Thursday, July 24, 2008

Longest Walk concludes in DC

Email lw2dcmedia@gmail.com
Aislyn Colgan (831) 295-2555
Morning Star Gali (510) 827-6719

Eight Thousand Mile Walk for Native American Rights, Environmental Protection, and to Stop Global Warming Culminates in Mass convergence and two day celebration

After 5 Months, 'The Longest Walk 2' Converges in Washington D.C., Manifesto For Change Demands "Immediate Responsible Action"

By Morning Star Gali
Photo by Brenda Norrell

WASHINGTON, DC – An 8,200 mile Native American prayer walk for Indigenous People's rights that began five months ago on Alcatraz Island, arrived in Washington D.C. on Friday July 11th. Over 800 walkers from across Indian country as well as international allies survived many challenges such as extreme weather conditions such as forceful winds, rain, snow, and even a tornado in their journey to raise awareness about sacred sites protection, cultural survival, youth empowerment and Native American rights. The successful journey traversed 24 states and 35 reservations. Each community shared with the walkers their stories of environmental destruction and threats to sacred sites. The walkers arrived in Washington D.C. with the message 'All Life is Sacred, Protect Mother Earth'. The 2008 Longest Walk marks the 30th anniversary of the original Longest Walk of 1978 that resulted in historic changes for Native America. In July of 1978, thousands of American Indians, in an affirmation of Tribal Sovereignty, walked from Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay to Washington D.C. They converged on the Nations' capitol to oppose and successfully defeat 11 pieces of legislation in Congress that would have terminated many significant treaties between the federal government and tribes nation wide. The two paths that comprised the Longest Walk 2 of 2008 included a Northern and Southern route. The two routes joined together on the morning of July 11th at Lafayette Park as they marched towards the White House and continued the spiritual walk to the Capitol. "Today, we are one voice. We are one spirit. We are one body. The two walks brought together many different people from many different parts of this country -- from different reservations, from different communities, from different walks of life. But today, we have brought this pair together as one prayer. A prayer for the sacred mother earth, a prayer for future generations, a prayer for the earth." said Jimbo Simmons, Northern Route coordinator. House Judiciary Chair, US Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and Harry Belafonte met and welcomed the walkers who delivered to Conyers a 'Manifesto for Change'. Drafted in its majority by Indigenous Youth, the manifesto consolidated the findings of the five month journey into an 18 page Manifesto detailing specific action items proposing solutions to the specific regional, and national problems brought to the attention of the walkers by the communities they visited. The 'Manifesto for Change' is a living document addressing the conditions of Indigenous communities across Turtle Island. "The manifesto is the result of this five-month journey to gather support for a call to action to protect our sacred sites and to clean up mother earth and deliver the voice of the people to congress and demand congress to act." said Yaynicut Franco, a 20-year-old member of the Wukchumni Nation Youth Council. "Most of these issues are identical to those encountered by the original Walk in 1978. Both Manifestos attest to the affirmation of the sovereignty and ongoing resistance of Indigenous peoples. The lack of responsible action will no longer be tolerated. The Manifesto is a demand for immediate responsible action." Along with the 'Manifesto for Change' delivered to Conyers, The Longest Walk representatives delivered the 1978 Longest Walk Manifesto, "An Affirmation of Tribal Sovereignty". Presentation of the 1978 Manifesto was an uncompleted goal of the 1978 Longest Walk. The historic 1978 document included landmark declarations from Sovereign Indigenous nations that encompassed the issues of National Sovereignty, "The Principles of Native Women from Indigenous Nations" and the treatment of Indigenous political prisoners. .Upon receiving the Manifestos, Congressman Conyers stated "The Committee on the Judiciary will hold hearings on each one of these items that you have outlined here." Conyers also stated that he would hold a conference with Longest Walk 2 representatives before public hearings are held to ensure that congress fully understands the issues that The Longest Walk has presented. Conyers closed by stating, "I don't want anybody in the Congress or in the United States of America to ever forget that: This was your land. This still is your land!" Conyers extended his message of solidarity by stating "All of us come together to join hands for one simple obvious reason that we've learned, your cause is our cause!" Michael Lane, one of the many veteran 1978 walkers that participated in The Longest Walk 2 stated, "For those of us that survived the first walk, we never stopped walking. For me, it's taken me all over the world. [All over the world] they're struggling for the same things that we're struggling for here. As indigenous peoples, we face a common threat…extermination through corporatization. We no longer face individual nations and nation states. They work together through something called CANZUS - it stands for Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the US. They're the same four countries that did not sign the Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous People. We need to coordinate our struggles, and we need to maintain our tribal sovereignty. We need to redefine internationalism to maintain our own identity as indigenous peoples of this world." Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement and lead coordinator the Longest Walk 2 closed the day's events with a final message to the walkers that had traversed over 8,000 miles "So you have an awesome responsibility. Some people are saying, 'What kind of protest is this?' We're not protesting -- we're walking for Mother Earth. We're walking for things that should be right. That's what we're walking for! Native people, we will always take up the gauntlet. We will never lie down in the face of struggle. If we have to keep walking this continent, we'll walk it again!" The following day a Pow-Wow and concert were held on the lawn between 4th and Maryland Ave. from 10a.m. till 8p.m. to celebrate the colossal achievement with performances by Keith Secola, Bill Miller, Snowbird Singers, Bloodline, Ribbontail drummers and more. The entire Manifesto For Change, and the original 1978 declaration is available on its entirety on the website http://www.longestwalk.org/. ###

-- Morning Star Gali

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