'A beautiful moment'

Longest Walkers arrive in Window Rock

By Karen Francis, Diné Bureau, Gallup Independent, APRIL 7, 2008

WINDOW ROCK — For Larry Anderson, Council delegate from Fort Defiance , it was a beautiful moment to welcome the Longest Walk 2 participants to the Navajo Nation capital as a leader, especially since 30 years ago he was a part of the original Longest Walk.

“It’s a regeneration of 30 years ago. I used to sit out here in this circle years ago just wondering what kind of support we would be getting, how well the Navajo Nation was going to respond,” he said gesturing to the walkers who were sitting on the ground listening to various speakers on Friday evening. “Now I’m a leader of the Navajo Nation receiving the walkers and it makes me feel good, rejuvenated, inspired. I really feel the energy of these young people. Many of them weren’t born 30 years ago.”

Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan, Iyanbito/Pinedale, and other tribal leaders and members welcomed the Longest Walk 2 to Window Rock with a reception on Friday held at the Navajo Nation Fairgrounds.

The participants that made it to Window Rock are part of the southern route of the walk which started in San Francisco on Feb. 11 and is expected to arrive in Washington on July 11.

An eagle feather was presented to the group of walkers for the staff that is carried on the journey.

Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement and one of the organizers of the walk, said so far the walk has been “gratifying,” noting that people from many different countries have joined in during the 1,250 miles the group had walked to get to Window Rock.

“I think the learning experience for the group itself is good,” he said.

So far, the group has had to overcome challenges such as illnesses and translation for the walkers from foreign countries. Banks said that people have joined from Germany, Australia, Poland, Mexico, Canada and Argentina, to name a few.

Banks said that five years ago it was decided to hold the cross-country walk again to raise awareness about issues that are relevant, especially with all the attention to global warming. He added that some of the issues to be raised are still the same as when the original walk was held.

“When I started to look at the manifesto in 1978 I realized we’re looking at some of the same issues,” he said. “There needs to be some effort to make change — the way Americans look at sacred sites. Thirty years ago we asked for protection for the San Francisco Peaks and Goldwater, McCain there’s been no offer of protection from these high-profile senators. It’s really embarrassing. What they’re offering is they want to get contaminated snow up there.”

Several tribes, including the Navajo Nation, filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service over Arizona Snowbowl’s plans to expand its ski resort and use treated waste water to make artificial snow on the mountain.

Many of the walkers and speakers touted protection of the environment and their tradition as the main reasons for their participation.

Lisa Brown, a Navajo woman from Lupton, joined up with the walkers in Flagstaff . Asked what she was thinking as she walked, she said, “With every step that I take, with every look of Mother Nature and the trash that I see, I want people to open up their eyes and realize you can’t live for yourself. You have to live for this land we have here, you have to live for our communities, you have to live for our nation. You have to be a positive influence on what surrounds you, and I pray that things will get better.”

“Badmobile” Dayea joined the Longest Walk 2 on the summit going into Window Rock to represent the Navajo and other native people who became disabled during forced relocations, many of whom were eliminated on the spot.

“It’s the same way with our issues. There’s a lot of them that die off before they’re being heard. They fall on deaf ears,” he said.

Though it was difficult going downhill in his wheelchair, he wanted to participate in the historic walk.

A member of the band Rolling Tunes, Dayea said he will be holding a fundraiser concert for the walk on May 10 at the Gallup Performing Arts Center.

Steven Kee, an official with Ganado Chapter, said that the chapter opened its doors to the walkers the night before and he had been assisting them as they made their way through the area.

Kee talked to the walkers about concerns that he would like to see addressed at the federal level for Native peoples.

“My main concern is ‘English-only,’” he said. “The other issue that I’d like to address is water rights. The third one is domestic violence and last of all, sexual harassment within the workplace. We asked the federal government for funding.”

Supai Waters is one of the coordinators for the Arizona portion of the walk and is in it until the walkers reach Washington in July.

“For me, it’s an obligation to protect my water, my sacred sites, my culture, my traditions,” he said.

The walkers set up camp at the fairground on Friday evening and were scheduled to walk to the site of Dooda’ Desert Rock, the camp where people are protesting the building of a new power plant in the Four Corners area, Sunday.




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