Group traverses continent to spread message
Shawnee Oklahoma, Philip Deer, Bill Wahpepah Memorial

The Shawnee News-Star

Shawnee, Oklahoma

Sunday, April 9, 1995

Group traverses continent to spread message

Michelle Boyd

Twenty-five people representing diverse areas, including France, Germany, Ohio, Japan, and Arizona, paused in their walk for global peace Saturday at the home of Susan Whitewater, who lives east of Meeker.

Global Peace Walk '95 was organized in an effort to educate people across the United States on issues affecting Native Americans and other indigenous people around the world.

Their message is that all people around the world need to learn to respect the land and to respect life in the tradition of the Native American and other indigenous people.

The walkers are staying at Whitewater's home while they participate in a memorial for Bill Wahpepah and Philip Deer, both founders of the American Indian Treaty Council.

Wahpepah and Deer, among others, brought the issues of the Native American people and other indigenous people before the general assembly of the United Nations to make those issues world issues, not just issues within certain countries, said Rev. Yusen Yamato, a nonsectarian Zen Buddhist monk from San Francisco who helped organized the walk.

The group stopped in Oklahoma because of the large number of Native Americans here, Yamato said.

As the United States colonized North America, the government relocated the native tribes in Oklahoma, said Wonono Rubio, a member of the Santa Barbara, Calif., Chumash (a Native American) community.

"The U.S. stole land, forced people here. We pray for global peace now."

Rubio said that another reason the group came to Oklahoma is because of land and life abuses here.

Members of the group said they believe that "Mother Earth" is rebelling against the technology and exploitation of the land. Rubio and Yamato said that without respect, the earth is rebelling by the increase in disasters such as drought, accidents, tornadoes and airplane accidents.

Acts of disrespect include mining for uranium and minerals, relocating indigenous people from their native lands and dumping toxic waste, Rubio said.

"In Oklahoma, the underground water is poisoned from burying toxic waste," Rubio said.

He said large holes were dug underground and lined with concrete to contain barrels of toxic waste in Oklahoma. However, the lining on these holes has deteriorated, which has allowed the waste to leak, he said. Rubio said the leaks have happened in Oklahoma and other states as well.

Yamato said this is a purification time, that the earth is cleansing itself because people are poisoning the land, water and people.

Abuses of land and life are occurring around the world, Rubio said. In Japan today, there are 39 nuclear power plants, and Rubio said that plans are being made to add 72 plants by the end of the century. He added that the area is well known for its high level of seismic activity.

Rubio also mentioned the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was signed December 17, 1992, by United States President George Bush, Mexican President Salinas and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. According to the 1995 Information Please Almanac, NAFTA is a "framework agreement proposed to eliminate restrictions on the flow of goods, services, and investment in North America."

"NAFTA is streamlining for exploiting countries for raw materials," Rubio said. "The materials come from indigenous peoples lands."

Yamato said the peace walk is about the environment and what people will have to do to survive.

"We have to change our consciousness, must respect the American Indian issue," Yamato said. "We have to make it a global issue. Our walk is a spiritual united nation."

Other major issues the group has taken up include the exploitation of indigenous lands for minerals and uranium mining. The group is also against nuclear testing, the use of nuclear weapons and misuse of energy.

As the walkers pass through different areas, they collect issues to pray about and carry to the UN celebration and hold peace ceremonies at symbolic sites.

The walkers themselves represent various issues and people. Chris Daniels, from Ohio, is walking because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is trying to put a nuclear waste dump over a fault in Ohio.

Rubio said an earthquake registering 3.5 on the Richter scale occurred just last month in the area where the site will be located. He added that the congressman advocating the placement of the dump said it would provide jobs and tax revenue to the district, one of the poorest in Ohio. Nuclear waste from several countries would be dumped at the site, Rubio said.

Another issue represented by a walker is that of the Dineh (Navajo) people in Arizona. Nick Bailey, from Flagstaff, Ariz., said that he is a friend of the Dineh Nation in Arizona.

He said that indigenous people in the area are being relocated off the reservation to make way for a coal mining operation. He added the miners have also found uranium under the coal, which will be mined as soon as the coal is removed.

"This has caused an increase in alcoholism, suicide and the crime rate among the people," Bailey said. "The people are leaving the land, breaking the sacred cycle, which is causing considerable hurt on a personal level."

Bailey also added that the company in charge of the mining operation is also pumping half a million gallons of underground water into the mining area each day. He said 10 years ago, workers had to dig 250 feet to reach the underground water table. Today workers must dig 800 feet deep to reach the water table.

"Because of this, the land is eroding, drying up today," Bailey said. "This land is being raped by their (mining operations)."

The group began walking from the United Nations in New York City on Jan. 15, 1995, the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. They are walking to San Francisco with a message of global community and respect for the land and respect for life and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter. They plan to arrive in San Francisco on June 20, the beginning of the anniversary celebration.

Mayors and leaders of various cities across the country have written to Yamato expressing their support of the group's efforts.

"I am pleased to send my greetings to all the participants in the United Nations 50th anniversary Peace Walk '95," New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, wrote in a letter Jan. 15. "On behalf of all New Yorkers, I ask you to convey throughout the world our wish for peace. May your physical and spiritual journey in pursuit of global peace inspire the world's leaders."

Letters of support were also sent from Sharpe James, mayor of Newark, N.J.; Gregory S. Lashutka, mayor of Columbus, Ohio; Tom Ridge, governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Timothy R. Costanza, mayor of Shippensburg Penn.

Freeman R. Bosley Jr., mayor of St. Louis, Mo. wrote, "Throughout our world today, there is a plethora of tension and strife. Far too many nations are pre-occupied with civil unrest and military warfare. However, senseless loss of life, liberty, and property can be diminished once mankind regains a vision of world peace."

Several organizations sent letters of support, including the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahai's of the City of New York; The King Center, The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc.; and the National Rainbow Coalition.

Along their trek, the walkers have stopped at various sites of nuclear accidents, including Three Mile Island, the site of one of the worst nuclear accidents in the United States and at the Leavenworth Penitentiary in Lawrence, Kan.

The walkers held a three-day fast at the prison in mid-March for Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist who they believe was falsely accused by the Federal Bureau of Investigations of killing two agents. Peltier also helped organize the walk.

The group walked through Missouri and Kansas in March.

Beginning in April, they walked through cities in Oklahoma, including Bartlesville, Tulsa and Stroud.

After leaving Whitewater's home, they will walk to El Reno, Watonga, Seiling, Woodward, Slapout, Gray, Guyman, Eva and Boise City. They will continue through New Mexico, where they will participate in an Earth Day Global Unity event; Arizona where they will hold a Spiritual Unity Gathering, and California.

June 14-19, the peace walkers will hold a Global Peace Walk Rally, where they say they hope about 100,000 people will walk with them from San Jose to San Francisco, Rubio said.

They will arrive in San Francisco June 20 to celebrate the United Nations 50th anniversary with prayer and speeches from Nobel Peace prize winners for world peace, Rubio said.