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Water is sacred: Spirit runners bring message to San Antonio


Spirit runners (l-r): Helen Samuels, Michelle Rerichov√°, Guadalupe Ortega Moran, Adi Ejekayani Suarez Reyes, and Andres Rodriquez Gutierrez.

Greg Harman

With the Gulf of Mexico's ecosystem crippled and coastal residents increasingly wary of the vapors spreading from BP's deepwater well blowout and the burning being used to contain it, four humble runners are carrying a simple message through Texas today: Water is sacred.

While the group is being guided by Helen Samuels, a progressive community builder who has been helping young people around Mexico City organize to create a better, more sustainable world, the run from Mexico City to the Lakota Nation is an expression of increasing urgency among the planet's indigenous people. They carry gifts of water, corn, and fire, and sacred staffs to help restore unity to the Earth. “Making the world know we are one, and making them acknowledge that,” Samuels said. “Different prayers, one people.”

While the various nations and tribes had been trading for centuries across the hemisphere, the genocidal campaigns of colonial rule extinguished most of these long-standing cultural exchanges. Then in 2006 a group of Hopi runners carried a message to the United Nation's World Water Forum in Mexico City. “The message was that simple. Nothing complicated,” Samuels said. “No great speeches: Water is sacred; Water is life.”

When a golden eagle circled the gathering seven times, Mexicas elder Xolotl realized the runs should continue, Samuels said.

Two years later, a group of Mexicas carried fire to the Hopi. The next year, Incas traveled to Mexico City, performing the Condor Dance for the first time in 500 years. This year, three Mexicas and a resident of the Czech Republic, are heading for the Lakota Nation, carrying gifts of water and fire.

The group left on June 21, both the summer solstice and International World Peace and Prayer Day, struggling across a flooded Mexico only to very nearly have their sacred objects seized at the port of entry in Eagle Pass, despite a UN Declaration on Rights for Indigenous People that the U.S. refuses to sign.

“This is a call out to the four colors of people: to be aware of the importance of water. It is very clear with what happened in the Gulf” this attitude shift is needed, said Adi Ejekayani Suarez Reyes, 25.

For the abuelita of the group, 76-year-old Guadalupe Ortega Moran, the BP spill is “the bleeding of Mother Earth.”

For her part, each day she greets as a gift by thanking the air with her first deep breaths. She thanks the water when she bathes, she said, and expresses a profound gratitude to the Great Spirit for allowing her to be born in Mexico City, which she called a paradise.

If all people lived with that deeper level of appreciation, it would be a different world, she said. “There would be a cleanliness.”


Statement of purpose from the 2008 Hopi Sacred Sites Run expresses the spirit behind the runs:

As indigenous people we have endured many atrocities and extermination tactics throughout these past five hundred years. These unconscionable actions were and continue to be executed not only towards our communities but; to the land, the waters, the air and every form of creation on this place we call home. Because of this devastation and disrespect of life in all its forms, we are now living precariously on our Mother Earth through the age of global warming.

What remains true, however, is that as traditional indigenous people we respect everything that sustains life. We know that the human being is here as caretaker. We have maintained our responsibility diligently as the keepers of wisdom in spite of the continuous onslaught against us and our traditional ways. We remember our relationship, our connection with the four directions and the manner in which to live on our Mother Earth.

This responsibility that we carry demands that we honor it through positive and creative actions, and therein the reason for the Sacred Sites Run. Our goal as spirit runners is to weave indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge together, so that we may assist in the necessary healing during this age of global warming. In the end we are all one tribe, the human tribe and we all have only this one home, our Mother Earth.

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