Tuesday, February 05, 2008


On Feb. 11th, Longest Walk II participants will embark on a 5 month journey from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. arriving on July 11th. The walk is to promote harmony with the Earth and to raise other issues of importance to American Indians.

"We walk for the Seventh Generation, for our youth, for peace, for justice, for healing of Mother Earth, for the healing of our people suffering from diabetes, heart conditions, alcoholism, drug addiction, and other diseases. We walk with the message: All Life is Sacred, Save Mother Earth," reads the mission statement for the walk.

Back in 1978 a similar walk took place. That walked followed the introduction of eleven legislative bills in the 95th Congress which would have abrogated Native Treaties that protected remaining Native sovereignty. The Longest Walk of 1978 was a peaceful, spiritual effort to educate the public about Native American rights and the Native way of life. The 3,600 mile walk was successful in its purpose: to gather enough support to halt proposed legislation abrogating Indian treaties with the U.S. government.

"In 1978, our communities faced many hardships such as non-existing religious rights and criminalization of our people who fought for cultural survival, this is why the Longest Walk was necessary. As Indigenous Peoples in the United States, our environment and our cultural survival are directly correlated and are still imperiled today, this is why we must walk once again" stated Jimbo Simmons of the International Indian Treaty Council.

"Right now there's a lot of global warming, there's a lot of pollution," Dennis Banks said. "So I thought we should walk again for Mother Earth."

The walkers also will clean up Mother Earth along the way, Banks said, by bringing trash bags and picking up litter as they go. They will speak to the communities they pass through and learn what environmental issues they're facing

This walk is about the future, Banks told the Santa Cruz Sentinel, about leaving a healthy world for our children seven generations from now.

"Every time we do something, we have to consider the consequences for the seventh generation. Are our words good for the seventh generation, are our actions today good for the seventh generation?" Bank said.

"We see the changes of global warming," he said. "Because of that I realize it's affecting not only native people, but it's affecting people across the country. Every human being is in peril right now. If we don't do anything in this generation, there will be no seventh generation.

Tashina Banks Moore, national communications coordinator for the event says about 200 people are signed up to walk the entire 4,400 miles, but hundreds more are expected to join for shorter distances. The trek is drawing walkers from Russia, Australia, New Zealand and Peru as well as Buddhist monks and nuns from Japan.

Chuck Billy, lead singer of legendary thrash metal band Testament and proud member of the Pomo Indian Tribe will be performing at the Longest Walk Kickoff Concerton Saturday, February 9. The concert begins at 5:00PM at the Eastside Cultural Center in Oakland, CA. Chuck Billy will be performing alongside his brother Andy and 2006 Native American GRAMMY & NAMA recipient Star Nayea.

The following story is from the Contra Costa Times.

Activist continues to fight for American Indians

When the American Indian community needs a fighter, a negotiator, a man of wisdom and passion, the burden often falls on Dennis Banks.

It has been that way for 40 years, since Banks started the American Indian Movement. He led the 19-month takeover of Alcatraz in 1969, the Trail of Broken Treaties caravan in 1972, the occupation of Wounded Knee and the 71-day siege in 1973.

In 1978, he helped organize the first Longest Walk from California to Washington, D.C., to publicize to the nation and the world the plight of the indigenous people.

Thirty years later, Banks is still walking for American Indian rights. On Feb. 11, he and other activists will gather on Alcatraz to begin the 30th anniversary of the Longest Walk to Washington.

"Thirty years ago, I thought we'd do it once and that would be it," he said. "But the idea keeps going. Full steam ahead. Until I go to the grave, I'll be walking.

"They'll drag me across the country. I'll put wheels on my body, and they'll drag me."

Vallejo resident Norman "Wounded Knee" DeOcampo is full of praise for Banks. "I can compare Dennis with a lot of leaders across this country. I compare him with Sitting Bull, Geronimo and Crazy Horse."

Part of the cross-country crusade is education -- both in the mainstream press and among American Indians.

"We're losing our leaders," Wounded Knee said. "And we need to reach to the young people and get them involved."

Banks said Wounded Knee is the one whom young and old should admire.

"We should honor this man for what he has done for many years," Wounded Knee said. "He's an icon. He should be up there with Martin Luther King Jr."

Banks and Wounded Knee say that American Indians can have an effect on this year's presidential election. Any candidate who has an ear for American Indians would be acknowledged, Banks said.

"They're setting the stage for what's going to happen," he said. "They're demanding change, and so are we."

The highest office in America ever achieved by an American Indian was attained by Charles Curtis, a member of the Kaw tribe, who was vice president from 1929 to 1933 under Herbert Hoover.

Banks looked forward to the day an American Indian runs for the president.

Until then, Banks said he is hoping the next president holds corporations accountable that "have smokestacks spewing millions of tons of toxic materials in the air that we breathe." He also says that global warming "has to stop."

Another crucial goal is eliminating the disruption of sacred burial sites, Banks said.

"Let's start protecting the future while we protect the past," he said, hoping bones that have been uncovered for university study will some day be returned to the ground.

"Bury the bones. Let their journey continue," he said. "Some native people -- and I'm one of them -- believe that your journey is interrupted if your grave is interrupted."

Though 75, Banks intends to walk at least 15 miles a day for The Longest Walk 2, starting as the sun rises at Alcatraz.

"Full steam ahead."

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