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World peace, prayer day held in Utah

When she was growing up in South Dakota, LaShenna Afraid of Hawk lived not far from Chief Arvol Looking Horse and she respected him as the 19th generation keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe. She knew of his efforts to spread peace and prayer ceremonies everywhere he went.

On Thursday, Afraid of Hawk will help to bring about Utah's first World Peace and Prayer Day. She feels honored, she says. As she invites the public to the event, she repeats Looking Horse's motto, "All nations, all faiths, one prayer."

Elaine Emmi, chairwoman of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, says several members of the roundtable met Looking Horse last February when he came to Salt Lake City.

At the time, he suggested they hold a World Peace and Prayer Day on June 21. Muslims, Christians and others have been invited to join in, and Emmi says she believes Utah is the only state to have the governor issue a proclamation to make the event official.

Emmi hopes this will become an annual event, much like the roundtable's yearly interfaith concert. She's guessing it will feel more like a festival than a prayer meeting, she says.

Afraid of Hawk is of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She is working on the peace day with a friend from the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, Elise Montoya. Afraid of Hawk says both women want to become tribal lawyers, want to reinforce their language, want to bring back the native ways. Especially, she says, they want to bring back the health of the earth.

As global warming increases and species die out, the ceremonies of the native people lose their meaning, Afraid of Hawk explains. Spirituality cannot be separated from the earth, she says, not just in the beliefs of the native people of the Americas, but among the Maori of New Zealand and other tribes as well.

The White Buffalo Calf Pipe has special significance for the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Sioux. Members of these nations believe White Buffalo Calf Woman appeared to the tribes many years ago, bringing the pipe of peace. Tradition has it that she appeared in what is now Wyoming, near Gray Horn Butte (Devil's Tower National Monument).

Looking Horse conducted his first large peace ceremony at that spot. He has also done ceremonies at sacred sites in Canada, Minnesota, Costa Rica (at the United Nations University for Peace), Ireland, South Africa (with Ela Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi's granddaughter), Australia, Mexico, Japan and in the Black Hills of South Dakota. In the past few years, especially, he's encouraged local communities to hold their own days of peace and prayer at sites that are sacred to them.

If you go

What: Interfaith Celebration of World Peace and Prayer Day

Where: Southwest terrace of Jordan Park, 900 W. 900 South

When: Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

How much: Free

Information: 916-0341

Also: Food, dancing and drumming to raise global awareness of taking better care of our earth. Lacee Harris, of the Northern Ute tribe, will offer a special blessing.