Walking for Mother Earth

Longest Walk northern and southern routes continue trek across U.S.

By Brenda Norrell, Special to Navajo Times, March 20, 2008

MONTROSE, Colo. -The Ute Indian Museum welcomed the Longest Walk 2 Northern Route, as walkers arrived in the snow on their trek to Washington, D.C., carrying the voices of grassroots Native Americans to the leaders of the United States.

The northern and southern routes converge in D.C. on July 11.

Rose and Reynold Thomas from Kayenta, Ariz., made the long drive to the Ute Indian Museum to visit the Longest Walk on Monday. Reynold, Fallon Paiute from Nevada, was 25 years old when he joined the first Longest Walk in 1978.

Reynold and Rose, Navajo, said they have been following the Longest Walk on the blog, www.bsnorrell.blogspot.com and came to bring support.

"The Internet has really helped, back then we didn't know where they were," Rose said, remembering when Reynold was on the walk in 1978.

Rose said the younger generation, including their children, have not forgotten what the Longest Walk was for 30 years ago.

"It is our responsibility to be the caretakers of the earth," Rose said. "It is good that this walk is happening. We have to tell people that we need to take better care of the earth, it is our survival. If we are to survive, we have to take responsibility.

"The people who know the sacred names of the earth are leaving us," she said, adding that when the elders are gone, there will be no way for the young people to learn the sacred names and the ways of making offerings.

Rose said these ways, including how to make a rabbit blanket, are important for the people to continue.

Northern route

The Longest Walk Northern Route arrived in Colorado, after crossing the states of California, Nevada and Utah. Walking with sacred staffs, the walkers and runners are carrying the message of protecting Mother Earth.

The northern route will also stop at Sand Creek for a memorial on April 5 before continuing to Kansas and Pennsylvania.

Craig Luther, Navajo from Sanders, Ariz., is among the walkers and cooked fry bread at a camp on the Colorado River in Fruita, Colo.

Kenzie Begay, 17, Navajo, joined the walk in Richfield, Utah.

"I joined the walk to show that I support my culture and my people," she said in an interview for the Navajo Times at the Ute Indian Museum.

Southern route

The Longest Walk's southern route, coordinated by Dennis Banks, will be hosted in Flagstaff, with a concert featuring Blackfire, Keith Secola and other Native performers at the Orpheum Auditorium on March 27.

The southern route arrives on the Navajo Nation on March 30, traveling through Leupp, Dilkon and Greasewood, before reaching Window Rock on April 3.

A concert is planned for Dooda Desert Rock, with Gary Farmer and an all-star lineup of performers, on April 6 at the Dooda Desert Rock campsite. The southern route then continues through New Mexico, Oklahoma, and New Orleans.

Outpouring of support

On the northern route, Jimbo Simmons, northern route coordinator, said the walk is a prayer and the snow and cold intensifies the prayer.

When the snow fell on walkers at the Ute Indian Museum, Simmons said, "It is a blessing. I consider it an honor to walk through the snow and camp in the cold for Mother Earth."

In Salt Lake City, the Longest Walk was honored with a powwow. At Richfield Residential Hall, walkers inspired Navajo and other students with their message, encouraging Native students to take pride in their heritage and honor their ancestors.

Along the way, the walkers received warm clothing, hot meals and were welcomed by communities including Rumsey Rancheria, Miwok's Shingle Springs and Pollock Pines in California.

In Nevada, hospitality came from South Lake Tahoe, Carson City, the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Indian Nation and the Home School of Natural Order and Border Inn in Baker, Nev.

In Utah, walkers were greeted in Salina by Navajo, Paiute and Hopi, before gathering with students at the Richfield hall. In Salt Lake City at the Indian Walk In Center, supplies and meals poured in, culminating in a powwow and community potluck.

In Fruita, Colo., the Grand Valley Peace and Justice provided meals, while walkers camped along the Colorado River.

Echoes of the past

Louise Benally, Navajo from Big Mountain, Ariz., described the Navajos' Long Walk in 1864 to Bosque Redondo in New Mexico, where many died of starvation or were murdered by the calvary.

Now Navajos live with the destruction of coal mining and power plants in the continuation of genocide, she said.

Benally said her grandfather returned to their homeland after the Long Walk. The Navajo Nation government was created to sign energy leases.

"We have been victimized by that," Benally said during a phone call on a live radio broadcast.

In her home community, a "land swindle" was created by politicians and corporations. The result was the relocation of more than 10,000 Navajos and the destruction of Mother Earth.

In an earlier censored interview with Benally, she said the Long Walk and war in Iraq are both U.S.-sponsored terror.

"The U.S. military first murders your people and destroys your way of life while stealing your culture, then forces you to learn their evil ways of lying and cheating," she said.

'So-called apology'

On the Longest Walk talk radio, Bill Means, cofounder of the International Indian Treaty Council, spoke on the so-called apology inserted into the Senate version of the Indian Health Care Bill, section 301, which passed on Feb. 26.

The apology is for the abrogation of treaties and other atrocities inflicted on American Indians, including the massacres of Wounded Knee in South Dakota and Sand Creek in Colorado.

Means, Lakota, said there is no need for "whitewashing the past."

"Apologies don't really change anyone's life or the conditions in which they live," Means said on a radio broadcast.

Further, Means pointed out the disclaimer on the so-called apology bill. The disclaimer states, "Nothing in this section - (1) authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or (2) serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States."

Means, paraphrasing the apology, said, "We'll give you an apology but please don't use it against us. What is an apology if you put a disclaimer at the end?"

On the Longest Walk Northern Route, coordinator Jimbo Simmons said the U.S. mounted a similar effort 30 years ago during the original Longest Walk, when the federal officials sent American Indians to tell the walkers they did not need to continue their walk because the anti-Indian legislation would be halted.

Speaking of the current apology, Simmons said, "It is meant to diffuse our efforts."

Simmons said if the United States is sincere about issuing an apology to American Indians, it should begin with the descendants of the original treaty signers and include the peoples of the world whose relatives have been murdered and massacred by the United States.



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