by Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
Palm Springs -- It was a chilly and rainy end to my coverage of the first leg of the Longest Walk 3 - Reversing Diabetes on the Morongo Indian Reservation, twenty miles north of Palm Springs, California. As I waited for my ride to Palm Springs, I sat in the hospitality tent listening to the local tribal bird singers. It was so chilly that the singers’breath could be seen. Some walkers hovered around and danced with the Morongo tribal females who danced and sang to lend support to the singers.
Marchers at the Soboba Indian Reservation
The chill and rain seemed to foreshadow the harshness of the trip these cross-continental walkers were embarking. To my disappointment, major news networks were not covering this historical walk, thus leaving the real coverage to the independent news and bloggers.
A Marcher Signs the Banner
This was my first participation in a Longest Walk led by Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement. On this walk, I met others who had walked across America with Banks.
In 1978, Banks was joined by twenty-six people who made the entire journey across the continent ending up at the Washington Memorial in Washington, DC. At least three of the original twenty-six began the Longest Walk 3. They are now warrior elders, who cannot walk long distances, but showed up with canes in hand to support the younger generation of American Indian activists.
Upon arrival in Washington back in 1978, the walkers were greeted and joined by thirty thousand other American Indians and supporters, such as Muhammad Ali, Senator Edward Kennedy and Marlon Brando.
The Longest Walk in 1978 helped to derail eleven pieces of federal legislation that sought to take away treaty rights involving water and land rights. As a result of the Longest Walk, none of the legislation was ever passed.
Dennis Banks Speaks with Passion for Us All
The Longest Walk 3 is a demonstration of those committed to a cause. This walk is intended to attest to the serious problem of diabetes. Banks, who discovered he was diabetic two years ago, has a stump speech that he used all week long on some eight Indian reservations throughout southern California. He speaks with passion about Indians watching what they eat and how they should exercise.
Banks tells American Indian audiences,
“You cannot blame your eating habits on the white man.”
While I was only with this group for the first week of the walk, I could hardly believe the revelations I gained. Walking for so long tests your endurance both physically and mentally; such as, walking despite blisters and leg cramps, walking in the bright sunshine or pouring rain, sleeping on floors in tribal buildings, and remembering all those that have suffered from diabetes. Several of my family members have been diagnosed with diabetes and have either died too young or undergone dialysis because of it.
Seeing so many people committed to go all the way to Washington, DC, I discovered we are very alike even though we come from various tribes, from different parts of the country. With such a fervent goal in mind, everyone is able to encourage and inspire each other.
In previous years, I have marched in Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez events on the respective days recognizing their accomplishments. I discovered my participation in those events were mere symbolic gestures good for media coverage that paled that of those who committed to walking across the United States to fight diabetes.
Sadly, even with all the informational brochures about diabetes and other efforts among American Indian tribes, there is still much work to be done to arrest the problem.
We know that diabetes does not simply affect American Indians. Nationwide, diabetes is at epidemic proportions. The Longest Walk 3 - Reversing Diabetes seeks the spread the word for all people of all races and ethnicities. It is important that everyone find some way to support the walk.
Join the Discussion!
Thank you for visiting. We are loading the new Native News Network website. Visitors always come first, so if you click on a link only to find the corresponding page is unavailable, please use this link to contact us here ».
Then, tell us how we can help you.
I will contact you personally.