A sunny start to the new year was embraced by around 185 people taking part in the ninth annual Yachats New Year’s Day Peace Hike held on Tuesday, Jan. 1.
Participants began gathering at the Yachats Commons at around 9 a.m. to sign up for the hike. There were refreshments, information and even hand-warmers for people to use during the crisp, but clear, six-mile round-trip hike. Hikers headed south out of town, linking up with the Amanda Trail and gathering for a peace ceremony at the Amanda Grotto on the north side of Cape Perpetua.
People were greeted at the grotto with drumming and Native American chanting, and as each hiker passed by a ceremonial fire, they tossed in a small cedar bough to open the ceremony.
Lauralee Svendsgaard, coordinator of the event and member of the Yachats Trails Committee, described the significance of the cedar bough.
“Cedar is sacred and used in a lot of ceremonies, just as sage is used in other tribal ceremonies,” she said. “The purpose is that while you are on the walk, you put your prayers for peace into that cedar, and then as we marched in silence down to the grotto, you put your cedar into the ceremonial fire, and then as it burns, the smoke and all of those good wishes go into the air and circulate around the world.”
Regarding the primary focus of this annual Peace Hike, Svendsgaard said, “It’s to get a deep understanding, and a personal understanding of the injustices that have occurred in our country in the past, and an opportunity to create a different story with strength, dignity and respect for the future.”
Those who couldn’t do the hike were still able to participate in the event. A candlelight vigil for peace was held at the Yachats Little Log Church, and the story of Amanda was told by members of the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians (CTCLUSI). Around 40 people attended this event.
Amanda De-Cuys was a blind Native American woman of the Coos Tribe. She marched along this section of coastal trail more than 150 years ago, but not by choice. After the Coast Reservation was established in 1855, coastal tribes were rounded up and forced to relocate 75 miles to the north. The Amanda Trail was completed and dedicated in July of 2009. A 35-year endeavor, the trail has helped reveal the truth about the treatment suffered by the Alsea, Siuslaw, Coos and Lower Umpqua people during their incarceration at the Alsea Sub-agency prison camp from 1859 to 1875.
The annual Peace Hike is a way to honor Amanda’s legacy, her people and their own hope for peace in the new year.
“The tribal members are taking it upon themselves to take a bigger and bigger role with the ceremony, which could only come as a result of building trust that we’ve managed to foster over the last nine years,” Svendsgaard said. She added that some tribal members arrived at the grotto hours prior to the ceremony to bless and create the sacred space in the lighting of the fire.
In summing up this year’s Peace Hike, Svendsgaard said, “It went beautifully. It is really a wonderful thing to see how the Yachats Trails Committee comes together as a team without ego, just wanting to have the Amanda Trail at its best and work to make everyone feel welcome and secure when they do this six-mile hike. That’s a big deal for a lot of people.”