Longest Walk 2 arrival unifies local groups

By Cindy Yurth, Tsyi' 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 coordinator.

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.

"Hadi (where from)?" asked one elder as a woman with a video camera approached her.

"All over," would have been an appropriate answer, as every continent seemed to be represented.

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 before?

"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," he said.

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 and powwow.

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 Nation.

A complete itinerary and ways to support the Longest Walk 2 can be found at www.longestwalk.org.



Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html