Runners carry northern prayers to Central

Runners carry northern prayers to Central


The sight of Native Americans in full regalia, dancing in the afternoon sun, captures the soul and the spirit of the Peace and Dignity Journeys 2008.

 “You carry your ancestors, their pain, their dreams … You run for our people,” said local Chumash tribal elder Adelina Alva Padilla to 12 runners as they gathered in a ceremonial circle in her sacred garden on the Santa Ynez reservation.

After the group gathered in a circle, Padilla purified the group with a smoldering sage smudge stick, brushing the smoke over each individual with the wing of a bird.


The runners carried 34 tribal staves to Santa Ynez July 14 from their stop the day before at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts and Education Center. Journeys 2008 began at opposite ends of the earth, Eklutma, Alaska and Tierra del Fuego, Argentina on May 1. The run ends in November with a four-day ceremony in the Kuna Nation of Panama.

The Peace and Dignity Journeys 2008 run is an open invitation to runners from across the continent, for both native and non-native people who are committed to the preservation of Native American culture.


It was envisioned in 1990 when over 200 representatives of indigenous nations from throughout the western hemisphere met for the first time in Quito, Ecuador, and “witnessed the unfolding prophesy of the eagle and the condor, to create an inspiration of spiritual running to reunite the nations of Turtle Island (the world),” according to Peace and Dignity Journeys literature.

“The elders gathered spoke of a prophecy that foretold that we will come together as one,” according to the literature.

Bringing the vision to reality in 1992, the Peace and Dignity run has taken place every four years. The first theme was based on children, who were encouraged to participate. In 1996, the focus was on the elders, knowledge of the past and prayer participation.


In 2000, the run focused on families and family values. In 2004, it focused on honoring Mother Earth, women and the feminine. The 2008 journeys are focused on honoring and protecting sacred sites.

The group said that there are many indigenous nations that are not recognized officially, and their prayers for support are being carried by the runners and added to all the prayers of those participating.  

The program is paid for by the various communities that they visit daily, communities that signed up to be part of Journeys 2008 and support the run in any way they can. Some of the welcoming sites will add a staff to be carried by the runners, to carry their own nation’s prayers to Panama for the ceremony.

“It’s not just for Native Americans,” said Jacobo Gonzalez. “So far, I’ve also met an African, Latinos and a Swedish runner.”


Raised in the Bay Area by parents who originally came from El Salvador, Gonzales joined the group July 8 when it traveled through San Francisco, where he lives and is employed as a sales specialist in home remodeling products.

“Once I decided to join the group, everything fell in place to make it happen for me. I practice yoga, and am starting a connection with the ceremonies. I wanted to learn more about who I am, my people. I’ve run the San Francisco marathon, and I consider myself a spiritual person. Running with the [staves], in unison, is such a different experience… the [staves] are really sacred,” he said.

“When I run alone with the staff, I start thinking and praying, and feel a very nice presence. It’s a very humbling experience. They’re like... children and elders... you take care of them, and they also take care of you,” he said.


At the ceremony in Guadalupe, Cuauhtly (which means “eagle”) Galindo brought his hand-painted gourd rattles, decorated with symbols representing an earthquake god and an eagle.

“The prophecy is that when the Condor, South America, and the North, the American Eagle, meet and make peace, we will be close to the end of the fifth world, which will end in earthquake,” said the Atascadero artist.  Depictions on his painted, hollowed gourds tell this story.

Many communities organize tributary routes to join in the prayer, and there is no set agenda for sacred sites, said Arnold Vargas, event organizer with his wife, Maricela.


They met the runners in Coos Bay, Ore., and are guiding them through California. Their family represents the Chicano Chichimime, Chichimeka and Chicana Purepecha nations. Vargas said that it takes $200,000 to support the project.

“We get donations along the way, but we are never sure how much,” he said. The various indigenous communities that wanted to be included bid for their spot well in advance, he said.


The runners that gathered in Santa Ynez were Engels Garcia, 18, of Santa Maria, who will run with the group as far as Los Angeles; Mia Cristerna, 11, of Los Angeles, who will run as far as Sonora, Mexico; Andriana Blanco, 23, of San Francisco; Abel Macias of San Diego, who began in Eklutna; Adrian Gaspar of Ventura, a native of Oaxaca; Natalia Bautista of Santa Maria, Jacobo Gonzales of San Francisco; and Hugo Lopez from Zacatecas, Mexico, a member of the Aztec nation who joined the group while visiting in San Francisco. Runners join in and drop off along the route as the journey continues. The runners traveled from San Francisco to Indian Canyon, to Watsonville, to  King City, to Templeton, to Guadalupe, arriving in Santa Ynez and were traveling July 15 to Santa Barbara. For more information on Peace and Dignity Journeys 2008, visit, or contact the California coordinator at (415) 377-2502 or e-mail