The Longest Walk is a cross-country march focused on
protecting American Indian rights and heritage
By Christina M. Woods, The Wichita
Eagle, APRIL 8, 2008
Hundreds of American Indian activists
traveled through Kansas in 1978 as they walked from
California to Washington, D.C., for Native American
Wichitan Rick Regan, who met them at
the Mid-America All-Indian Center, said he'll never
forget the sea of people in red T-shirts participating
in the Longest Walk, a civil rights march.
He's proud that his 23-year-old daughter,
Sage, is among roughly 200 people now walking to commemorate
the 30th anniversary of the march.
Participants arrived in Syracuse, Kan.,
from Colorado late Monday and are expected in Wichita
on April 16. The Mid-America All-Indian Center, 650
N. Seneca, has planned a reception.
Organizers describe the walk as a living
The prayer includes respect for the
American Indian ancestors whose bones are on display
in museums rather than at peace in tribal burial grounds,
The prayer includes urging lawmakers
to craft proposals to safeguard the rocks, mountains
and hills considered sacred to American Indian tribes
that now are used for recreation.
The prayer urges people to challenge
lawmakers to respect the Earth.
"As native people, our walk is
carrying the message that all life is sacred and every
step we take is a prayer," said Ricardo Tapia,
a national coordinator for the walk's northern route
along U.S. 50. Another set of walkers will take a route
through New Mexico and other southern states.
"We do this not just for ourselves
but for our future generations, and that involves people
of all colors," Tapia said.
While in Kansas, walkers will visit
Greensburg and perform a blessing ceremony.
Those who follow the southern route
will stop in New Orleans to meet with Hurricane Katrina
Tapia said the walkers will gather information
about environmental concerns of people they meet along
both routes, then converge to present findings to lawmakers
in Washington in July.
Kansas, Tapia said, has concerns such
as the possibility of new coal plants and the elimination
"There's quite a few things just
in Kansas alone that we'll be able to fit into what
we're doing," he said.
A local organizer, Melody Rutledge,
said welcoming walkers back to Wichita will bring the
march full circle from 1978.
"This is a group of people trying
to do something positive, making changes in communities
and every place they go and with every place they stop
on the walk," she said.
Newman Washington, the vice chairman
of the Indian Center's board and a program director
at Hunter Health Clinic, said he has requested that
city and county officials recognize the march through
The clinic, which is building an environmentally
friendly clinic on East Central, will offer free services
such as blood pressure checks to walkers.
Jimbo Simmons, Choctaw, who was the
1978 march coordinator, said the current walk will have
an impact on people regardless of their heritage.
"It's a movement of people that's
bringing attention and bringing the concerns of our
people to the forefront here in America," he said.
Reach Christina M. Woods at 316-269-6791