Representatives from 13 different indigenous tribes are walking from Washington, D.C., to Alcatraz, Calif.
Several of those walkers, who are taking part in the Longest Walk 4: Return to Alcatraz, spent the night between El Dorado and Leon Thursday at Cardinal Creek Farm, after stopping their journey for the day near Cassoday.
Thursday was day 74 of their 160-day trip, which began on July 15. This walk was organized by walkers from the original The Longest Walk, which took place in 1978 affirming Indian sovereignty.
“We are taking it full circle,” said Michael Lane, who is one of the walkers and is from the Menominee Nation. “It’s quite a long commitment.”
Lane said they are remembering the Red Power Movement and the occupation in Alcatraz.
“A lot of our own people and allies have lost track of the significance,” Lane said.
This walk for the indigenous people carries different meanings for the different participants.
Lane, who is on his third walk, said when he thinks about sovereignty, he thinks about responsibility and respect.
As part of the walk they are carrying sacred staffs, including the sovereignty staff which will go every step of the way.
He said he has been working on indigenous sovereignty since the original walk, which he was a part of as well as the walk in 1998.
Also joining the walk was Sharon Heta from New Zealand, Lane’s wife.
She is walking to reclaim and revitalize indigenous language and culture.
“That’s why it is important to me,” she said. “This walk is about bringing worldwide attention to the resistance indigenous people face every day of their lives, in their relationship to responsibility to take care of the land and water.”
The actual walking she said was the easiest part because she is in prayer during that time, praying for people who are ill.
“We have people who are sick come up and ask us to pray for them,” she said.
“It’s very humbling when you’re walking.”
Chief Gordon Plain Bull, Jr., had a different view of sovereignty and his reason for walking.
“To be sovereign is a man or woman who does things for themselves without anyone telling them what to do,” he said.
He said it is about culture, laws, spiritual and emotional aspects.
“They tell us we have sovereignty on our reservations but we don’t,” he said, explaining the government tells them how to live.
Page 2 of 3 - He went on to say there are four colors of humans and they are all connected.
“True sovereignty too comes from unity,” said Plain Bull, who is a Sioux from the Fort Peck Tribe in Montana. “I hope people learn about unity, about living a true life on your own, the way we used to live.”
Wayne Hamilton, who took the name Brother of Crow, said he was walking for several reasons.
He is walking for sovereignty of people but also a duty and responsibility to Mother Earth.
He said in his hometown in Indiana every year the crows come into the city and the city makes war on them.
He said he went to the mayor and city council there to remind them they are not given to the spirit of fear.
He said they would set off explosives every few minutes to scare the crows away.
“When children go to sleep at night they hear the sound of gunfire echo through our city,” he said.
This was something he did not think was right.
As part of his efforts to save the crows, he took the name Brother of Crow and has a crow on the staff he carries.
“That’s one of my causes,” he said.
He also has a lock of hair from his granddaughter, who is going to have a bone marrow transplant soon.
In addition his staff is made of Ash wood, which he carries for the Ash tree to bring awareness of their demise by the ash borer.
For Emilio Montez, who is from Mexico, the walk is about bringing awareness.
“To me it is important to be here and tell people this is what we are,” he said. “As humans we have to understand to take care of Mother Earth. This is our home.”
He said most immigrants have roots of indigenous people.
“It is important to remind people we are here,” he said.
He said the support they have seen throughout their walk so far has shown him love is there.
“It is important to remind people to give without thinking of receiving,” Montez continued.
For Carl Bad Bear Sampson, who is from Reno, Nevada, he has been a supporter of this movement since he went on the 2008 walk.
Sampson, who is half Shoshone and half Piaute, joined the last walk at the Lake Tahoe area. This walk he joined in Illinois.
Page 3 of 3 - “For a tribal member we are co-trustees of the Earth and caretakers of the land,” he said. “Freedom of religion is important for our ways, traditions and culture to stay alive and teacher younger generations to be proud of being native or indigenous.”
He said after the Wounded Knee Massacre they couldn’t practice religion or ceremonies until after the first The Longest Walk.
“We got our sovereignty back somewhat,” he said.
He said they are walking not only for themselves, but for the young kids, those in school or working and the elderly who cannot go on the walk themselves.
He said they all have different backgrounds but have come together to be messengers.
“We are participating and are messengers to spread the word all life is sacred and now sovereign,” Sampson said.
He said his people want to know the government will honor the treaties.
“For me, the walk didn’t just stop in 2008,” he said. “I am still living it and trying to be active. I go if it’s needed.”
While there was a core group of eight who stopped in El Dorado, they expect to be back up to 20 people. Walkers come and go throughout the walk, but there is always someone carrying the sovereignty staff the entire route. Tribes on the walk include Western Shoshone, Piaute, Menominee, Chinook, Dakota, Crow, Cree, Tahoe, Ngati Pukeko, Ngati Awa, Ngapuhi, Onondaga and Objibwe.
While on the walk they stay at state parks or with people they meet along the way such as when they stopped in Art Room 114 and met Brenda Yarnall, who owns Cardinal Creek Farm along with her husband Dennis. From here, they were heading to Wichita and would continue to Colorado after that via Highway 50. For more information about the walk, visit www.returntoalcatraz.com.