International Peace Activists Visit Kammerer Ranch
Peace activists from around the world gathered in the Black Hills last week to take part in an international program aimed at finding alternatives to violence. The group spent part of their time visiting with a local rancher who has a long history of pursuing alternatives to war.
It’s a warm summer afternoon as participants in the 2015 Satyagraha Institute gather on Marv Kammerer’sfront porch. The Satyagraha Institute is founded on the Sanskrit term “satyagraha” coined by Mohandas Gandhi.
Ghandi proposed that “satya” – or truth, combined with “agraha” – or firmness, can create useful social power that doesn’t rely on harming others.
Marv Kammerer’s family has ranched in this same spot since the 1880s. The elder cowboy is well known throughout the Native American, environmental and peace activist communities. But what drew the Satyagraha group to the Kammerer Ranch today was three symbols on a nearby hill.
Marv Kammerer explains.
“The symbols on the hill…one of them being the international peace symbol,” says Kammerer. “The other…the international environmental symbol. And the medicine wheel…which is designated by the…uh…four poles there with the flags of the four different races.”
Kammerer created the symbols with painted white stones and wood in 1980 as a visible protest to armed bombers that flew from Ellsworth Air Force Base…which is adjacent to his land. The symbols were also an objection to the now defunct Minuteman Missile Bases that pock-marked the area.
“Politics of fear,” observes Kammerer. “Along with the Soviet Union and their own bellicose attitudes. Threats…counter-threats. Building more and bigger bombs. No one’s serious about…peacemaking. About talking.”
Nigerian peace activist Betti Abah found Marv Kammerer inspiring for several reasons.
“The fact that he has inspired a lot of people to see the futility of war,” comments Abah. “The fact that he has inspired a lot of people to say their minds. The fact that he has remained a constant figure…taking a stand against what may be popular…but in reality is inhumanity.”
Betti Abah and the rest of the Satyagraha group helped Kammerer repaint the symbols on his hill, she says, so that they can easily be seen for another 35 years.