Final Embers of Hiroshima Peace Flame
Expire in Ceremony at Big Mountain
The fire that was ignited 57 years ago on August
6, 1945 when the Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima,
Japan, was ceremonially extinguished by a band of pilgrims May 27,
2002 at Big Mountain on Black Mesa in Arizona, in a high desert range
sweet with the smell of sagebrush
In 1945 when the "Little Boy" bomb detonated 2,000 feet
above Hiroshima, the city was instantly shrouded in an awful cloud.
Witnesses beneath the cloud remember that they "saw another sun
in the sky..." When the wave of light, heat and wind from the
atomic sun reached the ground it roasted to a fine ash all that came
before it. The wave raced outward until it reached the mountains on
the edge of Hiroshima, where it was reflected to roar again through
the city center. Over 140,000 human beings died during or shortly
after the blast. Many more lingered dying later, or developing
A man named Tatsuo Yamamoto recovered embers from the Little Boy
blast 57 years ago. His family, with the help of a nearby monastery,
has tended the flame continuously ever since, feeding it with prayers
of forgiveness, understanding, and peace. This is the source of the
flame the pilgrims carried across America, the flame they recently
extinguished on Big Mountain.
The Hiroshima Flame Interfaith Pilgrimage brought the flame to America
in January 2002 and then carried it cross-country, walking West to
East. They began in Washington State at the grave of Chief Seattle,
and took their final steps toward the East in May in New York City
at UN Headquarters and the site of the World Trade Center disaster.
(To read about the background of the walk, and the walk¹s visit
to Los Alamos, NM, see the March, 2002 edition of the Chiron Communiqué:
While led by Japanese Buddhist Nuns and Monks, the prayer walk included
people of all colors and faiths. They walked not in protest, but rather
with prayers of hope to end war and destruction. The walkers concluded
their epic pilgrimage with multicultural ceremony, including traditional
elders of the Hopi and Dineh (Navajo) Nations at Big Mountain, one
of the high sacred places of North America.
Four Corners: Spiritual Center of the Continent
While the Hiroshima Flame borne by the walkers has notable significance
as a living representation of a redeemed spirit, the place where it
was extinguished also carries immense importance.
Four Corners is a sacred region in the Southwest, recognized by traditional
Hopi and Dineh, and other native peoples, as the spiritual center
of our continent (Turtle Island, aka North America). Although the
relationship between the larger Dineh and Hopi nations, and between
those nations and the US government and corporations, has been a morass
of conflict and confusion, the sacred teachings about the Four Corners
handed down from antiquity echo at some level in the
soul of every person involved.
Dineh tradition holds that at the start of the present epoch of world
history (Glittering World), Holy People put four sacred mountains
in four different directions: Mt. Blanca (Colorado) in the East. Mt.
Taylor (New Mexico) in the South, San Francisco Peaks (Arizona) in
the West, and Mt. Hesperus (Utah) in the North. In this manner, they
established the boundaries known as the Four Corners. The mountains
and the land they bound constitute an exceedingly powerful vortex
of energy, a reality recognized widely by mystics and scientists alike.
Deep within the boundaries of the Four Corners lies Black Mesa and
the ridge that runs along part of it, called Oyama in the Dineh language,
also known as Great Mountain or more widely as Big Mountain.
To the casual observer, Black Mesa seems a barren and inhospitable
place, devoid of value. But to traditional wisdom keepers of the Red
Nations, this is high holy ground, a feminine (yin) energy center
of central importance to the overall balance of life around the world
seen by some as the direct balance to the yang center of Tibet.
For others, Black Mesa is a storehouse of natural capital, just waiting
to be converted to bankable wealth; evidence of this lies in the gangling
hightension power poles and lines which picket the mesa, the
exceedingly wide and deep roadways, and the industrial installations
of every description, including a private airport for mining executives.
Ceremony at Big Mountain
When the Hiroshima Flame Interfaith Pilgrimage arrived at Big Mountain
about Noon on May 27, the pilgrims walked a half mile out onto the
range, scanning the sagebrush and the blue sky, and chanting their
familiar Namu Myo Ho Renge Kyo. Their combined voices sent the chant
ringing widely across the mesa. The pilgrims spiraled sunwise around
a center point on the range, forming a multiracial hoop of about 50
human beings. In the center of the hoop, the native elders and walkers
kindled a small wood fire from the Hiroshima Peace Flame. It roared
When the fire was burning and buckets of water had been blessed,
the pilgrims spiraled single file into the fire and to the bucket
of water. One at a time, they anointed themselves with the water,
and then with prayer each flicked a few droplets on the slowly dwindling
The hour when the Hiroshima Peace Flame was extinguished, 57 years
after it was sparked to life in an unprecedented nuclear conflagration,
was a quiet, sweet, solemn moment in the high desert. It was marked
in the distance by birdsong and children¹s laughter. The Sun
was high overhead. The people in the circle were relaxed and at peace
in friendship. They walked off the range quietly, and down a dirt
Then came whirlwinds. The breeze had blown freshly all day, sweetened
by the newly sprouted sage, and it made standing in the open sun comfortable.
But after the ceremony things changed. Powerful whirlwinds arose in
succession and presented themselves directly before the pilgrims with
a harsh, dusty moan. Just as the Wind Nation had spoken dramatically
before the walkers carried the flame into Los Alamos, NM, so it spoke
again through minitornadoes that swirled right up to the walkers,
then changed direction. The whirlwinds did no damage, but demanded
Until Human Beings Live in Harmony
After the ceremony the walkers and several residents of Big Mountain
gathered to share a simple feast, and to talk among themselves in
the shade of a shed. Several traditional elders addressed the walkers
at this time, to thank them for coming and to speak of how they see
things in the world.
Hopi Grandfather Martin Gashweseoma, 78, spoke briefly. He reminded
people of the crucial importance of the Four Corners Region, and of
Black Mesa and Big Mountain in particular. As he had explained at
UN headquarters in 1993, and on many other occasions, Grandfather
Martin told of how, at the beginning of the presentday 4th World,
by Hopi tradition, the people who had survived the great flood that
cleansed the 3rd World assembled at Four Corners. From there they
spread out in the Four Directions to live out their destinies.
Before the human beings parted ways, Creator established Four Nations,
told them they would come together again towards the end of this Fourth
epoch, and gave each the responsibility for one of the four elements:
the Black Nation to keep the water; the Yellow Nation to keep the
air; the White Nation to keep the fire. The Red Nation was instructed
to caretake the Earth, to hold fast to traditional ways, and to protect
Four Corners at all costs, and without violence. They were told that
there is great power under the land. If this power were allowed to
escape, it would result in great destruction.
Traditional elders recall in their ways that the Hopi were instructed
to remain custodians of this region while war still stalks the world.
Four Corners is a microcosmic image of the entire planet; any violations
of nature in the region will be reflected and amplified all over the
Earth. There are specific prophecies that refer to Black Mesa and
Big Mountain, and that warn they should not be dug into. The Hopi
must hold this land until human beings live in harmony.
Still Under Siege
There is an ongoing war for Big Mountain, a war older than a generation
that is waged with legal edicts and bulldozers on one side, and prayer,
song, and dance on the other. Because Black Mesa is a key center of
spiritual energy for North America and the world, and because it represents
a hornet¹s nest of crucial karmic and environmental issues, it
is an issue that should be of intense interest to every American citizen.
It is a bitter irony that American corporations and government have
targeted one of the principal sacred sites on the continent, and exploited
it with technology, ripping it open to fulfill explicitly material
Speaking in the Dineh language (interpreted by a relative) Grandmother
Louise Benally told the walkers, "Here we are still at war with
the U.S. Government over energy. I feel like I am still living in
the 18th Century, when the Cavalry came out and started harassing
us. Dineh people remain on Black Mesa, and oppose the forced relocation
of traditional peoples so that this place will not be taken over for
the coal and uranium that are here. We have a spiritual responsibility
to this place."
For over 20 years, Peabody Coal Co. has been strip mining Black Mesa
for coal, and consequently, residents believe, reducing the water
table and causing radioactive pollution as uranium deposits are disturbed.
Over 30 billion gallons of water have been sucked up from the aquifer
at Black Mesa by coal company pumps, then mixed with pulverized coal,
and used to slurry the mixture to a power plant in Nevada, where the
guts of sacred Black Mesa is burned to provide power for the Las Vegas
strip. Meanwhile, family wells on Black Mesa have dried up. So have
the springs. Some elderly people in the Black mesa region must travel
up to 50 miles to get drinking water.
Crisis is full upon the Four Corners this summer. The fire element
is wildly out of balance, and that has impacted everything. No one
has ever seen a year like 2002. Wild fires are burning hundreds of
thousands of acres throughout the Southwest. Elderly Dineh, who have
herded their sheep, goats, and cattle here for generations, say they
have never seen a drought so ferocious. More than 7,000 stock ponds
are dry across the Dineh reservation. Thousands of head of livestock
are dying or expected soon to die from lack of water and grazeable
The assault on the material resources of Black Mesa continues. Peabody
Coal Co. is planning on expanding operations by opening a new mine,
which will ultimately infringe upon Big Mountain itself.
"It hasn¹t changed," Grandmother Louise Benally told
the pilgrims. "The feds still want our energy, and they still
want our land. There has been coal mining here for 20 years. Now the
land is drying up. We feel ourselves drying up, too."
Black Mesa elders remain determined to stay on their ancestral lands.
They need support to hold this spiritual center. Some of the strongest
support they have received over the years has come from the people
of the Yellow Nation.
A Spiritual Friendship
Twentyfive years ago a friendship was inaugurated among the traditional
Dineh and Hopi at Big Mountain, and the Monks and Nuns of the Nipponzan
Mihogi Order. The friendship began during "The Longest Walk,"
a pilgrimage organized by various American Indian movements. This
walk journeyed from the Pacific to the Atlantic to call attention
to a host of issues of concern to indigenous peoples.
Traditional elders from the Four Corners region decided that the
Big Mountain issue should be a part of this effort. Over the course
of the walk they informed all the Indian nations about coal mining
on Black Mesa, and the relocation of Dineh people. Traditional people
have been resisting governmentmandated relocation for over two
decades. Despite their resistance, thousands of Dineh men, women,
and children have in recent years been forcibly removed to a barren
area, far from their ancestral homes.
Buddhist Monks and Nuns joined the Longest Walk, and they were touched
by what they learned about Black Mesa. They walked and prayed the
whole way alongside the Indians. Later, through the 1980s and into
the 1990s, several Buddhist people lived at Big Mountain to help defend
it. In this way traditional Dineh and Hopi and the Japanese people
became a family. As portrayed in the newly released film, Windtalkers,
earlier in history, during World War II, they had been enemies.
The friendship deepened when people of the Yellow Nation joined people
of the Red Nation at Sundance. According to longheld Lakota tradition,
the Sundance ceremony was to someday travel throughout Turtle Island,
and to bring many Nations into the Sacred Hoop of Unity. The first
Big Mountain Sundance was held in August 1983. The intention of the
Lakota Sundance in Dineh country was, and remains, for purifying body
and mind so that the people of Big Mountain can defend the ancient
lands. The people dance to strengthen themselves spiritually. Although
harassed and challenged, the Big Mountain Sun Dance still happens
Steps Along the Trail
With this background of friendship, it was natural that the Hiroshima
Flame carried by the walkers should, in the end, guide them to Big
Mountain, not far from the place where the uranium used to build the
Hiroshima bomb was long ago dug from the Earth.
After the feast and the remarks of the elders, the walkers had an
opportunity to reflect on their pilgrimage. They said that, as a group,
they felt good about what they had accomplished. They said they had
been faithful, and that they listened to Sprit the whole way. They
never made decisions on any other basis.
The Hiroshima Flame Interfaith Pilgrimage had its origins in the
year 2000 under the inspiration of Tom Dostou while he was in Japan.
At that time he was entrusted with a spark of the Hiroshima Flame
(the source flame remains burning in Japan). Tom conceived the vision
of returning the flame to where it had come from not as a protest,
but as a necessary deed of spiritual redemption, because not only
the people of Hiroshima had died, but also many native peoples were
poisoned by the uranium dug up, without spiritual permission, on their
Tom passed his vision to Jun Yasuda of the Nipponzan Miyohoji Order
of Buddhist Monks and Nuns. Then they started walking. They walked
1,300 KM in Japan, and then brought the flame to America. Over the
long months and many miles of the walk, there were many remarkable
developments. For a long time they could not find a plane or ship
willing to carry them and the flame across the Pacific Ocean from
Japan to North America. But then at last they secured a boat ride
to Hawaii, and by serendipity arrived at Pearl Harbor, unplanned,
Dec. 7, 2001 the 60th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombing.
That bombing raid by Japan killed over 2,400 people, crippled the
US Pacific Naval Fleet, and radically accelerated the world war, which
later ended at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In Hawaii the pilgrims were welcomed by a delegation of Kahunas,
the traditional Medicine People of the islands. The Kahunas took them
to the former site of a sacred shine on the island of O¹ahu,
overlooking what had once been an uninhabited tropical lagoon. This
quiet lagoon, held as deeply sacred for generations by the indigenous
people of the Hawaiian Islands, was dredged and bulldozed to create
the military base of Pearl Harbor. For the Kahunas, there was an obvious
karmic link between the desecration of one of their sacred sites and
the bombs that later rained upon the military base.
The Kahunas and the walkers also journeyed to Mount Kilauea, carrying
the Hiroshima flame into the volcano¹s caldera. The pilgrims
arrived in Mexico on Dec. 15, for the major spiritual festival honoring
Our Lady of Guadalupe. Then they walked for months from the grave
of Chief Seattle on the West Coast past nuclear installations in Hannaford,
WA, Los Alamos, NM, Huntsville, AL, and elsewhere. Walk initiator
Tom Dostou rejoined the walk in May in New York City for the UN and
World Trade Center vigils. Thus the walk finished with the circle
completed, the hoop whole.
The walkers say, "We followed the flame. We were not carrying
the flame, but carried by it." At the end, the flame led them
to Big Mountain to add their force of their collective sacrifice to
the defense of the Earth and the cause of peace.
Note: Roberta Blackgoat, a highlyrespected Big Mountain elder,
and a lifelong defender of sacred lands, died in April at age 84.
Her strong presence will be missed. For obituaries check the Big Mountain
To learn more about the walk, check this website:
To learn more about Big Mountain check these website: