Amy Morris
Bibi Mildred Karaira Gandia thanks her 8-year-old great niece and PDJ runner Gabby, with a necklace during the ceremony.

Reuniting Turtle Island: 2016 Peace and Dignity Journeys

Amy Morris

Every four years since 1992, indigenous communities have been spiritually reuniting the Western hemisphere by participating in The Peace and Dignity Journeys. This massive undertaking is a chain of spiritual runs that cross the continents and connect the regions of North, Central, South America and the Caribbean. The endeavor is an effort to fulfill the ancient reunion prophecy of the Eagle and Condor.

As explained in the short film Shift of the Ages, the Eagle represents the Northern hemisphere, a masculine energy, and the Condor represents the Southern hemisphere, a feminine energy. The harmony between indigenous cultures across both continents, the union of North and South, was shattered by the arrival of Europeans, who brought genocide and a decimation of the traditional ways.

Peace and Dignity runner from Kingston Jamaica, Kalaan Robert Nibonrix (Taino), formally greeting elder Chumsey Harjo (Muscogee Creek Nation) during the closing ceremony of the Eastern Red Tail Hawk route July 23, 2016. (Amy Morris)

One interpretation of the prophecy from the Peruvian shaman Lauro Hinostroza states that for 500 years, beginning around the 16th century, the Eagle would dominate. This timeframe coincides with the onset of colonization and the profound shift in the way indigenous cultures functioned between the continents and among their own communities.

The prediction says that at the end of the 500 year cycle, an opportunity would come forth for Eagle and Condor to unite again and begin to restore balance to the world.

Three Georgia elders, from left, Charles Reyes-LittleEagle, GT Martinez, and Chumsey Harjo, being honored with gifts from officiant of the closing ceremony Bibi Vanessa Inaru Pastrano (Taino). (Amy Morris)

The end of the 500-year cycle is approximate to the 1990 PDJ inception at Quito, Ecuador, which occurred at the first Continental Encounter of Indigenous Pueblos and Nations. “At Quito a mandate for the unification of all Indigenous Peoples from throughout the continent was declared under the sacred principle of the Eagle and the Condor” according to the East Coast PDJ site.

The 2016 Peace and Dignity Journey routes began at opposite ends of the Northern and Southern continents — Chickaloon, Alaska and Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Runners from different Native and non-Native communities carry sacred staffs for their culture. Amy Majagua’naru Ponce, the coordinator for the East Coast PDJ and a runner, states on a fundraising page, that “These staffs represent the prayers of their communities and the run helps Native people to reconnect to the traditional ways and their ancestral teachings. It also is an opportunity to share the wisdom of their ways with all involved for the healing of mother earth and all life.”

"Prayer for the Seeds" circle includes corn, yuca, black beans and red beans separated by sacred tobacco. In the center is the Taino symbol for Mother Earth, Atabey. (Amy Morris)

On July 23, 2016, the conclusion of the East Coast route (represented by the Red Tailed Hawk), which began in New York, was celebrated at Sweetwater Creek State Park in Lithia Springs, Georgia. The local Southeast PDJ coordinator, Monika Ponton-Arrington (Taino), stated the site was chosen because a petroglyph that the Taino people claim as their own, is on display at the park’s visitor center making the location a great choice for gathering members of the Taino community and the East coast runners.

Officiating the ceremony was elder Bibi Vanessa Inaru Pastrano (Taino, Caribbean/East Coast Organizer) a member of the Bohio Atabei Mujeres de la Yukka (Grandmothers Council). Roberto Borrero, President of the United Confederation of Taino People and member of the International Indian Treaty Council also participated in the ceremony.

The sacred staffs that were carried along the East Coast route now rest as they are honored for the prayers that they carried from several communities. (Amy Morris)

Participant runners were present from the Caribbean region which included runners from Jamaica and the Island of Boriken (Puerto Rico) and three Native elders who reside in Georgia, Charles Reyes-Little Eagle, GT Martinez and Chumsey Harjo were honored.

Documentary filmmaker Alex Zacarias was on hand filming final shots of his upcoming film titled Taino Daca (I Am). As part of the events for the day, a screening was held of the nearly completed documentary which covers the “paper genocide” of the Taino people and follows Borrero through his life unveiling the Taino culture and history.

Related: I Am Taino: Exploring the Indigenous Roots Throughout the Caribbean

Amy Majagua'naru Ponce (Taino), PDJ runner and coordinator of the 2016 East Coast route, receives a necklace with turtle symbolism crafted by artist Claudia Foxtree as a thank you gift from Roberto Borrero at the closing ceremony. (Amy Morris)

Every four years, Peace and Dignity Journey has a new theme that brings focus to a different issue needing attention among Indigenous Peoples. The 2016 theme was titled, “Prayer for the Seeds.” At the Georgia ceremony grounds there was a tribute to seeds, a symbol to be thankful for the basic sustenance of life and medicine. After the ceremony, attendees were offered samples from the circle of seeds to take home.

With the East Coast route now complete, runners will begin their trek South, meeting the West coast branch in San Antonio, Texas which will join the routes of the U.S portion of runs. After the Texas merger, the PDJ heads southward throughout Mexico and Central America to meet the runners from the Southern routes and celebrate at Panama City, Panama in the Kuna Nation where the Eagle and Condor routes conclude for a final gathering.

Elders of the Grandmother's Council Bohio Atabei Mujeres de la Yukka, International PDJ runners, Organizer and Coordinators of the East Coast route Bibi Vanessa Inaru Pastrano and Amy Majagua'naru Ponce, and local Southeast coordinator Monika Ponton-Arrington. (Amy Morris)

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