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Walkers step forward for Chattahoochee's health
Advocates from the Many Horses Foundation walk Monday down U.S. 129 as they participate in Walk for the Water. Participants said the initiative is designed to increase awareness of people’s responsibility to the natural world and to water, which sustains life. - photo by SARA GUEVARA
They walk, but not because of high gasoline prices. Instead, they walk for the health of the water.

"It’s about our relationship with water and the Earth and to the natural world," Barbara Morton, a Bremen resident said as she walked through Clermont on U.S. 129 Monday afternoon.

Singing songs of prayer in native languages, Morton and six others began walking Monday morning in Cleveland and planned to end the day with a drum circle in Gainesville.

Their purpose: to pray for the health of the water in the Chattahoochee River.

The group was part of a larger movement, the Many Horses Foundation’s Walk for the Water, that began walking and praying at the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River at Unicoi State Park on Friday and planned to walk, sing, dance and pray along the river until they reached Atlanta.

Leading the line Monday in Clermont, Anne Marks carried a staff adorned with feathers that were given to the group by elders of local tribes. The feathers were a sign that the elders granted the group permission to walk through their land.

Group members said their ideals transcend individual religions, and as they stopped for a moment in Clermont, they said their only purpose was to be part of the Earth’s healing.

"We get all the religions to come together and pray for water, and then maybe (if) all of us come together and say we love Mother Earth, maybe we can heal her ourselves, just by prayers and saying, ‘Hey, we recognize you,’ Ron Alec said.

"One prayer. It’s nothing to do with religion — it’s to do with life," said Alec, who came from California to pray for the Chattahoochee.

Matteo Pasino came from Italy with three friends to walk for the water in Georgia. Last year, the Walk for The Water activists walked to Rome, Italy, to pray for the water in the Tiber River.

"We know what they do for all of us, so wanted to be here to give our share," Pasino said. "Because if we don’t do this now, no one will do it."

Pasino said the group’s ideals have nothing to do with individual cultures.

"It’s not about culture, it’s about saying to people, it’s a responsibility to everyone that’s beyond politics and cultural systems," Pasino said. "It’s about life, and the more people care about life and the more people have to care about this in their own way."

The health of the water affects the health of the people, and group member Lupe Negron said a compromised environment has been demonstrated through high numbers of cancer patients, rising cases of autism and attention deficit and hyperactive disorder. Their prayers were to ask the water and the earth to help heal themselves.

"The real prayer is not about singing. It’s the action of walking, because if you walk you have to have a good intention, you have to know you’re not like sitting somewhere and praying" Pasino said.

"You’re putting prayers into action," Negron said.

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