image of the longest walk

(The following is either adapted from, or excerpted directly from, "The Longest Walk 4" at http://returntoalcatraz.com/)

In 1978, 11 bills were introduced in the United States Congress that if passed would have harmed American Indian sovereign rights.

"This inspired some people such as Dennis Banks and Bill Wahpepah to come up Image 1978 Longest Walkwith a way of raising awareness about these bills and building support for Indian Treaty rights. They came up with an idea for a Walk across the land from Alcatraz to Washington D.C. So on February 11th, 1978 The Longest Walk began with a Ceremony on Alcatraz where a Sacred Pipe was filled, and that Pipe was carried across the land, with staffs and other sacred items. What started as a response to anti-Indian legislation soon became an affirmation of Indigenous Sovereignty. The Longest Walk was a spiritual walk, and the prayers were felt and heard by many Indigenous Peoples, as well as other Peoples from the four directions. The same cannot be said by those in Washington DC. Although all but one of the bills did not pass, the attitude in Washington toward finding new and creative ways to diminish Indian sovereignty did not end."

And what were its achievements? Following are the words of Longest Walk activist, Tawna Sanchez

"The Longest Walk in 1978 changed the face of Indian Country forever. In 1978 change was in process with the Indian Child Welfare Act and the Indian Religious Freedom Act; however, the minds of the people were, in a lot of cases, still very stagnate. The word sovereignty was not in our vocabulary nor in our minds as a doable concept. Many of our communities were just beginning to see the opportunities available to us with the passage of the Civil Right Act and the efforts of the American Indian Movement and the Black Power Movement.

The Longest Walk changed the way we thought, not only about our rights as people, but the way we thought about our responsibilities as Native people. We were reawakened to the concept of seven generations, ceremony, the relationship of everything on, in and above the earth, and that we had a greater responsibility to the earth than we were aware of. From those very few who started that Walk in 1978, to the thousands who ended it we were changed. Many of us went on to change so many things in Indian Country and we are not done yet.

If you doubt the impact of the Walk in 1978, I challenge you to look at changes that were made on reservations, in urban areas, and even for those who are not recognized by the US Government in the years that followed and see if those change makers were not impacted by the Longest Walk. Yes, the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Indian Religious Freedom Act and the American Indian Movement itself had a major impact on the shifts in Indian Country, but those individual Native people whose feet hit the pavement from San Francisco to Washington DC in 1978, were the foot soldiers of that change. Without those individual hearts and minds to move that change forward, to work, pray, and plan for the next seven generations, we would not be where we are today. No, we are not where we need to be, but we are closer than we Map of longest walk 2 routeshave been in over a hundred years."

Longest Walk 2. In 2008, thirty years after the Longest Walk, AIM led the Longest Walk 2, which started in San Francisco and arrived in Washington in July 2008. This 8,200-mile walk included representatives from more than 100 American Indian nations. The walk highlighted the need to protect American Indian sacred sites, tribal sovereignty, and the environment - with a special emphasis on action to stop global warming. Participants traveled through 26 states and 35 reservations on either the Northern Route, - the original 1978 route led by veterans of the Long Walk - or the newly-created Southern Route whose walkers picked up more than 8,000 bags of garbage on their way to Washington. The walkers arrived in Washington D.C. on July 11th with the message "All Life is Sacred, Protect Mother Earth."

Longest Walk 4

The Longest Walk 4: Return to Alcatraz wasg initiated by those on the original, The Longest Walk in 1978. The walk began on July 15 with a sunrise ceremony at the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. and it followed the general route taken by the walkers from the first Longest Walk in 1978. The walk ended December 21 at Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, California.

"We have Map of the Longest Walk 4 routegone to Washington D.C. many times to seek justice, the protection of treaty rights, and the continuing existence of our Peoples and Ways of Life. They have had their opportunity. The time has come to reclaim for ourselves the prayers that have gone east and bring them back full circle to Alcatraz, the symbol of the modern assertion of what has been called the Red Power Movement. We Walk to educate our own Peoples on what Tribal Sovereignty means from an Indigenous Peoples way of life. We Walk to affirm to the world that we still continue as free and sovereign Peoples as we define it. We Walk to remind those of our Peoples engaged in dealing with the nation-states that tribal sovereignty is not defined by non-Indigenous laws, rules and regulations; nor by economic development, good governance, and corporate structures. These elements may be pragmatic, but they do not define us. We Walk with the spirits of our ancestors for the present and for the future generations so that we as Peoples do not forget what makes us Indigenous. We also Walk to remind all peoples that Leonard Peltier and his continuing incarceration is symbolic of the continuing incarceration of all Indigenous Peoples in the policies and political structures of the colonial nation-states. The time has come for the release of Leonard Peltier based on principles of reconciliation. It seems strange and one sided that nation-states seek forgiveness for horrendous crimes against our Peoples such as massacres, land confiscations, the theft of our children to abusive boarding schools and such, yet can't find a way to release a person who has served over 30 years in prison, for what happened during a time of conflict. Leonard Peltier should be freed on this principle of reconciliation regardless of what one may think in terms of justice, innocence or guilt.

As this Walk is about the spiritual foundations of our sovereignty as talked about in The Longest Walk Manifesto of 1978, we also ask for elders and spiritual leaders to come and lend support and advice where possible."

Longest Walk 5

In 2015, Dennis Banks announced that a new Longest Walk would take place in 2016. To that end, the following statement was released

Statement of Longest Walk 5