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Native Americans Begin the Longest Walk 2
by Christina Aanestad
Tuesday Feb 12th, 2008 8:38 AM
Native American activists and their supporters began the Longest Walk 2 today from Alcatraz Island to Washington DC – trekking across the country to raise awareness about global warming and the movement to protect sacred sites. The five month-long coast-to-coast journey commemorates the 30 year anniversary of the original Longest Walk in 1978.
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Native youth and elders will be walking through Midwest winters with snow and below 0 weather, 15 miles a day for the next 5 months. While elders are putting effort into the longest walk, most
of the walkers are Native youth. They descended on Alcatraz Island to kick off the Longest Walk 2.

"I'm a descendant of Cortina Rancheria-Winimum Wintun. Our tribe is about 103 members. They're putting in a massive landfill to put trash over our sacred sites. We have 7 people that live on the reservation. Our elders that live on the reservation are totally against the destruction of our
land… There's A lot of gang violence upon the youth, and a lot of drug addictions within the families. I want to walk, for the healing for our people, the healing of our younger generations and to start standing up... Our generation has lost the connection to spirituality and now we're beginning to find it again."

Native American's with AIM-the Ameircan Indian Movement, organized the first Longest Walk in 1978 to bring attention to the U.S. governments attempt to chip away at tribal soverignity. It was the same year Native youth occupied Alcatraz, a prison that once held Native Americans for refusing to send thier children to boarding schools that taught only white ways-forced assimilation. Faye Roman, a Choctaw from Oklahoma, went on the longest walk in 1978 with her three young sons. She says at the time there were 11 bills pending before congress, that would have eroded what soverignity her people had.

"The bills that were in congress that year wanted to take away Indian rights-and when we say Indian we want to stress they wanted to take away the reservations, they wanted to phase out the reservations, they wanted to phase out some of the treaties that the United States had signed with the native nations, and it would have totally caused chaos. They would have taken away funding for Indian education, they would have taken away land and water rights."

For many the struggle continues. Since the 1970's the Western Shoshone have opposed the U.S. government's use of sacred land to test nuclear weapons and store nuclear waste. They have also opposed gold mining there. Since the 1960's The University of California Berkeley has
witheld over 12 thousand Native American skeletal remains from Native American tribes fighting to reclaim them.

Lupita Toledo, is a student at DQ University, one of the nation's oldest Native American colleges. She says the issues facing native communities 30 years ago, are the same today.

"The same issues that were affecting our communities about 30 years ago are still the same issues that are affecting us now. The power plants, the uranium mining, the coal mining, the nuclear power plant's, the coal power plants. Most of the pollution comes from those coal power plants. The nuclear power plants are not clean. There's a lot of toxics waste you have to dump and all those things are residing on the Indian reservations and it's causing things like asthma, diabetes, mercury in the air."

That's why Native Americans are again walking from California to Washington dc. This time, they'll be taking two routes. Faye Roman's son, Jimbo Simmons, is organizing the original Northern route. A member of the International Indian Treaty Council, he will be revisiting Native Communities he walked through, 30 years aog, when he wa 15 years old.

"Mount Tenabo, which is sacred to the Shoshone people, which is under threat for gold minig. When we say protect Mother Earth we mean all forms--to the desecration of sacred sites to oil development, to energy exploitation that's happening to her, which affects the environment and
which brings us to the issues of climate change and some of the issues that are directly affecting our communitities, such as those in Alaska and the Inuit in Greenland."

The 2nd Longest Walk will culminate in Washington DC, this summer, where activists will draft an indigenous declaration calling for the protection of Mother Earth.