The Longest Walk 2

By Nick Smirnoff Contributing Writer
Tehachapi News, MARCH 11, 2008

“The Longest Walk is an Indian Spiritual Walk, a historical walk, and it is a walk for educational awareness to the American and world communities about the concerns of American Indian people. We are walking to protect sacred sites in our country. We are walking to promote positive change in our world.”

This is the manifesto of hundreds of Native Americans who rallied in San Francisco last month as they began a nationwide walk from the west coast to Washington, D.C. At the conclusion of the rally, walkers split into two groups, one following a northern route, and another headed south.

On Feb. 28, 19 days into the five month, 4,400 mile walk, a group of more than 80 walkers following the southern route, arrived at La Paz, in Keene, for a day of rest and spiritual renewal.

The walk's organizer and leader, Richard J. Banks, was a long-time friend of Unified Farm Worker activist Caesar Chavez. In addition to meditating and resting, walkers also had a chance to learn the history of La Paz, and the struggles of it’s founder during his organizational efforts on behalf of migrant farm workers. Banks and Chavez’ son, Paul, shared many stories with the walkers as they toured the grounds.

Leaving La Paz Saturday morning, the walkers continued up Woodford-Tehachapi Road, chanting and beating drums as they picked up roadside trash in a symbolic gesture of triumph over the pollution that threatens to engulf Mother Earth. Comprised of a large number of international walkers, they hail from Japan, Poland and Australia, as well as Native Americans, and a mix of cultural heritage.

The average pace is 15 to 20 miles a day, and after quickly reaching the summit, the walkers passed through Golden Hills and continued to the United Methodist Church.

After holding a prayer circle, the walkers set up tents and sleeping bags and prepared for a catered meal of traditional Native American fare. Buffalo stew and Indian fry bread was served by Tehachapi resident and Native American brother, Mano Lujan, of Red House BBQ.

Originally, the walkers planned to continue through the Tehachapi Valley, up over Oak Creek Pass, and into the Antelope Valley. The plan changed when it was learned that Native Americans living in the New Orleans area are still trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina. A group of runners was designated to pick up the pace, so that the group can spend an additional two days helping those Native Americans in Louisiana.

As Sunday dawned in Tehachapi, the remaining walkers were transported by vehicles to Lone Wolf, a Native American camp in Yucca Valley, where they would continue walking and the runners could catch up.

The 4,400 mile journey will end in Washington, D.C. in early July of this year. Both the northern and southern groups will be joined by another large group of supporters for a spiritual and informational summit near the White House. This will be followed by political lobbying in the halls and offices of Congress, in a effort to stop the desecration of Native American burial sites, and to get additional Federal support to protect Mother Earth from the out-of-control trend of destruction of her natural resources.

This outcry to protect Mother Earth and to respect all living things led to a similar walk, which took place in 1978. 30 years ago, it also was known as the Longest Walk. The effort led to many promises by Federal legislators, but it has become necessary for a new generation of walkers to hold the Longest Walk 2.

The 1978 walk led to passage of the Native American Act, but supporters believe there are still many issues to be addressed. This time they walk not only to remind Washington of their concerns, but also to ask why many of the promises made by government officials 30 years ago have met with limited success.

To check the walker’s progress and for additional information visit www.longestwalk.org.



 


        


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