Longest Walk 2 participants head to Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
After five months and more than 8,000 miles, participants in the Longest Walk 2 are finally near their final destination.
Led by American Indian Movement co-founder Dennis Banks, more than 100 walkers left San Francisco on February 11. After crossing the southern and northern parts of the United States, the group is headed to the nation's capitol for a series of events this week.
"We come from all corners of America and some from around the world," Banks said. "We are converging on Washington, D.C., starting on July 11th to deliver a message to the U.S. Congress and the world about the fate of the United States, all our relations and Mother Earth."
Banks organized the first Longest Walk in 1978 to call attention to harsh conditions in Indian Country. Thirty years later, he is working to raise awareness of global warming, sacred sites and cultural survival.
To build his message, Banks and the walkers visited Indian communities across the county to hear about their environmental struggles. Among other locations, they stopped in New Mexico to hear from members of the Navajo Nation who oppose a power plant; in Lawrence, Kansas, to learn about a campaign to protect the wetlands near Haskell Indian Nations University; and in Louisiana to find out about the lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina on the Houma Nation.
With most of their journey complete, the walkers are now in Greenbelt, Maryland, just outside DC. Starting today and running through Thursday, they are participating in a cultural survival summit.
At 10am on Thursday, Banks and other Indian leaders will hold a press conference on the National Mall to discuss their efforts. On Friday, walkers will meet at the Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park in northwest DC to make their way to the White House and then to the U.S. Capitol, where they plan to present a "Manifesto to Change" to Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan).
After the presentation, the walk moves to the Vietnam Memorial on the Mall for a speech. A tribute to the late Floyd Red Crow Westerman, who died last December, and Vernon Bellecourt, another AIM founder who died last October, will take place at the National Sylvan Theater at the Washington Monument on the Mall.
The events will wrap up on Saturday and Sunday with a powwow on the Mall, near the National Museum of the American Indian. The powwow is set to end Sunday evening at 6pm.
A full schedule of events can be found at the Longest Walk 2 website.