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RUNNERS HEAD FOR FORT DUCHESNE

About 60 runners from the United States, Canada, Japan, and Europe carrying the message of the "importance of Mother Earth" will make their way to Fort Duchesne late Friday in a nationwide Spiritual Run.

The group which includes American Indians, blacks Britons, Swedes and members of other nationalities will be joined just east of Heber City by 24 teenage boys from the Ute Tribe, according to Roberta Windchief Ridely, community health director for the tribe's public health service. The runners will travel along U.S. 40.The international multicultural spiritual relay run began in March with runners leaving from Los Angeles on the West Coast, Washington, D.C. on the East Coast, Canada on the north and Mexico on the south.

"The main message the runners carry is the sacredness of all things, the need to maintain the delicate balance which exists between mankind and our Mother Earth, our relatedness to all living species," explained Ridley.

"We need to get people together to stop the destruction of Mother Earth."

The runners will be hosted by the Utes during their stay in eastern Utah. "Each tribe meets the runners and takes care of them while they cross their reservation. We provide housing and meals while the runners stop and rest."

While in Fort Duchesne, the runners will share traditional American Indian songs, dances and stories with the community. European and Japanese runners will perform as well, Ridley said.

The runners will spend Saturday in Fort Duchesne resting and leave Sunday for Colorado.

Dennis Banks, leader of the American Indian Movement, organized the first spiritual run in 1978. Since that time, runners have journeyed 26,000 miles across the United States as well as through Europe, Japan and Canada. Banks is scheduled to speak at Westminster College in Salt Lake, Thursday at 7 p.m.

The run will conclude in Santa Fe, N.M. this fall when the runners from the four different starting points meet.