Hundreds Welcome Walkers To Flagstaff - March, Colorado's 'Longest Walk Month'
Submitted by Western Shoshone Defense Project
Flagstaff, AZ - On Friday, March 21st, Indigenous spiritual leaders, environmental groups, tribal officials and 250 community members welcomed more than 100 participants of the Longest Walk 2.
The Longest Walk 2 marks the 30th anniversary of the original Longest Walk of 1978 that resulted in historic changes for Native Americans.
The Longest Walk 2 is a five- month journey, beginning in San Francisco, CA and finishing in Washington D.C., bringing attention to environmental protection and Native American rights.
"We’ve crossed 18 mountain ranges. We have walked 980 miles to be here,” said Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement and lead coordinator for the Southern Route of the Longest Walk 2.
“Thirty years ago a walk took place across this country and one of the issues that we brought before members of congress was the issue of the San Francisco Peaks, the holy mountain. 30 years later we are still concerned about the destruction and the violation of the holiness of this mountain.”
Longest Walk 2 participants joined with tribal and spiritual leaders and community members before entering Flagstaff at a sunrise prayer gathering. The ceremony was held on Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks where Snowbowl, a small private ski resort, has been attempting to expand and make fake snow from treated sewage effluent. More than 13 Indigenous Nations hold the Peaks holy and are unified in resisting the desecration of this sacred site.
Following the ceremony the walkers proceeded down the holy mountain picking up trash on their way to Flagstaff City Hall for a news conference and rally. Representatives of the Save the Peaks Coalition, Sierra Club, ECHOES, Black Mesa Water Coalition, and C-Aquifer for Dine addressed the issues facing their communities and voiced their support for the Longest Walk 2. Shelby Ray, a 16-year-old representative of Youth of the Peaks, expressed her gratitude and encouragement to the young walkers saying, “We need more youth to speak out and take action for the environment and our rights.”
"The Longest Walk 2 is a spiritual walk for the protection of our Mother Earth,” said Jeneda Benally, a volunteer with the Save the Peaks Coalition. ”We are honored and blessed to welcome and host everyone who is on this historic journey. From the holy San Francisco Peaks to Black Mesa, Yucca Mountain, Bear Butte, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Shell Mounds, and many, many more, the Longest Walk is here because we are still struggling to protect our cultures and land.”
'This movement is a healing of our communities,” said Kelvin Long, director of ECHOES, a Flagstaff based Indigenous rights organization.
"The continued desecration of sacred sites in America should be an affront to all people of conscience everywhere,” stated attorney and congressional candidate Howard Shanker. “Native Americans have no First Amendment Rights regarding public land use.” Shanker has successfully represented tribes and environmental groups in the precedent setting case to protect the holy Peaks.
Phil Stego Jr., Executive Director of Land Management for the White Mountain Apache Tribe stated, “For those of you that believe Indian wars are over, they are not. They are just beginning again. We will fight to the end for our people’s existence.” Stego also made a point to dispel the myth about the use of reclaimed water at Sunrise ski resort. He stated, “As the Director of Natural Resources for the White Mountain Apache, I can tell you that Snowbowl is lying. We are not using reclaimed water at our ski resort.”
"We have Navajo tribal officials who stand up to protect the sacred mountain but don’t realize that water is also sacred. We say that water is life,” said Calvin Johnson, president of C-Aquifer for Dine, an organization formed to oppose Peabody Coal’s use of the C-Aquifer for coal transport from Black Mesa. C-Aquifer for Dine also opposes the "Settlement Plan" that would reopen the Mohave Generating Station and Peabody Coal mining operations. Johnson led the crowd in chanting, “Protect sacred sites, defend human rights.”
"Right now 80% of the natural resources held underneath Indigenous people’s lands are being threatened. There is an ongoing war being waged for these resources.” said Enei Begaye, director of the Black Mesa Water Coalition.
”We agree that we need to stop the war in Iraq and end the occupation of other territories around the world. However it is important to remember that the U.S. is also occupying sovereign nations here in this country. On Behalf of Black Mesa Water Coalition, we’d like to honor the walkers for carrying this message,” said Begaye.
People from throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia who have joined the Longest Walk 2 offer their support to the struggles of Indigenous people in the United States. Jun Yasuda, a Buddhist nun from the Nipponzan Myohiji Order in Japan said, “Walk is a prayer, step by step we will walk until mother earth smiles.” Yasuda is a veteran of the 1978 Longest Walk and has continued to walk throughout the world for peace and Indigenous People’s rights.
The Longest Walk 2 is anticipated to arrive in Washington, D.C. on July 11, 2008. “Upon our arrival, we will deliver a resolution to elected officials. This resolution will document the struggles and concerns from each indigenous community that we encounter during our walk,” said Dennis Banks.
“Our intention is to give a greater voice to the environmental and indigenous struggles that our government doesn’t often acknowledge. The Havasupai recently invited us down into the Grand Canyon. They told us about the exploratory drilling for and the seepage of uranium into the Colorado River. We were hosted also by the Hualapai where chromium affects their daily lives today.” stated Banks.
During the 1978 Longest Walk, thousands converged on Washington, D.C. in an effort that defeated 11 pieces of legislation in Congress that would have abrogated Native American Treaties. As a result of the 1978 Walk, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (1978) was passed.
Since the arrival of the Longest Walk 2 to Flagstaff, many community members have volunteered to cook, provide housing, monetary donations and other supplies.”
“I feel like they are making history,” said Denise Stoner, an active Dine (Navajo) mom who has donated food and volunteered kitchen support. “Our rights need to be supported, if we don’t say anything now we might not have a chance to.” Denise Stoner also urged more people to get involved with the walk, “I know that its kind of hard because we are in a recession, times are tight right now but there are a lot of resources in this town, our community has a lot to offer.”
The walkers will remain in the Flagstaff area until March 29th. On Wednesday, March 26th at 6:30 p.m. a panel discussion on the Longest Walk 2 will be held at NAU’s Cline Auditorium. On Thursday, March 27th at 5:00 p.m. a benefit concert will be held at the Orpheum Theatre. On Friday, March 28th at 11 a.m. a prayer gathering will be held with opportunity for individuals to speak about issues impacting their communities. The gathering will be held at the Star School, located at 145 Leupp Rd.
After their Flagstaff visit, the Longest Walk 2 will continue though the Navajo Nation. For a complete itinerary, specific directions and additional information please visit: www.longestwalk.org. Colorado Governor Declares March 2008 "Longest Walk Month"
Longest Walk 2 Stands in Solidarity with Western Shoshone People's Rights for Environmental Protection and Protection of Sacred Sites
Colorado Governor Declares March, 2008 'Longest Walk Month'!
Submitted by Western Shoshone Defense Project
Denver, CO- On Monday, March 24th, the Northern Route of the Longest Walk 2 arrived at the Colorado State Capitol and held a rally and press
The press conference began with a proclamation from the Governor stating, "The State of Colorado recognizes the participants of the Longest Walk 2, welcomes them and encourages people around the state to take heed of their message that promotes peace, justice, environmentally friendly practices, and awareness of those in the Native American community that suffer. Therefore I Bill Ritter, Governor of Colorado do proclaim March 2008 Longest Walk Month in the state of Colorado."
The Longest Walk 2 is a trans-continental spiritual walk for environmental protection and Native American rights. Participants are on a five- month journey on foot from San Francisco and will arrive in Washington, D.C. on July 11, 2008. The Northern Route of The Longest Walk 2 is following the original route of 1978 that resulted in historic changes for Native Americans.
Following the Governor's proclamation read by Ernest House Jr, (Ute Mt. Ute) he stated, "Protection of Sacred Sites is something the state of Colorado continues to promote." Longest Walk 2 participant Weldon Austin (Western Shoshone/ Paiute) then read a statement on behalf of the Western Shoshone Defense Project, "Newmont knows they are operating on Shoshone lands in Nevada.
They have been told of the ongoing human rights violations and that the open pit cyanide mining is in violation of our traditional teachings". Western Shoshone Defense Project also offered support by stating "This walk, The Longest Walk 2, is about protection and healing."
Longest Walk 2 participants announced the nomination of Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone Grandmother and long time activist with the Western Shoshone Defense Project for the Nuclear Free Future Resistance Award. On February 28, The Longest Walk 2 trekked through Western Shoshone Territories and Carrie Dann honored participants with a visit.
The walkers continued from the State Capitol to the Newmont Mining Corporation headquarters to stand in solidarity with the Western Shoshone people in their effort to bring a commitment from Newmont Mining Corporation to respect spiritual areas on their land and to invite them to support the Longest Walk's mission to protect sacred places across the country.
A prayer vigil was held outside of Newmont headquarters where prayers and support were offered. Following an initial refusal by Newmont to meet with delegates from the walk, Jimbo Simmons, Coordinator for the Northern Route of the walk was able to successfully deliver the message asking Newmont Mining Company to stand up and be a leader in the mining industry and make a commitment to respect spiritual areas and adopt the corporate policy presented to them by Western Shoshone Defense Project in 2006.
Returning from Newmont Headquarters, Longest Walk 2 participants took a moment at the Civil War Memorial and Sand Creek Massacre Plaque in front of the State Capitol to offer prayers before the walk heads to the Sand Creek Massacre Site April 4-6, 2008.
The Longest Walk 2 is stopping in communities all across Turtle Island to listen to Native peoples concerns, document and deliver them to US officials in DC. They plan to bring the issues of sacred site desecration and environmental destruction facing the Western Shoshone Nation to the US Government upon arrival in Washington D.C.
After their Pueblo visit, the Longest Walk 2 will continue to the Sand Creek Massacre Site. For a complete itinerary, specific directions and additional information please visit: www.longestwalk.org.
*Media: High Resolution Photos available upon request
-- Morning Star Galiwww.longestwalk.orgwww.earthcycles.net
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