SAN FRANCISCO, CA – On February 11 more than two hundred participants began the Longest Walk 2, a five month cross-country journey on foot to spread their message that all life is sacred. The walkers have come together from many Native American nations and other communities in order to raise awareness about the environment, to visit and promote the protection of sacred Native sites, and to help clean up our Mother Earth.
People have come from as far away as England, Poland, and Australia to participate and support this historic spiritual walk. A group of Japanese Buddhist monks have joined the walk for its entire journey. The walkers are currently traveling along two separate routes on their way to Washington, DC, which they plan to reach in July.
“We’re asking all peoples, of all colors, of all religions, to join us,” said Wounded Knee, a 65-year-old California Mewuk. “We believe all life is sacred. So, we walk for world peace and justice and the environment, to heal Mother Earth.” Those on the southern route are traveling through southwestern and southern states. Those on the northern route are walking across the center of the US, visiting Colorado, Missouri, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, among other states, before arriving in Washington. The northern route is the same route taken by the first Longest Walk, which celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year.
The first Longest Walk occurred in 1978 in response to proposed congressional legislation that sought to change U.S. Government treaties with Native nations. The Walk was an amazing success: through education and peaceful demonstration, it generated enough popular support to stop eleven proposed bills that threatened Native sovereignty and treaty rights. The walk also led to the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. Many veterans of the first walk are participating in the current walk, and are educating a new generation of walkers.
Walk organizer Jimbo Simmons, who was on the 1978 walk said, “We feel like the human family has one commonality, and that’s Mother Earth. We were trying to protect that [during the first walk], and we still continue to.”
In addition to the work of education and cultural preservation, the current walkers are also doing the hard work of cleaning up our country’s highways and roads by collecting debris found along the route. Participants are carrying specially marked trash bags and separating the collected refuse into trash and re cycling bins. The walkers are also listening to and recording the concerns and ideas of the people they meet from across the country, and preparing to deliver a message to Congress when they arrive in Washington, DC.
Those on the northern route are broadcasting a live solar-powered radio webcast every day, and walkers on both routes are posting daily blogs and photos from the frontlines of this historic walk.