All but the hardiest of thru-hikers would probably cap their desire to hike uninterrupted at a couple hundred miles or so. But marching for a cause can put fire into the feet of almost anyone. That's what happened when Native American activists and supporters left Alcatraz Island, Calif. on Feb. 11, bound for a 3,000-mile trek to Washington D.C., where they will deliver a two-inch-thick document detailing their concerns for environmental protection, sacred sites, and human rights on both reservations and public lands. Welcome to The Longest Walk 2.
Two groups, each numbering a few hundred people, have taken a northern and a southern route to the nation's capital to raise awareness, stopping at pivotal Native American historical sites along the way. The southern walkers, led by American Indian Movement co-founder and Leech Lake Ojibwe member Dennis Banks, are currently in New Mexico, and they will continue on through Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Choctaw tribe member Jimbo Simmons is guiding the northern group through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
In addition to promoting harmony with the Earth and social justice for indigenous people, the Longest Walk 2 commemorates the 30th anniversary of the original Longest Walk, which in 1978 started with 17 people but ended with 60,000 converging on Washington to protest legislation that would have abolished treaties protecting sovereignty rights for Native people. The original walk also helped pass the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978, which preserves traditional religious rights for Native Americans.
So far, people from places as far as Japan, Germany, Poland, Russia, Mexico, Argentina and Australia have joined and pledged to walk all the way with the Native American activists. Both groups are traveling with minimal support and without sponsors, but several cities, towns, and reservations have opened their doors to the determined travelers. Both groups expect to arrive in D.C. on July 11 where, after they deliver their message for change, they can hopefully sit down for a long, long time. — Ted Alvarez
Walk On (Reznet)
For more information on The Longest Walk 2, visit http://www.sacredrun.org/