Approximately 23 people blessed the Tree of Peace behind Storke Tower on Monday to begin the two-week Celebration of Communities series of culture events, and to acknowledge the beginning of Native American Awareness Month.

The tree was decorated with red, yellow, white and black ribbons to symbolize the four races of the world, blue ribbons to represent water and sky, and green ribbons to represent the earth.

Leslie Koda, an employee of the Educational Opportunities Program who is associated with the Cherokee, Oswegan and Powhatan tribes, said the tree is always blessed as a way to start any Native American celebration to show respect for the Chumash tribes that lived on UCSB land before the university.

“We always ask those whose land this belongs to for their blessing,” she said.

The tree was planted in 1985,which was declared the International Year of Youth by the United Nations. Jake Swamp, the Mohawk chief of the Iroquois asked that 1,000 peace trees be planted all over the world in honor of the year. Swamp, who was part of the planting ceremony at UCSB, dedicated the tree to the survival of mankind and said the tree would bring “peace to the four directions of the world, and bring nations together under its shade and branches.”

The branches on the Tree of Peace are not supposed to touch the ground, Koda said.

According to Native American legend, over a thousand years ago the Peacemaker came to the people of the earth and asked them to bury weapons of war. Koda said the idiom “to bury the hatchet” comes from this story. Once the weapons were buried, a peace tree was planted over the hole to provide shelter for people who follow the great laws of peace.

Student Academic Support Services Executive Director Yolanda Garcia said she comes to the tree often and believes it is a calming presence on campus. She said the tree, as a symbol of peace, is important because of upheaval in the world.

“I think the presence of the tree is more important than ever,” she said.

Activities for the Celebration of Communities will continue through Nov. 16.

-Sarah Healy