500-Mile Spirit Run to Arrive in Willits Friday, June 24th
Willits, CA. Save Our Little Lake Valley (SOLLV) is honored to host the American Indian Movement (AIM) 2016 California Spirit Run for the third year in a row as they complete the final leg of this inspirational annual event. The 500-mile Marathon Running Team is a multi-cultural group dedicated to following and preserving the spiritual tradition of running practiced by early Native American messengers.
The Spirit Run comes to Willits to honor the ancestral Pomo villages in Little Lake Valley bulldozed by Caltrans during freeway construction, destroying thirty two village sites. Some 5,000 Pomo people once populated Little Lake Valley, sustaining themselves for thousands of years. Caltrans refuses to return the artifacts it has found to the Tribes and has so far offered no protection for village sites during the ongoing wetlands “creation” and planting. An historic Tribal lawsuit is now underway to ensure greater state-wide protections for wetlands and ancestral cultural sites in the future.
Each year, a special focus for the songs and prayers offered during the Spirit Run is chosen. For the past two years, the focus has been on the sacredness of water and importance of wetlands, a theme that resonated with efforts by local Tribes and SOLLV to protect the environmental and cultural heritage of Little Lake Valley during construction of the Willits bypass.
The special focus for 2016 is Freedom for Leonard Peltier. Towards this goal, Pit River Tribal Council Chair Mickey Gimmel Jr. has organized an public outreach campaign. Opportunities will be provide to express local support. Peltier, an AIM activist and defender of indigenous people and Mother Earth, is in failing health and likely to die in prison if not granted clemency. Support has come from many prestigious individuals and groups around the world, including Nelson Mandela, Rigoberta Menchú, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the U.N.
In past years, participants have gathered in one place before starting the Run. This year, to accommodate everyone’s needs and abilities, the format will be as follows: The Spirit Runner team and those joining them will meet at the Evergreen Shopping Center (south end of Willits)) at Bountiful Gardens at 2pm. and run north nonstop through town to the Willits City Park, aka Bud Snyder Park. Participants who prefer walking or need assistance, (strollers, walkers, wheelchairs, etc…) will meet at 2pm at the northwest corner of the Safeway parking lot near the 101 and Highway 20 intersection. Both groups will converge at the Willits City Park on East Commercial St. at approximately 2:30 pm.
The shared values of respecting and protecting Mother Earth have formed the basis for a growing friendship and deepening alliance between indigenous people and environmentalists. Everyone is invited to join the Run and gather under the trees for sharing, speaking, prayers and refreshments.
More information can be found at www.ca500milespiritrun.org and www.saveourlittlelakevalley.org.
Save Our Little Lake Valley
Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians
Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters