Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights December 2019

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Friday, April 18, 2008

Dooda (NO) Desert Rock welcomes Longest Walk Southern Route

Dooda (NO) Desert Rock welcomes Dennis Banks and the Longest Walk Southern Route. Navajos are fighting a power plant on their land which is being pushed by the Navajo Nation Council and Navajo President Joe Shirley, Jr. Polluting industries which destroy the earth, water and air -- including power plants, coal mining and gas wells -- provide the majority of the revenues for elected tribal politicians' salaries and travel expense funds.
Courtesy Photo Elouise Brown


By Elouise Brown
Dooda Desert Rock

CHACO RIO, NM - On April 6th, DDR welcomed over 100 participants of the Longest Walk II to New Mexico, as they made their historic walk across the United States to raise awareness about Native American rights and environmental issues. The event marked the thirty-year anniversary of the first Longest Walk journey in 1978.
Supporters from all over the World showed up to support Dooda Desert Rock organization in this great, historical event. One observer noted that, “It was like a gathering of the United Nations with people from a variety of cultures, ages, and backgrounds. Navajos, Chinese, Japanese, African-American, a Tibetan monk, Russia, Australia, Poland and Anglos were the groups recognized, and there were others as well as 628 plus supporters,” said a supporter, William Southworth. DDR members began the day with the sunrise ceremony and the flag ceremony, before making the pre-dawn trip to the Arizona-New Mexico border to meet the Longest Walk II walkers and join them in their walk to the DDR camp at Chaco Rio.
Several supporters remained at the DDR camp, cooking food, and making last minute preparations for the Mother Earth/Father Sky Music Festival. The air was charged with the excitement and anticipation of the Longest Walk II’s arrival. When the walkers first appeared on the distant horizon, the echoes of war cries punctuated the air. As the Longest Walk II made their final approach into the DDR camp, the large welcoming crowd erupted in cheers of support for the brothers and sisters making this historic walk.
Native American leader and AIM co-founder, Dennis Banks, headed the procession, followed by DDR president Elouise Brown, DDR group, staff carriers, flag bearers, and the walkers. It was a proud and emotional moment for DDR and all of the supporters who turned out for the event. As the walkers entered the camp, they formed a circle with the supporters, and listened as Mr. Banks greeted the crowd. He talked about their travels, noting that they were on their 53rd day of travel, and had walked 1330 miles on their journey from San Francisco to Washington D.C. He recognized and thanked the staff carriers and flag bearers, explaining that the staffs represented the history of the Native people, and the flags came from the various states represented in the walk. Mr. Banks spoke about the eagle feathers he carried, saying, “Each of you are like an eagle feather. When you drop, there is a ceremony to pick you back up, and if you drop again, there is still a ceremony to send you on your spirit journey.”
During his opening remarks, Mr. Banks recalled that his initial resistance to stopping at the DDR camp was changed once he gave Elouise Brown an opportunity to tell the story of the struggle her family, and the Dine people, have been engaged in since first learning about the proposed plan to build the Desert Rock power plant. Inspired by the story of a woman leading the charge to stop this ill-conceived project, Mr. Banks graciously lent his support and agreed to come to Chaco Rio. He acknowledged the tremendous work Ms. Brown and the DDR organization have done to preserve the sacred environment and the Dine way of life, and publicly offered his support towards DDR’s continued efforts.
Among the walkers were several people who had made the first walk in 1978. The youngest walker celebrated her 17th birthday during the journey. She was the daughter of a woman who had participated in the 1969-1971 occupation of Alcatraz, and been a part of the 1978 walk. In a moving interview, she described the profound effect her mother had had on her life, and the inspiration and support she received when she decided to join this walk. After the welcoming ceremonies, DDR provided a wonderful feast for everyone, and the Mother Earth/Father Sky Music Festival got underway. A variety of Native American bands entertained the crowd throughout the day and into the evening. Interviews with several people recognized the spiritual connectedness and inspiration felt in the presence of the Longest Walk II participants and the continued grass roots environmental work spearheaded by DDR. “This is a great turn-out for a great cause. It is an awakening for a lot of people. We really need to raise the consciousness of everybody in order to put it on a national agenda. This event is one of the most beautiful happenings I’ve ever been blessed to witness. Seeing so many people gathered together towards such a beautiful effort is just so moving,” said another supporter, Christy Ferrato.
During the Longest Walk II’s travels, participants are learning about Native American issues and environmental concerns across the country. On April 7th, DDR escorted the Longest Walk II to the proposed Desert Rock power plant site. Walkers had an opportunity to experience the beauty of the land, see ancestral burial sites, and other sacred sites. The story of DDR’s work to halt the construction of this environmentally disastrous project was shared with the Longest Walk II, and they will be taking this story all the way to Washington D.C. In July, the Longest Walk II will present a charter of recommendations to protect Native people and the environment, based upon what they learn as they make their journey.
The walkers returned to the DDR camp for another evening of food, music, and storytelling. Ms. Brown had the opportunity to spend several hours talking with Mr. Banks, discussing DDR issues and listening to Mr. Banks insights about these issues. The next day, DDR led the walk to Crownpoint, NM, and they have been walking with the Longest Walk II ever since. They plan to continue walking all the way to Washington D.C.

For more on the Longest Walk:

Power plants and exhausts in US cause melting Arctic, destroying polar bear habitat
Statement of the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and Natural Resources Defense Councilon Bush Administration’s Request for Further Delay in Protecting Polar Bears From Global Warming

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