Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Closure to the Hiroshima Peace Flame Walk 2002: Traditional Dineh and Hopis Come Together for Peace On Earth

July 14, 2002 by  
Filed under Archives, Voices from the Land

By Bahe Y. Katenay, Big Mountain Dineh Activist (July 2002)

[Author’s Note: The names of individual participants were withheld in order to protect identity for fear of possible harassment and intimidations. Please, Post or Forward this info to friends and group/organizations interested. Thanks, BYK]


Upper Big Mountain/Owl Springs, AZ On Memorial Day of 2002 at a lone traditional Dineh resistor’s land, nearly a hundred people gathered to welcome the Hiroshima Peace Flame for its closing ceremonies on Dineh and Pueblo lands. This special Flame has made its way around Europe and Mexico in previous Peace Walks. This year a Peace Walk began bearing this Flame of Peace in January from Seattle near the site of Chief Seattle’s grave and monument. The Peace Walk ended on the east coast in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City in mid-May.

The last stage and its conclusion was based on an American indigenous idea of returning a portion of the Hiroshima Flame back to “where it came from” which was the Four Corners region of the southwest US, land of the Dineh and Pueblos. It is believed that at least one third of the plutonium produced to make the atomic bombs used on Japan came from the uranium ore of Dineh country. The Flame, instead, came to the coal mining areas of Black Mesa. Black Mesa coal exploration has been active since the 1960s and has become controversial because the local tribal governments and the coal companies’ leasing negotiations were tied to the Indian Removal Act of 1974.

Endeavors to make Peace and bring Justice between America’s energy needs versus traditional indigenous culture and religion is very much needed, and there is no other alternatives to create peace or justice. That was why, again, traditional Dineh and Hopis were called upon to join Xicano, White, Asian and African peace activists at the frontlines of the Peabody Western Coal Company’s strip-mining expansions.

The US government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) supported tribal agency like the BIA-Hopi Law Enforcement police have been strongly restricting any form of activities like protests or religious gatherings in an area outlined by the Federal Mediator in 1977, as result of the 1974 Navajo-Hopi Removal Act. This area was recognized, during the 1960s, by the US government as the Joint-Use Area (JUA) for both Dineh and Hopis until powerful utility companies lobbied Congress to partition the area. To this day, the questions as to why multinational corporation got involved in a Indian Land Rights issues is “far beyond” the coal company and the BIA’s explanations. However, the partitioning and Indian relocation policies were passed with the vigorous efforts from coal company attorneys and corporate lobbyist who all claimed of a “(Navajo) and Hopi range-war with some casualties involved. What Congress didn’t care to hear was the traditional Dineh and Hopi claims that the “range war” scenario was fabricated in order to remove indigenous population so that coal mining leases can be expanded and to tap into a massive pristine aquifer. “Gold was Struck” in the form of electrical energy which, exponentially, would fuel the American economic growth for the southwestern states, and again, despite major government and corporate denial, indigenous culture and religion will have to be sacrifice in the name of American capitalism.

Circle of Peace Activists in a Sagebrush Meadow next to the Coal Mine Lease Boundary

Memorial Day, a “holiday,” was not only a time for ‘heavy alcohol drinking binges,’ (a tradition among mainstream America) in honor of remembering past love ones, but it also became a convenient time for the Flame Ceremony to be conducted without interruptions from the BIA’s corporate harassment and
intimidation agency. If this ceremony would have been announced in a normal call of agenda, the corporate BIA-Hopi Police would have begun monitoring the designated area. The designated area was on the land of an elder resistor to the Federal Relocation Program and this elder resistor lived adjacent to the coal mine lease boundary. This area is prohibited from any form of “unauthorized gathering for religious or other political protest purposes” as outlined by the BIA-Hopi Tribal Ordinances. “Violators” will be arrested and prosecuted and will be jailed, fined and depending of residential status, be excluded from the area. So, Thanks to Creator’s Blessing!, this Memorial Day over 50 beautiful colored human beings from different ethnic backgrounds “without authorization trespassed” and gathered to pray for peace along with local traditional Hopi and Dineh elders and their families.

Many Peace Flame Walkers who could not make it to this event held their own prayer vigil at home or in groups. In Japan, there were several places that held pre-sunrise gatherings to coincide with the Flame Ceremony on Black Mesa, and other former walkers throughout Turtle Island (US) send words of
solidarity and that, they would do prayers on the moment the ceremony would begin. It was a clear warm day on May 27th and at 1100 AM the Hiroshima Peace Flame arrived with a seven car caravan from Flagstaff where Walkers from New York, Washington D.C., New Mexico, and Oregon had spend the
night, and a few others came in the evening before directly to the Elder’s home from Colorado.

According to the Elder resistor’s direction, the short walk began in an easterly direction from her resident toward a sagebrush meadow that was about a one mile walk. All the walkers with their previous experience didn’t need to be told to prepare. As the Buddhist prayer drums started to beat, everyone was ready with their hats, sunscreen and water bottles and everyone followed the Flame Carrier down a wide sheep trail that crossed a large arroyo. The dry and dusty trail led the pilgrimage up a small rise and through a small juniper-pinon pine wooded area and finally, out into a series of wide sagebrush meadows. The walk turned off from the trail into the sage bushes until the line of walkers began circling until a full circle was made, and the walking stopped when the Flame Carrier and the Buddhist Nun stood on the eastside of the circle. The drumming and the chanting of Nym Myo Ho Ren Gey Kyo continued until the Nun signaled with a beat and drumming stopped. Then, with palms together Walkers made three chants and bows to each other and ending with a Domoaigotto Gozhimasda (Thank You Very Much).

An Indigenous Way of Religious Approach in Conducting Ceremonies

For the purpose of traditional Dineh religion, the reasons for and the way to conduct the ceremony were discussed days before. The Elder resistor host seek advice from a medicine woman, another fellow resistor, about the issue of “extinguishing the Flame.” Also, the Dineh activist/coordinator consulted with a knowledgeable local Elder man about ways ceremonies are conducted where extinguishing a fire or flames are involved. First to both Elders, it was explained by the Dineh coordinator and Sun Dancer as to how it might be done: in the process of extinguishing the flame that no Human Breath should be used since modern day breath lack innocents. Perhaps, water can be used but it will have to water that is from a natural spring and must not have been drawn up by steel pipes, and also, that the traditional cup be used as opposed to a manufactured cup.

The Elder man referred to one particular ceremony among the Dineh which is a healing sweat that is done in a regular hogan. Here, the flames and coals used from the miniature bonfire is extinguished with special mixture of herbs and water with a bundle of feathers from an eagle’s wings. An idea and method from this Way can be used, perhaps. The Elder resistor host said the medicine woman advised not to extinguish the Flame because the resistance at Big Mountain is considered as the Continuous Flame of Hope. In the late 1970s when the resistance began, the resistors at the time said, “We have lid a new fire, and it is this Fire which will give us hope to remain on our ancestral lands.” So, no water will be poured on the hot embers to extinguished it but let nature takes its natural process. The hot embers from the Hiroshima Flame will cooled into fine ashes and the Earth will cool-off the fireplace gradually. However, as in all indigenous ceremonies of the western hemisphere, water and eagle feathers will be used in this ceremony to blessed the Walkers, other participants, the Flame, and the Land.

The Peace Flame “Returns to the Land Where It was Born”

At the circle, a Japanese Walker delegate spoke about the legacy of the Peace Flame, and about the wishes of the Walkers and Survivors of the Atomic Bombs. The Walker delegate reiterated that we all share a common goal which is that the only solution to the environmental, cultural and war devastations is Global Peace, and that humanity must not return to events like Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Buddhist Nun moved into the middle of the circle to conduct a special prayer for peace in the Buddhist tradition and when she was completing the chants, the Peace Flame was transferred from the lantern with a sagebrush twig to the woods already stacked for the ceremonial fire. The fire wood was gathered without the use of any kind of metal tools and it consisted of woods from the greasewood bush, sagebrush bush, pinon-pine tree and the juniper tree. This was to represent the Four Corners of the Universe as well as the Four Colors of Humanity. The ceremonial fire ignited immediately and the Peace Flame lantern was turned off and put aside, and now, it was the Dineh peoples’ moment to conclude the Peace Flame Walk Ceremony.

“Yaa’at’eeh! Konnichiwa! We all rely on the Sacred Fire for many purposes like It prepares our food, It illuminates when it gets dark, It keeps us warm when it gets cold, and It also gives us the ceremonial ways to heal ourselves or to pray and give Thanks. Today, our relatives from across the great western ocean has come to ask for our help on returning this special Flame to these lands of the Dineh and Pueblos. As you know, we have seen or heard that our Indian peoples have suffered and are still suffering from the uranium, some that was used to fuel the atomic bombs that were dropped on these Japanese peoples’ relatives. Here, throughout Big Mountain we are suffering today because of what the government and its corporation want from the Earth, which is coal. Because of the coal mining, they are taking the most precious thing that moistens Mother Earth, the deep aquifer, and we all know that is why the Rain Gods do not return to our lands anymore. So, let us today, pray for a time –an ancient time long passed when our Peoples went to the Holy places to make offerings to the Sacred Springs, maybe so that, the ground under our feet may cool down. And with this Flame, we have built a fire and we shall now pray to it as it is our ceremonial fire. We will use the cedar to carry our prayers skyward. With the Feathers, we will use it to bless the natural spring water. Finally, we all, as Peoples of Many Colors, will partake of this Holy Water to remember the days of August 1945 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and to further remember that we shall succeed, here at Big Mountain, with our efforts for peace and balance on Mother Earth. I ask you, my traditional Dineh –you who still have the great knowledge of understanding the ancient ways of giving blessings, to help myself and the rest of our relations here, today. Furthermore, I asked a relative, that is with us, to direct this blessing ceremony whereas, I lack the procedural knowledge of conducting it. Thank You, for listening and being here. From the bottom of my heart, I wish to express my happiness and appreciation to see many of you here.”The traditional Dineh (Roadman) for the Peyote Way of Worship, asked to make a separate pile of hot embers so that, he can begin the ceremony and administer cedar smoke to bless the natural spring water. He prayed to the Creator that blessings be given to all and for forgiveness because many of our Dineh relations have relocated which has resulted in abandoning the sacred springs where the Deities still await offerings. Prayers were made for all that have walked across this continent in the past winter and spring, and Thanksgiving for the blessings and protection that Great Spirits provided for the Peace Flame Walk. The traditional (Roadman) prayed on behalf of all that are gathered here and for those who would not be here that, the Holy Beings in all the directions receive the prayers from this conclusion ceremony for the Peace Flame and that, it shall be provided that the blessings of peace and healing be “upon us as everyone will partake of the Sacred Spring Water.” With graceful but simple jester and movements of one single, eagle tail feather, the Roadman blessed the pails of water. After dipping the feather into the Holy Water and then, using a gentle tap-like motion, he blessed the four directions, the Earth and the Sky.  With a separate dip of the feather into the water and using a circular motion of subtle taps, blessings were send out in the direction of the gathered circle of peoples. The Japanese spokespeople were, then, blessed with the water, and another blessing for the Elder resistor who provided her land for this conclusion ceremony.

He then instructed that after the main delegates have partaken of the Holy Water, in the same order the Walkers came starting with the Flame Carrier, the line shall proceed so that each will partake and use this Water as they also pay homage to the Ceremonial Fire. The coal mine was at a stand still due the holiday and there was no dust, noise or exhaust rising from the mining areas. There was a little breeze as small puffs of clouds casted brief shadows over the ceremony as the participants very quietly and in meditation partook of this Sacred Water of Black Mesa. When the Water Blessing ceremony was completed, the traditional Roadman requested that the remaining and accumulated hot embers be shaped into an alter so, the embers were shaped into the symbol of Great Spirits’ messenger, the Eagle. From thereon, Earth shall cool off the embers in about another day or so. As the circle dispersed, some returned to the hot ember Altar to sprinkled cedar on it and blessed themselves more. Other Peace Walkers filled their canteens with the remaining Holy Water, while some took one last look at what was part of the Hiroshima Peace Flame of 2002.

Everyone took the mile and half length walk back to the residence, and there, the cooks composed of local folks and other supporters had prepared a great feast. There, much was further exchanged like songs, laughter, hugs, joy, old stories, activism of hope, and most of all, re-encouragements that all must continue to Save Black Mesa/Big Mountain and the rest of the natural world. A traditional Hopi elder spoke about prophecy and a need to understand all human prophecy so that our directions can be well defined though, at the moment, our efforts of resistance are at a stand still. The Hopi Elder also shared his prayers for peace at the fire Altar. He stood before the ember Altar as he sprinkle-poured a half handful of white cornmeal powder near his lips as he prayed. (Hopi’s main Offering Way of Praying is much similar to the Dineh’s Morning Dawn Prayer Way in which both use the white cornmeal powder.) Dineh Elder resistors expressed their happiness that they can still gather without interruptions and that, they are strengthen by the show of support and the Peace Walkers. The celebration and the sharing of hope went into the evening as some supporters and walkers camped out for the night at the Elder resistor’s home.

Nym-Myo Ho Ren Gey Kyo., To All Our Relations.

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Reply to Author at iindon49@hotmail.com

Or for more info about Traditional Dineh-Hopi Resistance or ways you can
help visit: www.supportblackmesa.org and Voice Mail is 928-773-8086
Or in Japanese visit: http://bigmountain.hypermart.net

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