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