The Longest Walk 5 began another historic journey across the United States on a 4,000 mile walk starting February 12, 2017, this time to raise awareness for drug abuse and domestic violence. The walk concluded with a week of advocacy July 10-14 in Washington DC and a celebration at the Lincoln Memorial on July 15, 2017.
The day-long celebration at Lincoln Memorial was a unity gathering, the culmination of a mission to cross the continent on foot, with leaders issuing a “Call to Action” to stop the destruction and unite people of all nations.
“We need to stand united on all the issues Native Americans and America faces today,” Dennis Banks, founder of the American Indian Movement, said. “To do so we must have a strong society. Standing Rock proved we can come together to aid to each other. We must continue in that same spirit and halt the flow of drugs and violence into our communities to remain strong. Victory shall dwell in the house of unity, to those that follow that spirit.”
Brave leaders have been walking across the country over the past 40 years for the indigenous movement, embarking on the five-month journey to raise awareness, hope and discover solutions to help put an end to the pressing issues we face in society. These devoted activists are fueled by the injustice happening on our earth, in our communities, and carry a strong message for peace.
Watch video of walkers in “The Drum Will Never Stop” below:
Each Longest Walk has brought awareness to specific causes. Because of the extremely high rate of abuse, suicides and drug related deaths and destruction, Dennis Banks issued the 2017 Walk across America to be one dedicated to halt the flow of drugs and violence into their communities.
“The abuse is causing devastation on Indian Reservations and communities in the United States. If we don’t act now, the seventh generation will condemn us for doing nothing to halt this massive abuse and drug storm we are caught in,” he said.
Organizers and “walkers” led by current National Chief, Director Bobby Wallace have used the opportunity of the walk to work with communities, collecting data on issues and seeking information on ways to help the people. They intend to use the wisdom gathered to help prepare a new generation of Native leaders and community leaders to help guide us to a better future.
Wallace said: “People of Mother Earth, we must embrace the wisdom of our ancestors and pray for the good of all. We are strong when unified and together we will manifest deep healing and positive transformation for our world.”
Dennis Banks honored Bobby with leadership of The Longest Walk, knowing he will carry the message of the people and stand strong, dedicated to the movement for many years to come. He is serving an important role in the American Indian Movement and backed by tribes nationwide.
The Unity gathering at Lincoln Memorial was powerful and inspiring. The indigenous community and activists are passionately committed to spreading awareness and bringing healing to all people.
The day started with a Water Ceremony lead by the women on the west side of the Arlington Memorial Bridge. They continued to walk from there and were greeted by Chief Dennis Banks founder of the American Indian Movement and lifelong advocate for justice.
Kid Valance, Run Captain, reminded us that we are all interconnected with the Walk and sang a beautiful song,“To Be Here”. The spiritual runners carried the heavy load of the Walk with amazing commitment and dignity. They lived by their motto “Every step is a prayer, every mile a ceremony”.
Long time AIM activist and musician Robby Romero honored everyone with his music and showed support for the mission. Many other indigenous leaders, drummers and chanters also sang and spoke, representing their nation.
The goal of Longest Walk 5, besides raising awareness of the issues of drug abuse and domestic violence, is to “create a coalition of mentors across the country to help us practice the way of the warrior class. All too often we forget that our individual lives are part of a bigger picture and we are all affected by one another on some level. When you practice the warrior code of ethics you have more self-worth and strength to face challenges. We must all respect the code to create a healthier society.”
And the lesson we can all take away with us from their 4,000 mile journey?
“The biggest lesson we have learned is that we all hurt and heal in our own personal way,” it says on their website. “That is why it is so important to have treatment centers across the lands that incorporate the many treatments proven to work.”
The Longest Walk invites financial support for the next walk to continue efforts and focus on solutions for our earth and people. They also invite walkers and those interested in donating time/resources to being a part of the solution.
Story by: Dallas Santana and Kalibri (Nadine Casanova)
Photo Credits: Dallas Santana, Kalibri (Nadine Casanova) and Paul Komarek