist monk and former co-coordinator of the Long Walk for Survival in 1980, and David Williams, a physicist.

As a Japanese activist who has worked in solidarity with North American Natives since 1980, the Reverend Yamato recognizes a painful historical link between two peoples: The uranium used to create the bombs dropped on the Japanese people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, came from Native American lands. He sees it as his mission to "support all traditional indigenous peoples," and therefore initiated this walk. To explain the significance of the walk, he recalls the Hopi Prophecies and their partial fulfillment in 1992, when Hopi elder Thomas Banyacya traveled to New York to address the UN General Assembly for the International Year of the World's Indigenous People. "He visited the Mica building in '92. Many spiritual leaders came, and rain, rain, rain. Long, long time indigenous peoples have been waiting for this period (when) all human beings will recognize the globe as one vehicle...that the globe is really important -- not any organization that belongs to some government."

In the US, most walks such as this one have begun in the West, with Washington, DC as their final destination. By walking from east to west, Yamato and other walkers hope to symbolize what they call a "new direction for humanity."

"With the rising sun we bring a rising awareness of our relationship with the earth and with each other," says Wonono. "We hope to represent the possibility of enlightenment...we're not trying to petition or lobby anyone." The coordinators say they are participating in a ceremony of walking and prayer for global peace, rather than making a political statement.

But they have designed the itinerary of the walk to include various sites in which states develop and test nuclear devices. They also invite and encourage Native individuals and organizations to endorse and/or join the walk, or to use the walk as an opportunity to present their own issues(s) and distribute pertinent information.

On March 28, the Global Peace Walk is scheduled to reach Leavenworth Prison in Lawrence, Kansas, where the walkers plan to visit Leonard Peltier, the Anishinabe-Lakota AIM leader serving two life sentences for allegedly murdering two FBI agents. The walk has received the written support of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, Corbin Harney of the Western Shoshone Nation, and Coretta Scott King, civil rights leader and widow of Martin Luther King, Jr. Additionally, the Grand Council of the Six Nations Confederacy is expected to draft a statement of support by late January. Among those who have already extended their blessings or endorsement are the following native leaders: Thomas Banyacya; Pauline Whitesinger and other Dine'; AIM member Dennis Banks (expected to join the walk in Ohio); Archie Fire Lame Deer, a Miniconjou-Lakota spiritual leader, and Aggie Guarnica, Chairwoman of the Coastal Band Chumash Nation. The coordinators hope to assemble a delegation of Native people to fly to Tokyo, Japan after this walk to join another peace walk scheduled to arrive in Hiroshima on August 6 and in Nagasaki on August 9 -- the respective anniversaries of the cities' atomic bombings by the US during World War II.

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