Editor's Note: The Longest Walk 3 - Reversing Diabetes will conclude in Washington on Friday, July 8. The message the Longest Walk is a powerful one: American Indians are suffering from diabetes at epidemic rates.
During the upcoming week, the Native News Network will feature special articles on the Longest Walk and the devastating impact diabetes has in Indian Country and to all Americans.
Today's feature is from an excerpt from "Thinking in Indian: A John Mohawk Reader"(Fulcrum Publishing - 2010). The feature was written by Mr. Mohawk during the summer of 1978 after he participated in a portion of the Longest Walk
Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Longest Walk 3. Discussion »
As we pulled out of the park, the line grew enormous. We walked into the heart of Washington, DC, past some of the most impressive-appearing real estate in the world. The words, the purpose, and the ultimate reason behind this gathering of people were growing. We marched into the center of one of the United States' most impressive displays of wealth-a march that included what are undisputedly among the poorest and most powerless people on the continent. Police were everywhere now photographing the marchers, sitting on their motorcycles. We passed the Organization on American States building, and the White House. If the crowd was large when we entered Malcolm X Park, it was much larger when we came into the center of the city. People came out of their offices to watch. Some stood silently, almost disbelievingly, while others applauded. But everywhere the people came to watch, along the sidewalks, or from the windows of offices along the route.
Estimates of the size of the march ranged from a low of a few hundred to a high of nearly thirty thousand. I don't know how large the crowd was. I only know that from the middle, it was not possible to see either the beginning or the end of the line and that as we entered the Washington Monument grounds, the line was probably five deep and could have stretched out for two miles or more. I had seen more people on demonstrations during the anti-war movements days, and even a week earlier, a hundred thousand people had demonstrated in support of the ERA.
But for American people to put the same percentage of people in the streets, they would need a demonstration with about six million people. And I knew, from looking around for those I would have expected to see, that there were many, many who had not come, even among the leadership. It wasn't out of apathy or lack of brotherhood, but many had not come because there is important work to be done at home.
We stopped in the shade of some trees to one side of the Washington Monument. People were tired. Some had dropped off along the way. Generally there was a good mood, a feeling of accomplishment. We had hoped there would be support among the Indian people. There was. The event belongs on a calendar somewhere: July 15, 1978 - date of the strongest demonstration of Indian unity this century. So far.
All day long at camp, people had been meeting in their various areas. Some of the camp areas didn't wait to follow the schedule that had been posted, and a number of people expressed a sentiment that indicated the futility of going to Washington to talk to people representing the US government. Some of the daytime meetings were excellent-the people were talking. There was a growing sense of participation. Things had the appearance of change. It was good.
It was nighttime on Sunday and we were sitting at one of the small camps, around an open fire, talking. The group was young and they had met each other really perhaps for the first time this week. But they knew each other. They had all come in by caravan from the same reservation.
"I think I know how to explain it," a young woman, perhaps twenty, was saying. "The thing is, it was among the traditional people that I first learned how to pray. I mean really pray. Oh yeah, I knew how to do that 'Now I lay me down to sleep' thing." The group laughed.
"But what I mean is, well, this year I really learned how to pray-when it meant something. I went out west, where they have sweat lodges every few days. And when you're in a sweat lodge, when you are in there suffering and you have to come in there to suffer, to share something with the other people, to touch them, that's when you first come in touch with yourself."
"And I think I know what they mean about the right way now too. I have seen some of the right way. The right way to pray, so that it means something. The way to be among your friends, so that they mean something to you. That's what I've been learning."
A young man carried their thoughts. "The right way means to live by the way our ancestors did. That was the right way. A pure way of life. One mind with the Spirit. I learned, too, how to pray, how to be. Now I only have to find a way to live the right way."
"But our people don't want to live that way, at least most of them don't," another young man said. "Most of our people have never prayed, really prayed, in their whole lives. And they don't care that much about anything or anyone. Just so long as they have a little money and they don't have to work too hard."
"Yes," said another. "But don't forget. They can't help it. They were sold a bill of goods just like we were. They were taught that they were following the right way, when in face they were given was just the opposite from the spiritual way, I can see that now. But they can't see it. Not yet. But now that we know, what we can do about it?"
My mind wandering to a meeting we had had this spring in Louisville, Kentucky, while on a Voices from the Earth trip. We had been invited to a dinner with a group of people who lived in a community house in the city. They called their organization Ananda Marga, and they were a spiritual people who found their teacher in a man movement that has its roots in India. They practiced a strict personal discipline, and their philosophy was based, as is our own, on principles of charity.
Before we ate, a young woman took a guitar and she led a song, a beautifully done song: "We are one with the Spirit. We are one in a unity," it began. "We will show them with our love. With our love, that God is living in this land!" They know, I thought. And now these young people, they are beginning to know too.
*In summer 1978, in response to legislation that would abrogate treaties, thousands of Native people marched from California to Washington DC -Ed.
The Native News Network was granted permission to publish this excerpt and will do so in four parts.
posted July 6, 2011 7:32 pm et
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