Longest Walk 2 arrival unifies local groups
By Cindy Yurth, Tséyi' Bureau,
Navajo Times, APRIL 3, 2008
GANADO, Ariz. - Nothing like a bunch
of outside environmentalists passing through your territory
to get the locals in gear.
Since the Longest Walk 2 - a cross-country
trek for environmental justice - entered the Navajo
Nation Friday, Diné environmentalists have been
speaking with one voice and supporting each other's
causes, said Guadalupe Branch, Navajo, the walk's western
According to Branch, who is also a spokesperson
for Diné for C-Aquifer, this is not typical.
"Normally we have all these little
feuds going between our organizations, between the urbans
in Flagstaff and the people actually living on the reservation,
and definitely with the (Navajo Nation) Council,"
said Branch, who lives in Leupp, Ariz.
"I think we all really wanted to
present a unified front to the walkers," she said.
"Since the walk started, we've put aside our differences.
Even the council delegates we've been fighting with
are saying things like, 'Yes, water is sacred.' It's
nice, even if it only lasts a few more days."
On Friday the 150 walkers of the Southern
Route, led by American Indian Movement co-founder Dennis
Banks, entered the Navajo Nation somewhere around Leupp,
marking the thousandth mile from their starting point
in San Francisco.
The Northern Route walkers, meanwhile,
were scheduled to arrive in Lamar, Colo., today.
At Star School, just outside the reservation
boundary, Banks' group was treated to lunch and a welcome
ceremony as he praised school founders Mark and Kate
Sorensen for their commitment to the environment (the
school runs on solar power) and Native children.
Wednesday found the trekkers taking
a rest day in Ganado, Ariz. Curious seniors who had
come for lunch at the chapter house watched a multi-racial
assortment of dreadlocked and colorfully attired young
people parade to and from the bathrooms, peck away at
their laptops, and unpack lunch fixings outside.
"H‡adi (where from)?" asked
one elder as a woman with a video camera approached
"All over," would have been
an appropriate answer, as every continent seemed to
Seattle resident Kaelan Holmes, who
is supposed to write press releases for the walk but
was having trouble finding the time, said the group
had passed through Leupp, Birdsprings, Dilkon and Greasewood
before arriving in Ganado Tuesday afternoon.
Along the way, they've been listening
to local people's concerns in the hopes of incorporating
them into a manifesto to be presented to Congress when
they arrive in Washington, D.C., on July 11.
Here on Navajo, "We've heard from
people about uranium mining, the N-Aquifer, the C-Aquifer,
that big power plant they're building ... it runs the
gamut," said Holmes, who said he was convinced
to go on the walk after meeting a Tewa poet in a Seattle
coffeehouse where he was running an open mike night.
Was he aware of these Navajo issues
"Absolutely not," he said,
"but it's the same story all over the world. People
who are living a natural, conservative way of life that
is not wasteful are being exploited by people who want
to live a wasteful way of life."
Holmes said he is doing his part to
save water by not showering.
"I find it really helps my psoriasis,"
Today the walkers are taking a break
to tour Canyon de Chelly, after which they'll head to
Window Rock for the tribe's official reception Friday
at Gorman Hall. That will include a supper, gourd dance
Saturday they'll be on their way to
the Dooda Desert Rock camp near Burnham, N.M., where
they'll be welcomed to New Mexico with the Mother Earth
Father Sky Music Festival, scheduled for Sunday, April
6 (Information: www.dooda-desert-rock.net).
Then they'll make stops at Crownpoint
and Pueblo Pintado, N.M., and next Wednesday will take
a rest day to tour Chaco Canyon before leaving the Navajo
A complete itinerary and ways to support
the Longest Walk 2 can be found at www.longestwalk.org.