What started as a response to what was considered anti-Indian legislation became a way for Native Americans to assert Indigenous sovereignty rights and change the way they thought about their responsibilities as Native people.
The Longest Walk was originally conceived of by American Indian Movement (AIM) co-founder Dennis Banks and Bill Wahpepah. “The issues facing our people and the issues facing our Earth are connected,” Banks said. “They both are from thinking that does not value people or the Earth. As Native Americans, we say that all life is sacred, and we will speak as the conscience of our Earth as we journey across the United States.”
In 1978, The Longest Walk began with a ceremony on Alcatraz Island, where a pipe was filled. That pipe was then carried, along with other sacred items, across the country to Washington, D.C.
The 2016 Longest Walk left California on Feb. 13. This year’s walk is part of a war on drugs, suicide and other traumatic crises that Native people are currently grappling with. The walkers will arrive at the Arizona-New Mexico border on March 15. They will cross into Zuni Pueblo and then proceed to Gallup and Albuquerque, stopping for rest at Laguna. Tentative dates for Santa Fe are from March 29 to April 2, then on to Pojoaque, Fort Sumner and into Texas. They plan on arriving in Washington, D.C., on July 15.
The walkers have invited community members to join them as relay runners or walkers. At each stop, they will hold ceremonies and discussions with tribal leaders. They will participate in a conference with governors of the Northern Pueblos and health and behavioral-health professionals at Buffalo Thunder Resort in Pojoaque.
The Walk is a registered nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Donations of food, medical attention and supplies such as new socks, running shoes, water and energy snacks are needed. To contribute or participate, contact Donald Pena, of San Ildefonso Pueblo, at 505.570.7508 or Donaldpena11@gmail.com or Judy Bell at 505.819.9357 or email@example.com. More information on The Longest Walk 5: War on Drugs and Domestic Violence can be found on Facebook.