1992 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance: Dedicated to Elders

In 1992, Peace and Dignity Journeys Honored Elders. More information coming soon.

If you have photographs or stories from the run in 1992 that you would like to share, please contact us at sdpdj@riseup.net

According to Gustavo Gutierrez, the original North American coordinator of Peace and Dignity Journeys:

"In July 1990, there was an internacional encuentro intercontinental de pueblos indígenous. And one of the things was that out of that, we wanted to come together to bring a conscience about our way of life and our heritage. Because one of the problems that we were having at that time was they wanted to have a big celebration of the encounter of two cultures, between the Europeans and the indigenous peoples (in 1992, 500 years after Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas in 1492), and the Indian communities said, “No, that’s not true.” So what we did, is that we discussed culture, language, land, education, womanhood, and political prisoners. Because a lot of political prisoners there are not in prison because they did anything wrong, but because they defended the land, and so that was one of the things. And keeping the language alive. Like, in yesterday’s paper, there was an article that said that over 54 indigenous languages—they call them dialects—are gonna disappear in Mexico. So what we wanted to do was bring a consciousness. And the council of elders and the council that organized that meeting in 1990 said we’ve got to get to know each other as we did before, and that blew my mind, because I was trying to figure out how we’re gonna do that."

"And the other thing we wanted to do was to set history straight—that nobody discovered us, that we have been here since time immemorial, and that it was not an encounter of two cultures. Because if it had been an encounter of two cultures, they wouldn’t have cut our hair, taken away our spirituality, Christian-ized us, taken away our languages, taken away our children to boarding schools, residential schools in Canada. If it was truly an encounter of two cultures, they would have tried to preserve all of that, not try to make us into brown European-Americans. So we wanted to set history straight on that."

"So what I’ve been doing, since 1990 and ’92, I had the first run, and I started in Blythe, California, and some of the organizers started out of Alaska—officially out of Tok, but they start out of Anchorage—and they ran through Alaska, the Yukon, British Columbia, and Alberta, then into Montana, then from Montana into South Dakota, then from South Dakota into Minnesota, from Minnesota to Wisconsin, down to Illinois, then St. Louis, Missouri, and they were met by a group of runners from New York. Then from St. Louis to Kansas, Colorado, and down into New Mexico. And because we couldn’t organize a way, we started in San Francisco, then Arizona, and we met in a place called Tortugas, New Mexico, which is on the highway, this is Las Cruces and Tortugas, it’s a Tiwa community. And we came into El Paso, we crossed over (into Mexico) from El Paso, we went into the Tarahumara country, Chihuahua, and then into Sonora. Then from Sonora, into Sinaloa, from Sinaloa into Jalisco, from Jalisco to Michoacán, Michoacán into Guerrero, Guerrero to México state, then to México City, and then to (the city of) Teotihuacan, and we had a ceremony for four days there."

"And then runners came in from the south. They started at Machu Picchu (Peru), because we didn’t have the connection, but the purpose was to start at Tierra del Fuego (Argentina), and to bring this conscience together."

"And Del Phillips from the Cocopahs, he made a motion that we should have this run every four years. So in ’92 we had the first run, and it was dedicated to the elders, for their persevering in keeping the cultures alive, for their persevering in keeping the languages, under a lot of threat, because a lot of the Europeans, especially the priests, they would either have them killed because they had this knowledge, or they would burn down the libraries in Mexico, in Peru..."

Source: Tempe Historical Museum Oral History Project

English