- David Reyes, Chemehuevi
Day 195 - Wednesday, January 3, 1996 – After eating a bowl of breakfast oatmeal, I sat with David Reyes, 52, near the dugout on the baseball field where our tents are pitched. He lives here, on the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) reservation. He's keenly interested in our walk.
We sipped on coffee, and talked while the camp prepared for a laundry day. David told me that he considers himself Chemehuevi, but also has Yaqui heritage. The Chemehuevi, he said, are one of the four tribes that make up the CRIT, along with the Hopi, Dine, and Mojave.
"They call me 'Chicken Man,’” David said, by way of explaining that he raises birds for cockfights, which are popular in the area.
"This is an ancient trading route you are on, the way that you are walking now. This area has always been a trading hub. Native Americans always took the easiest route. The roads and freeways today are either on or adjacent to old native trails. Remember that as you walk. Always ask the spirits for the right to pass on these trails."
“In the old days the people would give great honor to the guardians of the trails of the river, and so forth. They would pray to communicate with these spirits. Today people still need guidance and help, but we don't always remember to ask. Try to remember to pray and to put down tobacco as you go. That’s fundamental for a spiritual walk on Turtle Island.”
“You know, it's not about religion," David said. "That's not the way. True spirituality is not a religion; it is a way of life. That's something modern people would do well to ponder.”
In the afternoon, I drove north with 10 other Sunbow walkers. We journeyed along the Colorado River for a while, then to Needles, California, and a few miles beyond to Ward Valley (Silyaye aheace), a site that is sacred to all the Indian tribes in this region.
This is the place that Russell Dillman encouraged us to look into yesterday when we attended the elders council at the CRIT reservation. The nuclear power industry, betting that global warming and an energy-hungry Asia will give it new life, is anxious to site a new nuclear waste dump here, 18 miles from the Colorado River,
All the local Tribes, led by their spiritual elders and supported by the American Indian Movement (AIM) and a broad alliance of non-native activists, are adamant that no further desecration of this sacred ground will occur.
They have established the Ground Zero encampment at Ward Valley to anchor their non-violent direct resistance. The native people have maintained the sacred fire, sacred staff. They continue to offer songs and prayers, and they welcomed us to sing and pray with them.
|Ward Valley - An old railroad cemetery in Ward Valley, California. Photo by Echo 29, courtesy of flckr.com
At Ward Valley we met with two Mohave tribal officials, Lou Burton and Steve Lopez.
"For us traditional people,” Steve explained, “the center of our existence is a mountain with petroglyphs—Spirit Mountain—which is located right at the tip of Nevada, very near Ward Valley.
"Ward Valley is the Origination Point for the Mojave," he said. "So the proposed nuclear waste site would destroy that. It is, in our view, a gross spiritual desecration.”
"In any case, to dump nuclear waste above an aquifer connected to the Colorado River is tantamount to asking for the poisoning of agricultural and drinking water supplies for 20 million people or more. It's nuts."
The direct action at Ward Valley is but part of a long saga, Steve explained to us. He said this a centuries-old struggle between those who choose to exploit the resources of the earth, and those who choose to live within the Sacred Hoop—in respectful relationship with all those things dubbed profitable resources by others.
The protestors at Ward Valley's Ground Zero camp are veterans. They know this struggle is likely to be long and difficult. They neither become too elated at victories, nor too dejected at defeats. The struggle goes on.
But for for all the people in the encampment, there is one irrefutable fact. Radioactive wastes remain toxic for a time span way beyond seven generations of our children—more like half a million years. They say they will not allow the land to be desecrated, and poison to be dumped into the lives of all the children who will come after us.
We gathered around the sacred fire at the encampment and offered our prayers and songs for Ward Valley. We told the protestors that we would return in a few days with our entire group of Sunbow pilgrims.
Copyright 2007 by Steven McFadden
Read Day 196 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire