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Indigenous people convene in Carbondale

CARBONDALE, Colorado — Humankind can take one of two trains, says Dr. Ramon Nenadich, organizer of this past weekend's gathering of indigenous tribal leaders and delegates from throughout North, Central and South America.

“One is headed toward the abyss,” Nenadich said during Saturday's introduction to the XI Native Gathering of the Americas, held at the Carbondale Recreation and Community Center. “It is going full speed and has no driver.

“The other is headed toward the salvation of humanity,” he said. “It is moving more slowly, and stopping all the time. It is the train of forgiveness, of humbleness and of understanding. The driver of that train is the indigenous people.”

Most of society is on the wrong train, he said.

But with more gatherings like the one he has helped organize for the past 11 years may come greater unity of indigenous people. In time, perhaps that will lead to broader understanding, and maybe more people will change trains, he said.

Nenadich started the Centro de Estudios Indigenas de las Americas, which began convening the gatherings each year.

He related his story of how he once was very ill, and as part of his healing process in the mid-1990s said he heard a calling to help unify indigenous people up and down the American continents.

The three-day gathering, which was cut short Sunday evening due to the snowstorm, brought close to 100 people to Carbondale from as far north as Alaska and as far south as Argentina and Chile.

Among those representing “Turtle Island,” a Native reference to the lower 48 contiguous states of the United States, were several western nations, including Ute, Cherokee, Arapaho and Navajo.

Attendees took part in blessing and healing ceremonies at the Carbondale Nature Park, as well as the nearby Sustainable Settings Ranch. They also met for discussions at the community center related to economic development, exercising of sovereignty among Native American nations, cultural integrity and human dignity, and concerns related to ecosystem destruction.

A major thrust of the conference was the founding of the new International Foundation for the Advancement of Indigenous People, for which several fundraisers were held over the weekend as well.

The community was treated to an opening concert of world music Friday night, and Native American dancing, singing and drumming at a special Cultural Evening held Saturday.

“It was through the good will of so many people who worked together to make this happen,” Nenadich said.

The weekend gathering, which followed meeting of tribal leaders in Fort Collins late last week, was originally to have been in Denver until plans fell through in early November.

Nenadich was put in touch with several people in the Roaring Fork Valley, including Rita Marsh, who runs the Davi Nikent organization in Carbondale, and valley resident Sue Gray.

“The response from the community has been awesome, and it shows you can put on an international event in three weeks,” Marsh said. “And, to have it here in the heartland of Ute country proved to be deeply meaningful.”

Ute elder Clifford Duncan said the high Rockies were a favorite place for the Ute people, until they were removed to the reservations 128 years ago following the Meeker Massacre.

“There are many sacred sites here that are still being used — connecting points of our ceremonies,” he said. “There is a connection to the land here in a spiritual way.”

Gray said she feels a connection to indigenous cultures, even though she is not indigenous herself.

“I felt called by the heart to the healing and love for humanity, and love for the earth that Ramon and his organization represents,” she said.

The week's activities conclude with another fundraiser for the newly formed foundation, an Evening of Music at Steve's Guitars in Carbondale tonight beginning at 7:30 p.m. Donations will be accepted.

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