Group marches in name of 'Mother Earth'

By Mike Hall, The Capital-Journal, APRIL 29, 2008

Halfway on their walk from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., a group participating in the Longest Walk 2 is in Topeka to promote their message to protect "Mother Earth" and the cultures and sacred sites of American Indians.

About 20 walkers arrived at the Statehouse at noon Monday and formed a circle for an American Indian prayer song led by Cordell Tulley, a member of the Dineh tribe of Arizona.

The original Longest Walk in 1978 resulted in the U.S. government dropping plans to cancel all tribal agreements.

Before heading east for Lawrence today, the group plans to conduct a news conference at 10 a.m. at the Statehouse.

Among the walkers was Yukio Iimura, one of 20 Japanese Buddhists participating. He said when Japanese organized a similar long walk, a number of American Indians joined them as a show of support.

Another walker was Sharon Heta, a member of the Maori tribe of New Zealand. She said her husband was a member of the first Longest Walk in 1978. Now, she is walking to raise awareness of the struggle by the Maori people for recognition of their own independent sovereign nation.

Tulley said no one walks the entire distance. Each walker is asked to do a minimum of 10 miles a day. The group that arrived in Topeka on Monday was part of a larger group walking on what is known as the northern route. Another group is taking a southern route between the coasts.

But for both groups, the goal is Washington, D.C., in July, when they hope to meet with national leaders to express their concerns and what they learned on their walk.

For example, Tulley said that in spending a four-day rest period on the Kickapoo Reservation in northeast Kansas the group learned of the difficulties there in obtaining an adequate water supply.

Tulley said it is difficult to say how many people are participating, because the walkers come and go. He himself didn't begin the walk in San Francisco but joined when the group came through his area of Arizona.

He said mining for several minerals in Arizona and New Mexico are doing great damage to the environment.

"Some multinational corporations are corrupting the earth," he said. "We live in the belly of the monster."

Mike Hall can be reached at (785) 295-1209 or



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