The Words of the Uqualla Family

Prayers for the Holy Land from the Heart of the Grand Canyon - Interview with Dianna Uqualla

Gail Paine
April 2005

Dianna Uqualla (right) with Sue Senn, meeting with the Mayor of Har Adar near Jerusalem.

Dianna Uqualla, Vice-Chairwoman of the Havasupai Tribe, graciously shared her story in an interview by phone.

Ambassadors for Peace come from all walks of life and all types of environment; our common thread being a deep desire for peace. Dianna Uqualla is an Ambassador for Peace whose desire for peace is so strong that it pulled her from her home in the peaceful depths of the Grand Canyon to war torn Gaza and Israel. Dianna recently participated in the 14th fact-finding tour of the Middle East Peace Initiative.

Dianna is Vice Chairwoman of the Havasupai Tribe and lives in one of the most beautiful and remote areas of the western Grand Canyon. She lives in the village of Supai, located in Havasu Canyon, which is accessible only by foot, horseback, or helicopter. Just the difficulty of getting to New York, to catch the flight to Jordan would discourage most people. But Dianna enthusiastically made the entire journey and has a story to tell to her people upon her return. I interviewed Dianna by phone to get this fascinating peace-pilgrim's story.

Gail: Please tell us something about your life; did you grow up in the Canyon?

Dianna: My family came back to the Canyon when I was 9 years old; my father had a house in the village. There are no cars, no roads, just the Hualapai Trail, which is an eight mile hike to the trailhead, Hualapai Hilltop. Hilltop is a 60 mile drive on an isolated no-services road to the nearest town. Our Natives have their own horses to ride in to the village from Hilltop. A mule train comes in every Monday and Friday bringing fruits and milk, but the mail comes by mule every day. There are about 300 people who live in the village. Our native language, Havasupai, is our preferred way to communicate. It has been a written language for about 20 years. The village has been inhabited by the Havasupai since A.D. 1300. We are a very resourceful people and are proud of our beautiful land. Our children go out to boarding schools on other Native Reservations after the eighth grade.

As you come down from the hilltop, you would never imagine such a Shangri-La. There are three beautiful waterfalls and the water is an iridescent blue. There is a creek that runs through the middle of the village and the water is so pure. The meaning of Supai is; people of the blue-green waters. Prior to the early 1800's our people roamed a vast area on the upper plateau. During the fall and winter months, we would move our families up to the plateau regions, subsisting by hunting and gathering what the earth provided. During the spring and summer months, we moved back to the canyon and planted gardens. When the reservation was created in 1882, the federal government confined us to the 518 acres at the bottom of the canyon and we lost almost 90% of our aboriginal land. In 1975, Congress reallocated 185,000 acres of our original hunting grounds back to the tribe.

Gail: What made you decide to go to the Holy Land?

Dianna: I have been a Native traditional practitioner for thirty years.

Gail: Could you explain what a Native practitioner is?

Dianna: The ancestors have taught me in the ways of prayer; How to conduct myself, and to be a guide in this world -- to help the human people. Initially my focus was on helping my people, now I am realizing that I can seek to help all people. When we are lost we look to other things, but now I know I am Native and I can succeed because this is who I am.

At first when I was invited, I said that I don't want to go as a tourist, but I want to be there in the Holy Land in a powerful state of mind, and to offer prayers. I would want to observe and enter into prayers with the people there.

The Creator was with me and I caught a helicopter to the Hilltop; then I caught a ride to the bus depot in Kingston. From there, I took a bus to Las Vegas and by faith went to the airport terminal where, thankfully, my ticket awaited me.

Gail: What were your most moving experiences on the fact-finding Tour?

Dianna: The whole journey was overwhelming. That land really does need prayers. Each individual there, on the tour, carried a very powerful aura of sincerity. We were all there to give that land hope and peace.

One day of the tour, just the Native Americans were taken to an area designated for the future Peace Totems (Editor's note: see Totem Poles article). At this beautiful site, the Mayor of Har Adar came and spoke wonderfully. He welcomed the poles which will come from Alaska, crossing the country, stopping at different cities for blessings. Then the poles will travel across the ocean to this ground.

We were on high ground and could see all around. We could see Jerusalem. It had rained for 2 days but finally had cleared and the wind blew around. The wind was the spirits of the people there-they were happy. I carried my staff and my eagle medicine bag. It was so beautiful, and in the next minute a rainbow came out on that place, and the sun came out and touched me. Those are signs, those are things that connect me to the Great Spirit. I felt so much gratitude and I felt the Great Spirit was happy.

Gail: What is your feeling about the Healing Poles project?

Dianna: When the Poles are established, it will be a profound moment; such a moment in time that will always be. The Poles will stand as a testimony of peace and reconciliation to the people of this world.

Gail: Were you afraid at any time on the tour?

Dianna: I was not afraid -- I could have been, or rather perhaps I should have been afraid. I'm just a country bumpkin. But I was not afraid.

The time we went to Gaza was another profound moment for me. We were asked to sign a waiver which is a document that states we are risking our own life, that we have been warned, and the American government cannot be held responsible. It was a serious moment for me, a decision and commitment. I determined that I will do this for the human race; I will do it to bring peace back into this world.

Gail: Do you have hope for the peace in the Middle East?

Dianna: Yes, there is hope, in the face of prayer; we need to continue to pray constantly. Faith is the key to bring the peace, and patience. Each one of us touched one another. We delivered the message and the prayers are multiplying. The power will build and build; sincere love will prevail.

Gail: Do you feel that you experienced personal transformation?

Dianna: I came home wiser and more thankful for my village. As a leader, I talk to my people about my experiences during our council meetings. I ask for prayers for the land and the people there. We have prayers for a project that we are starting this week; child abuse and alcohol prevention week. I acknowledged to the people about what I saw in Israel and Gaza, and that we need to send prayers for the people there.

Gail: What unique aspects do you think you can contribute as a Native American leader?

Dianna: The Native Americans have ways of praying and giving blessings. I wasn't able to do all that we normally do. I took the most powerful condor and eagle feathers to Gaza for healing and protection. We carried very strong symbols.

If more Native American Leaders are able to have this opportunity; to see and understand firsthand, they will come back wiser. We do ceremonies for different reasons, prayer vigils, sweat lodges, using various tools and natural medicines. In those ways prayers are carried to the Great Spirit, and we receive the response to our prayers, "thank you my child, I hear you"

I give thanks from my heart to be able to go. I realize we are all human; this is the Native way of saying we are all one family. We need to acknowledge this more often. I am thankful to all the people that were on the journey. I felt the strength of "True Love". If we don't acknowledge this love between us, we can become angry and hurt from not hearing it. To express our caring and love-this gives energy. This energy will heal and bring peace.

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