A good prayer
Young Dine' join the Longest Walk Northern Route
By Brenda Norrell
Navajo Times print edition
Reprinted with permission
May 15, 2008
ST. LOUIS – Navajo youths on the Longest Walk 2 Northern Route, are continuing the Dine’ prayers they grew up with as they walk and run across America. Walking and running through the heart of America, Craig Luther, 19, from Sanders, and Kenzie Begay, 17, from Richfield, Utah, reflected on this journey and what it means for future generations.
Luther, said, “It feels good to run and carry the staff, even though when you’re running you get tired. We were running up a hill and I saw a hawk fly over me. I went and blessed myself. I got an energy burst and ran up the hill like it was nothing.”
Luther, who joined the walk when it passed through Richfield, Utah, said it feels good to hear people blowing their horns in support on the highway.
“When I get tired, I think about what I’m running for.” For Luther, those reasons include good health and strong lungs. He also receives strength and support from being with the other runners.
“It is just a good feeling.”
Luther’s parents are Anita Nalwood and Christopher Nalwood. His maternal grandparents are Bessie and Wilson, Nez, Jr., from Dinnebeto. Growing up, he lived in Tuba City and Flagstaff and attended elementary and middle school in Sanders. During high school in Richfield, Utah, he played football and participated in wrestling.
Luther grew up speaking Navajo and attending the Native American Church and traditional Navajo ceremonies.
Remembering the running he did with his cousins while growing up, he said, “We ran all over.” From his aunties, uncles, grandparents, brothers and cousins, he learned. “I know how to weave and bead. When I was young, my mom and dad told me to run before the sun comes up and pray.
“When I first decided to join, when they were talking about it, I saw all the young people, the young kids that were there. I thought it would be a good prayer. I saw a lot of good people. I thought it would be a good experience to go walk and run to Washington D.C.”
Luther said his Navajo family members have given him a great deal of support on the walk. “They call and say they are proud of me. My cousins have been sending me money. They said it is for a good purpose.
“It is for a good purpose, it will make a good impact on future generations. It could change what people think about Indian people.”
Luther, who makes fry bread for the walkers, said he has learned a lot on this walk about what to do in life, and what not to do. He said he still has lots to learn.
“The people have stories and good teachings. I’ve learned a lot of teachings and stories to wake me up.” Luther said Navajos and other Indian Nations have many similarities. “At the end of this walk I know I’m going to be different, helping out my people in the areas where the people have difficulties.”
Luther has a message for other Navajo youths.
“Learn your language, learn your culture, learn your teachings and learn your songs. Listen to your grandparents. They won’t always be around. Pray and stay away from alcohol and drugs. Those don’t get you anywhere in life and tear families apart.”
Luther said if people are strong, they can stay away from alcohol and drugs.
Luther, who enjoys art and math, plans to go to college and said he might even strive to serve on the Navajo Nation Council someday.
Like Luther, Navajo youth Kenzie Begay, 17, Navajo from Richfield, Utah, joined the walk in Utah and continues on the walk through America’s heartland. Begay said her mother inspired her to join the Longest Walk. Begay also was inspired by Sage, Native youth from Oklahoma, who goes by only her first name.
Begay said, “When the walkers came through Richfield I asked my mom if I could join.” Still, it took some convincing. It wasn’t until the Salt Lake Longest Walk Powwow that she joined the walk. “I thought it sounded fun.”
Calvin Magpie, Cheyenne and Arapaho from Oklahoma, also talked to her about what the walk meant. “Calvin talked me about it. He explained to me what the walk was about. And Sage inspired me.”
Asked what is the most difficult part of the walk, Begay said the fast pace of the walk, because it makes it difficult to pray. But other than that, she is enjoying everything about the walk.
“So far it has been the best experience of my life.”
One aspect she loves is learning about Indian tribes from many nations.
“I never knew there were Indian Nations in Missouri and Kansas,” she said. During April, the Longest Walk rested for five days on the Kickapoo Indian Nation in Kansas. There, the walkers heard of the Kickapoos struggle for water and were treated with great hospitality.
“The people there were really nice.” At the Kickapoo Boys and Girls Club, the walkers were able to participate in basketball and other sports during the rest. Begay also learned to make fry bread on the walk from other Navajos, including Luther.
Begay said she was very impressed with Haskell Indian Nations University, where a powwow, wetlands tour and other events were offered for walkers. “I liked seeing the huge medicine wheel; they had a place to pray and a sweat lodge. Their campus was beautiful; I loved it.”
Growing up in Richfield, Utah, one of the highlights was to visit her Navajo relatives, including Aunt Marlene Tsosie in Chinle. “Every time my family and I went down there, we would have prayers for our family. They showed us how to pray. If we needed help, they would pray for us.”
As Begay was walking and running across America, back in Utah, her mother Sophie Adison of Richfield, offered words of praise for her daughter and Luther.
Adison said when the Longest Walk Northern Route came through their area in southern Utah and spoke to the communities that it brought a wonderful message to the youths in the Sevier School District.
“Everything that the leaders have taught me and our children of our area, has brought a new understanding and pride in who they are and where they come from.”
Both Luther’s mother, Anita Nalwood, and Adison praised their children. Both mothers said they hope to join the walk later.
Adison said, “And can you believe, my Kenzie, is actually there with you all. I'm so proud of her and the decision she made to go on this walk to DC. The decision she made was out of the ‘norm’ for all of us and caught me by surprise; because she is the youngest in our family and she is very sheltered and she is usually with siblings, friends or me. So this is something I knew in my heart was the right thing for her to do and I support her 100 percent doing this for herself, our family, all native students and her Dine people. Yes, she is young, but this is what her.”
Adison said her daughter, but she is doing something good and is following her heart. “She is doing what her heart was telling her to do, to find herself and her pride and bring all the wonderful experiences back to us and the students.”
Adison said she is also happy that Luther is on the walk, because he has also received praise from those who know him.
“The two have brought pride to our community and schools. And we are so grateful that all you wonderful people came our way. We needed this and are extremely grateful,” Adison said in a message to the walkers.
Meanwhile, Begay, interviewed aboard the Earthcycles’ Longest Walk webcast radio bus near St. Louis, said she hopes to become a dental hygienist. She enjoys soccer, tumbling and gymnastics. She also enjoys reading mysteries and writing poems.
One of those poems was written in appreciation of her mother. When her mother had a stroke, the reality of what life would be like without her was powerful. Begay’s advice to other youths is, never let a day pass without living your life completely and letting those you love know how much you love them.
“Live life to the fullest.”
Begay said she is looking forward to seeing her mother when the walk reaches Washington D.C. for a four day cultural survival summit on July 8, then marches into Washington on July 11.
“My mom is going to be there.”