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Walkers taking steps toward peace

SUQUAMISH — After beginning their walk toward the end of nuclear weapons near the Hanford nuclear site on July 15, 17 interfaith peace walkers stopped to pay tribute to Chief Seattle Saturday.

The three-week event was organized by Rev. Senji Kanaeda and Rev. Gilberto Perez, monks who reside at the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple on Bainbridge Island. It ended Monday with a gathering outside the main gate of Subase Bangor.

“We’re not here to protest, but to participate in prayer with our neighbors to one great spirit,” Perez explained as the group prepared to depart Suquamish on its way to Anderson Parkway in Poulsbo.

Many members of the Yakima Tribe near the Hanford site are still affected by the nuclear testing that occurred there, he said.

“We’re hoping to draw attention to the thousands of Native Americans who have been affected by the polluted waters of the Columbia River,” Perez explained.

More importantly, he added, the walkers aim to bring renewed awareness of the destruction of Mother Earth that has been caused by weapons of mass destruction.

“We’re just stepping step by step, which we hope brings us one step closer to a day with no nuclear weapons,” Perez said.

In his prayer during the mid-morning ceremonies, Rev. Tom Thresher of the Suquamish Community Congregational Church of Christ asked for blessings on all the people gathered at the ceremony.

“We look forward to a time when we can go beyond any anger and fear each of us has and each step will carry us to a time of no nuclear weapons,” Thresher said, adding that he hoped there will come day when no one will have a desire to use nuclear weapons.

The Suquamish Tribe welcomed the walkers with open arms and supports the group’s efforts, said tribal member Willie Pratt.

“They all seemed to have a respect for Chief Seattle and wanted to stop here,” Pratt said.

The group asked tribal leaders for permission to visit the grave site as part of their walk, which tribal leaders granted without hesitation, he said.

“We welcomed the opportunity to join in their peace march and we support it full-heartedly,” Pratt remarked.

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