25 September 1997 Edition

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Native Americans sacred run comes to Ireland

By Mick Naughton

The more athletic members of the republican family joined in with Native Americans in a spiritual run around Ireland which ended last week.

Dennis Banks, a native American leader and founder of the American Indian Movement AIM (whose native American name is Nowacumig) revived the idea of spiritual running in 1978. It has since become a multi-cultural, international event with participants joining Native American runners to carry the message of the sacredness of life and our relationship with our planet.

This month's Sacred Run took place for the first time ever in Ireland. The Run began in Dublin on 3 September with halts in Kildare, Carlow, Kilkenny, Cork, Clare, Galway, Sligo, Donegal and Derry.

From there it went to Antrim, Belfast, Armagh, Dundalk, Slane and finished in Dublin again on 19 September leaving the weary runners and participants ``fulfilled with hope'' according to Banks who in 1973 was on trial with 300 others for his involvement in the Wounded Knee rising in South Dakota. He had to go on the run after this, before being granted an amnesty in California by the then Governor Jerry Brown.

Banks is also famous for his acting roles in The Last of the Mohicans, Thunderheart and War Party.

While the runners were in Belfast an evening of `Irish and Native American Cultural Exchange' was organised in the New Lodge Road area. Organisers said they ``were honoured to host the runners in an area which sees so much oppression.''

Wishing the runners, Native American or Irish, well, Sinn Fein North Belfast elected peace delegate Gerry Kelly issued a warm welcome:

``During the 71 day siege at Wounded Knee we in Ireland drew strength. The knowledge that despite centuries of oppression Native Americans still held onto their culture, language and traditions lit a path from a flickering flame.

``After they finish the Run, they will be going to Newgrange and the Hill of Tara, also sacred places, and I would extend Sinn Fein's warmest invitation for another run in the future, one without British involvement in Irish affairs.''.

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