Thursday, May 15, 2008

Long Walk across St. Louis

Aislyn Colgan 831 295-2555

A Native American Spiritual Cross Country Walk For Cultural Survival Marches Across St. Louis

Walkers Hold Prayer Vigil at Gateway Arch and Pay Respect to American Indian Ancestors at Cahokia Mounds

By Aislyn Colgan
ST. LOUIS, IL- Fifty representatives of American Indian tribes from across the country, all members of The Longest Walk 2, walked through St. Louis today on their way from San Francisco to Washington D.C. carrying the message "All life is Sacred, protect Mother Earth." The Longest Walk 2 is a grassroots effort on a national level to bring attention to the environmental disharmony on Mother Earth and the effects of environmental destruction on Native American people; as well as to raise awareness about the need for the protection of sacred sites as a means for cultural survival.
The walkers started Tuesday, May 13th at West County Mall and walked 15 miles through downtown St. Louis to the Gateway Arch. Walkers held a vigil there expressing a prayer for healing for American Indians and the devastation that followed the westward expansion the arch represents. They then began walking Wednesday from Cahokia Mounds and traveled 35 miles along hwy 40, on their way to Vandalia Lake in Vandalia.The walkers held a ceremony and pow wow this weekend at Cahokia Mounds honoring the Native Ancestors buried there. "We gave thanks to our ancestors that passed on and to ask for their guidance, especially to the younger generation, as we walk on this sacred journey," said Cordell Tulley (Dine, Blue Gap, AZ), a member of the Longest Walk 2.
They will arrive in Washington, D.C. on July 11, 2008, where walkers will bring their concerns to the Federal Government as well as hold a 3 day Cultural Survival Summit to bring attention to the issues of Indigenous People's rights, environmental injustice, protection of sacred sites, cultural survival, youth empowerment, and eroding Native American rights the Longest Walk 2 has encountered along the route.
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. Largely due to the impact of the walk and the hard work of many Native American activists, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) of 1978 was passed one month after the walk arrived in D.C. AIRFA states that it is 'the policy of the United States to protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religions of the American Indian."
Photos: Gateway Arch St. Louis/Brenda Norrell

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