Local members of Quechan tribe take part in Longest
By Darin, Fenger, Yuma
Sun Staff Writer, FEBRUARY 18, 2008
Some local American Indians are hitting
the highway on a coast-to-coast trek dedicated to better
protection of Mother Earth and her sacred sites.
This trek, called the Longest Walk 2,
took off this week from San Francisco with hopes of
arriving in Washington, D.C., by early July.
Several members of the Quechan Indian
Tribe are on the road with this national event. The
local walkers arrived in San Francisco last weekend
to prepare for the long journey with special rituals
and celebrations at Alcatraz Island.
The local organization Pipa A'koots,
led by Quechan elders, now wants to encourage local
people to join the long walk when it passes through
Parker in mid-March. Group leaders say they also want
walkers to come down to the Yuma area to bring attention
to the Quechan Tribe building a casino on land that
Pipa A'koots' considers a sacred mountain.
"Why the longest walk? ...Indian
nationals will be walking to protect sacred sites, to
protect Mother Earth and for the Seventh Generation,"
Pipa A'koots said in a news release. Many tribes believe
that long-lasting decisions about the environment should
be made with the future's seventh generation in mind.
The Longest Walk 2 boasts walkers representing
tribes from around the nation. The event is co-sponsored
by well-known American Indian activist Dennis Banks.
The Longest Walk 2 coincides with the
30th anniversary of the original Longest Walk, which
forged the path in 1978 but was dedicated to fighting
for American Indian rights.
Vernon Smith, a founding member of Pipa
A'koots, stressed that participating in long runs and
walks reflects an important aspect of ancient tradition
for many tribes - including the Quechan. Smith spoke
how in the past the Quechan Tribe would use runners
to take important news to another town. He added that
today a ceremonial runner is often included in tribal
funerals, with the runner running in front of the hearse
on its way to the cremation grounds.
Pipa A'koots organized a local ritual
between Yuma and the casino building site when the organization
first began its struggle against the project.
"This Longest Walk isn't just for
natives, either. It's for anybody that cares about the
land," Smith said. "People are waking up and
wanting to protect Mother Earth."
Smith said more Quechan people will
join the Longest Walk 2 either by walking to Parker
to meet up with the procession or by driving up there
and walking east with everyone for a while.
"We're not too young any more,
but we're going to participate," Smith said, referring
to Quechan elders. "We'll march as far as we can."
Smith has not heard from walk organizers
if representatives will come down to Yuma.
The Quechan last participated in a major
political run in the 1980s when a procession came through
from Alaska. Quechan runners joined the procession,
leading the event's guests through Quechan lands as
the event proceeded south into Mexico.
Smith said he hopes most Quechan people
will get excited about Longest Walk 2 and get involved.
"I think we should all put our
differences aside and get involved. Don't sit back just
because we are involved," he said. "This event
is for all tribes - the entire country - not just our
For more information go to www.longestwalk.org.
Darin Fenger can be reached at email@example.com or