Man Walks Across Southwest For Peace


Brother North Star is a one man walking campaign for peace.

His trek started June 16 in Window Rock and has taken him through Safford, Globe and now Payson.


To many, 55-year-old Gregory-Dean Smith is known as "Brother North Star."

"America has the power to become the leading nation in the world for peace," he said.

As he walks, he meditates on and prays for America to make this peace.

"If I was to do the normal thing, surround myself with land, have a car and (lots of luxuries), I feel I would be stagnating my spirit and imprisoning myself," he said.

Ask North Star about dates or times and he replies with stories.

He tells of the homeless camp where he stayed in the mountains of Safford.

As he passed through Safford, he saw a man who was drunk and had wet himself. He picked up the man and carried him to the camp.

They were welcomed into camp with food and no disparagement.

"It was quite an experience to see the love coming out of the homeless camp," he said.

North Star is on this journey to experience people of every color, creed and walk-of-life.

He has deep respect for the Zuni tribal leaders he met in New Mexico.

"The Zuni are the last holdouts, trying to be self-sufficient with no casino, fast food, big corporate chain stores and there are no liquor stores on the reservation," he said.

While walking toward San Carlos, he prayed to meet a family that might let him rest on their property a few days.

He met a woman who let him camp at her ranch. He did not see her again until he started the trek to Globe, when she drove by and offered him a ride.

"It is very rare that you meet an angel twice," he said.

He does not walk with his thumb out. Instead, he walks until he is offered a ride. He considers it a blessing either way. If he gets a ride, it is fewer miles to walk, yet, when he walks, he has time to meditate on peace.

"I met an Arapaho man in Safford- a Korean war vet," he said. "He took a lot of lives, yet somehow he was a veteran at peace with himself, not drinking or drugging himself to kill the memories."

The memories the veteran shared validated North Star's reasons for walking.

"I feel like I was called to do this, that I am in alignment with divine will for the healing of myself, the nation and the planet from violence."

Born Gregory-Dean Smith, he grew up in New York City.

He has a degree in African-American studies.

He calls his current walk, the "I Am America Medicine Walk, a dance with Mother Earth."

While North Star is disappointed that he has not met more people who are a part of the "I Am America" movement, he feels he is walking for something bigger than any one organization can encompass.

"At its essence, a peace walk is a peace walk," he said.

He is not backed by any organization.

Vicky Foltz, with the Tonto Basin Fire Department, gave him water when a concerned citizen called and said it looked like North Star was dehydrated and needed help.

"He seems like an interesting guy who believes in his pilgrimage," Foltz said.

Calvary Chapel in Payson offered him a few days respite.

"When the vortex breathes out, I will head for Mount Baldy," he said. "Then on to the ‘Malton' vortex that will take him through Illinois, Indiana and Missouri."

He stops to rest every three miles. He walked most of the 80 miles between Globe and Payson.

"I live to find shade and that is rare here in the desert," he said.

When a spot offers shade, he will rest through the broiling heat of the afternoon.

"I have been blessed by breezes and overcast skies," he said. "I've never been a desert person, but when you get out in the desert, the way the foothills and mesas are sculpted, it's a beautiful walk. Wow."

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