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Runners from the 2016 Peace and Dignity Journey visit Bemidji

BEMIDJI--Peace and Dignity runners were joined by the sound of a water drum and local supporters from Red Lake, Leech Lake and Fond du Lac on Tuesday afternoon as they left Diamond Point Park.

Local runners join the peace and dignity runners as they leave Diamond Point Park on Tuesday afternoon in Bemidji. (Rachel Newville | Forum News Service)
Local runners join the Peace and Dignity runners as they leave Diamond Point Park on Tuesday afternoon in Bemidji. (Rachel Newville | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI-Peace and Dignity runners were joined by the sound of a water drum and local supporters from Red Lake, Leech Lake and Fond du Lac on Tuesday afternoon as they left Diamond Point Park.

The runners have been running for two months, and will continue for five more as part of the 2016 Peace and Dignity Journey. Bemidji is one of many stops along their way.

Peace and Dignity Journeys are spiritual cross-continent runs that happen every four years. One group starts in Chickaloon, Alaska (who stopped in Bemidji) and another in Tierra de Fuego, Argentina. They will meet at the end of the run in Panama City. Each year the runners have a different overall prayer focus. This year's focus is on seeds.

The runners stop in hundreds of indigenous communities along the way, taking part in local spiritual practices and prayers. They then share those prayers and wishes with other indigenous peoples until they reach Panama City. One goal is to remind each other of their responsibilities to Mother Earth, Father Sky, the community and themselves, a press release said.

Gary Charwood, a local supporter of the Journey from Leech Lake, said it's about getting back to the ways of his ancestors.

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"This run is reenacting our way of life. It's the old ways of transportation. Before we had cars or even horses on Turtle Island (North America), we had runners that we would send to get things." Charwood said.

When the runners arrived Tuesday afternoon at Diamond Point Park, the group participated in a circle ceremony. During the ceremony, the group prayed to have indigenous people return to the way the creators made them to be. They also offered a prayer to one of the runners' staff.

The staffs were created by different nations as prayers and each has a theme.

The staffs are treated with a great amount of respect. When running, the staffs must be held upright as a connection to the earth and the sky. When drinking water, the runner must respectfully offer it to the staff first. The staffs are never walked backward.

"Our staffs are like flags," Charwood said. "They send kindness and love and care for all people in a beautiful way."

The runners are expected to reach Panama City in November.

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