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Statues of chiefs and peace park envisioned near Zion

ST. GEORGE, Utah – A peace park featuring a collection of sculptures that represent a grand council of famous chiefs from across Indian country is envisioned near Zion National Park by Four Winds, a group working to bring the idea to reality. The park is to serve as a center of Native wisdom and cross-cultural healing.

“The peace park is a way to gather people and open the doors to communication,” said Lakota John, an energetic visionary of Minneconjou, Cheyenne, Choctaw, and Pueblo, ancestry, who currently lives in southwestern Utah, where he offers the Sacred Path, a recovery program for Native youth and adults.

The sculptures will draw attention to the wisdom and power of traditional chiefs who walked with love and integrity, and also draw people from the four races together, he said; people who realize the sacred hoop is broken, and are willing to do what it takes to repair it. A 100-acre parcel of land on the east side of Zion has been set aside for the project and an international outreach campaign is underway, he said.

Tribal master artisans are invited to make contact and discuss the vision of the Grand Council of Chiefs statues to be created in bronze. The artists should understand the healing spirit of the project, and be willing to work with students from the four races – red, yellow, black and white – who will learn sculpting techniques, assist the master artisans, and work cooperatively applying clay to the forms.

“The act of coming together and connecting was part of Black Elk’s vision,” Lakota John said. “We have a lot of division in the world and we’ve got to get past that. There is no way we can exist if we don’t mend that.”

He believes forgiveness is the first step to healing within Indian country and among all races, so the good spirit can come forth and radiate into practical action and healthy, vibrant living. The peace park will model that, being a place of forgiveness and reconciliation and a focal point of practical, positive programs, such as the Sacred Path Program, which uses the medicine wheel, sweat lodge, prayers, offerings, and solo quests to help participants find their center and walk in faith.

“The mission is to teach the seventh generation how to accept who they are, to find awakening, and start their work as people who walk the earth with immovable faith,” he said. “It’s about grooming the chiefs of tomorrow. If we don’t do that, everything will be gone.”

Organizers intend to include alternative energy, examples of indigenous houses, an amphitheater where elders can share stories of their tribes, and shelters where people from all over the world can stay while they participate in park programs.

Of course, all this takes Herculean organizing skills and lots of money, but that doesn’t dampen Lakota John’s enthusiasm. He received a vision to do this work, and feels as long as he is obedient and walks in humility, the right people will fall into place. People such as Jerry Anderson, an accomplished Utah-based sculptor who works in bronze and believes in the peace park vision.

“When he came along with the Native American peace park, I really liked it,” Anderson said. “Hey, we could all work together at this project, build a school where people can learn how to sculpt and paint.”

Lakota John requested that Anderson create a statue for the park’s entrance, of a chief handing a peace pipe to a kneeling soldier. Their weapons are laid down as a sign of truce. This sculpture will set the tone for the rest of the park.

“This has never been done in the history of mankind,” Lakota John said. “If all tribes come together and share their experience, faith, and hope, we can finish what Wovoka started.”

The reference is to the Paiute prophet who lived in the area in the late 1800s and spread a message of peace and honorable living, and what came to be known as the Ghost Dance religion, after the Creator gave him visions of the end times that revealed the red race would inherit the earth. Given the park’s location on Paiute ancestral land and Wovoka’s resurrection message, Lakota John envisions his as the first Grand Council statue to be created.

“This thing about the chiefs is all about a resurrection. It’s all about helping the youth who have lost themselves. We’re asking all tribes to come and bring their heritage, bring their chiefs, bring whoever they think should be involved. This campaign is basically to awaken the people.”

Patrons who feel inspired by the project are asked to come forth as well. Lakota John can be reached at jlakota@cpaz.net or by calling (435) 229-9244.