March for American Indian awareness comes to Lodi
By Chris Nichols, News-Sentinel
Staff Writer, FEBRUARY 14, 2008
More than 50 spirited marchers arrived
in Lodi on Wednesday as part of
the Longest Walk 2008, a five-month, cross-country trek
awareness for American Indian issues.
The group plans to walk to Washington,
D.C. to commemorate the 30th anniversary of 1978's Longest
Like marchers three decades ago, their
goals include promoting social justice and protections
for the environment and American Indian burial grounds,
The marchers — wearing Longest Walk
T-shirts and leather medicine bags and carrying a tall
banner lined with eagle feathers — set off from Flag
City on Wednesday morning, the third day of their journey,
passing scenic grapevines and orchards along Highway
With a diverse collection of participants,
including Buddhist monks, Japanese tourists and numerous
young people, the rural roadway looked more like downtown
Berkeley than San Joaquin County.
Stopping during a break in the march,
Larry Bringing Good, of Stockton, one of the walk's
organizers, explained a bit of history behind the effort.
Threats by the federal government to dissolve treaties
with American Indians spurred the first walk. Mining
and timber interests had set eyes on reservation lands,
Environmental concerns, such as air
and water pollution, along with the first walk's anniversary,
drove this year's march.
Kenneth Reid, of Portland, leads a group
of marchers on the "Longest Walk 2," a cross-country
trek to raise awareness of American Indian issues, on
Wednesday on Highway 12, while carrying the American
Indian Movement Longest Walk Eagle Staff. (Brian Feulner/News-Sentinel)
"We hope that it will give people
a reason to think," Bringing Good said, as one
of the group's organizers, Wounded Knee, of Vallejo,
energized the marchers with a passionate speech near
"Hopefully it will inspire some
at home to change within themselves," added Bringing
Good, who traces his heritage to the southern Cheyenne
Arapaho tribe of Oklahoma. "Maybe they'll come
out and walk with us, do something healthy. Maybe when
they're brushing their teeth, they'll turn off the water.
Maybe when they're walking down the hall, they'll
turn the light off."
People from all backgrounds are welcome
to join the march as it heads south, Bringing Good said.
An eclectic bunch has already formed, the result of
word-of-mouth news and postings on the Internet.
Many marchers will likely join for a
short period and then leave. Others will stay for the
full trip, Bringing Good said.
Numerous supporters drive cars or vans
carrying food and other supplies for the marchers, who
typically camp in tents at night.
The group was headed to the Lodi Sikh
Temple on Armstrong Road Wednesday. They'll head to
Stockton Thursday, then Manteca, Madera and Fresno,
and on to Southern California, Arizona, through the
South and up to the nation's capital.
A second group of walkers plans a northern
route through California, Nevada and across the nation's
plains and Midwest, before reaching Washington, D.C.
Eighteen-year-old Andrea Murrillo of
San Jose quit her job at Jamba Juice to join the group.
Walking under a clear blue but windy sky Wednesday,
she said she plans on completing the entire march.
"I did this for my family, for
my ancestors, for the future of our children,"
said Murrillo, whose family is of Aztec descent.
Wounded Knee, who said he also participated
in the 1978 walk, noted there are new challenges for
American Indians today.
Extracting artifacts from museums and
returning them to tribal burial grounds is one such
struggle. American Indian groups have contested the
University of California, Berkeley's right to display
many such remains at the campus' Phoebe Hearst Museum
Trucking nuclear waste to Nevada's Yucca
Mountain has also angered that state's tribal groups,
Wounded Knee noted.
"We're on a spiritual journey,"
he declared, shouting above the passing big rigs and
commuter cars on the narrow highway. "Because our
sovereignty is at threat. Our environment is at threat
... We want the people to know us indigenous people,
we're still here and all life is sacred."
Contact reporter Chris Nichols