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Hundreds to Join in Second ‘Longest Walk’ from Alcatraz to D.C.
by Longest Walk 2 Coordinator
Wednesday Jan 30th, 2008 11:52 PM
Hundreds to Join in Second ‘Longest Walk’ from Alcatraz to D.C.
Protection of Mother Earth & Native American Cultural Survival

See the Longest Walk Calendar of Events Posted Below
SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- On February 11, 2008, more than two hundred participants of the Longest Walk 2 will embark on a five-month journey on foot from San Francisco, arriving in Washington, D.C. on July 11, 2008.
Native American Tribal leaders, religious groups, environmentalists, teachers, students, and people from throughout the world are joining the walk with its peaceful and spiritual call to action to protect Mother Earth and defend Human Rights.

Our mission is to raise awareness about the planetary crisis by walking to reconnect with the land, increase respect for cultural diversity, stimulate dialogue about connections between nature and culture, and protect sacred lands and diverse spiritual practices.”

2008 marks the 30th anniversary of the original Longest Walk of 1978 that resulted in historic changes for Native America.

"In 1978, our communities faced many hardships such as non-existing religious rights and criminalization of our people who fought for cultural survival. This is why the Longest Walk was necessary.” states Jimbo Simmons of the International Indian Treaty Council. “As Indigenous Peoples in the United States our environment and our cultural survival are directly correlated and are still imperiled today. This is why we must walk once again.”

Thousands converged on the Nations Capitol in 1978 to join efforts that defeated 11 pieces of legislation in Congress that would have abrogated Native American Treaties.
In addition to this success, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) of 1978 was also passed.

Veterans of the original walk and younger generations alike have been clear that the 2008 Longest Walk is more than a commemoration.

Open to people of all nations and cultures, the Longest Walk 2 is being organized by original walkers as well as the next generation of Native American activists.
Walkers will be documenting issues impacting the communities they visit.

The Longest Walk 2 will take two routes. The Northern route will travel the original route of 1978 across 11 states and 3,600 miles. The Southern route will follow the 2006 Sacred Run route across 13 states and 4,400 miles. Both routes will visit Sacred Sites along the way and bring awareness for protection and preservation of our Mother Earth. The Southern route will be launching a “Clean Up Mother Earth Campaign” where Longest Walk participants will work together to clean up our country’s highways and roads by collecting debris found along the Longest Walk route.

American Indian Movement Co-founder Dennis J. Banks states, “From Alcatraz Island to Washington, D.C., through the elements of the seasons, we shall walk; nothing shall deter us from completing our mission: All Life is Sacred, Protect Mother Earth.”



February 8, 2008: Friday
Welcoming Dinner at Intertribal Friendship House
Community Potluck -- Please bring a dish to share.
Presentations and slide shows of the 1978 Longest Walk.
In person registration for walk will open tonight.
6:00 -9:00 PM

Intertribal Friendship House
523 International Blvd
Oakland, CA 94606

February 9, 2008: Saturday
Longest Walk Kickoff Concert (5:00PM)

Star Nayea with special guests Andy Billy (KK Billy) and Chuck Billy of Testament, 7th Generation Rise, Blackhorse Blues Band, Jeremy Goodfeather and others TBA

Eastside Arts Alliance
2277 International Blvd.
Oakland, CA 94606
Admission Fee: $25-40 sliding scale

February 10, 2008: Sunday
Longest Walk Benefit Show 6:30 PM
w/ One Struggle, Culture of Rage, Antithesis and others TBA

La Pena Cultural Center
3105 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94705
$15-25 sliding scale

February 11, 2008: Monday
Sunrise Gathering 4:30 AM
Alcatraz Island
Ferry Fee: $14

Rallying Points:
8:00 AM
Breakfast/ Load up Gear
Intertribal Friendship House
523 International Blvd
Oakland, CA 94606

11:00 AM
Memorial Oak Grove
Peidmont Avenue and Memorial Stadium

11:30 AM
March to Hearst Museum and Sproul Plaza

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Rally Sproul Plaza
University of California Berkeley
Bancroft Way & Telegraph Ave.

1:30 PM
Glen Cove Burial Site
Vallejo, CA

3:00 PM Pena Adobe

6pm DQ University
Arrival of Alcatraz caravan ($2 per vehicle)
6:30pm Community Dinner and Potluck Feast
Orientation and Speakers
9pm movie night Reel Indians

Tuesday February 12th

Northern Route
8 AM Caravan of Northern Route to Sacramento Capitol
9 AM Arrive at State Capitol – Set up
10AM Press Conference at State Capitol
12PM Northern Route Walkers Leave State Capitol
1 PM Break Down at Capitol

Southern Route

6:00 am – 6:30 am: Shuttle Service to Rumsey Indian Rancheria
6:30 am – 7:30 am: Breakfast hosted by Rumsey Indian Rancheria
7:30 am – 8:30 am: Opening Ceremony
8:30 am – 9:00 am: Call to Action: Press Conference
9:00 am – 9:30 am: Walk Procession Begins from Rumsey to Cache Creek
9:30 am – 10:30 am: Arrive Cache Creek
10:30 am: Eagle staff runners depart for Rio Vista
10:30 am: Shuttle Service from Cache Creek to DQU
11:00 am: Arrive DQU
11:00 am: Committees meeting
12:00 pm: Lunch – Felipe's Chuckwagon
1:00 pm: Clean up DQU
4:00 pm: Depart DQU
5:00 pm: Arrive Rio Vista
5:30 pm: End of Day Circle
6:00 pm: Dinner – Felipe's Chuckwagon
7:00 pm: Cultural Exchange – singing, dancing, story-telling
8:00 pm: Committee Meetings –
Road Team
First Aid Team
Advance Team
Film Team
Clean Up Team
Flag Team
Kitchen Crew
Vehicle Coordinators


February 4th to February 8th


DQU grounds preparation
Volunteer leaders training

Supplies Needed:
Firewood, Sweat Rocks, Canvas Covers for Sweat
Waste Management- trash haul off
Monetary donations to cover costs of 7 Sani-Can Porta-Pottys for 4 days
Cleaning Supplies- rags, buckets, bleach, mopheads

Additional Info: Chris 530-554-8377, Meño 408-914-1079 Jimbo 415-568-0826

Saturday February 9th

7am Leave to Clear Lake to join Bloody Island 100 mile run
8am safety meeting, briefing of volunteer committees
10am Brunch
Noon Orientation about the longest walk and what expected of the event participators
5pm Expecting Bloody Island Runners to Arrive at DQU

Upon arrival rally with speakers
6pm Dinner
7pm Movie Presentation Exterminate Them

Sunday February 10th

8am safety meeting, briefing of committees
1 pm Traditional Social Gathering
5pm Dinner
6:30 PM Evening Concert
Evening sweat at ceremonial grounds facilitated by Darrell Standing Elk

Monday February 11th

3am Caravan Leave towards Alcatraz Sunrise Gathering
8am safety meeting, briefing of committees
6pm Arrival of Alcatraz caravan ($2 per vehicle)
6:30pm Community Dinner and Potluck Feast
Orientation and Speakers
9pm movie night Reel Indians

Tuesday February 12th

Northern Route
8 AM Caravan of Northern Route to Sacramento Capitol
9 AM Arrive at State Capitol – Set up
10AM Press Conference at State Capitol
12PM Northern Route Walkers Leave State Capitol
1 PM Break Down at Capitol

Southern Route

6:00 am – 6:30 am: Shuttle Service to Rumsey Indian Rancheria
6:30 am – 7:30 am: Breakfast hosted by Rumsey Indian Rancheria
7:30 am – 8:30 am: Opening Ceremony
8:30 am – 9:00 am: Call to Action: Press Conference
9:00 am – 9:30 am: Walk Procession Begins from Rumsey to Cache Creek
9:30 am – 10:30 am: Arrive Cache Creek
10:30 am: Eagle staff runners depart for Rio Vista
10:30 am: Shuttle Service from Cache Creek to DQU
11:00 am: Arrive DQU
11:00 am: Committees meeting
12:00 pm: Lunch – Felipe's Chuckwagon
1:00 pm: Clean up DQU
4:00 pm: Depart DQU
5:00 pm: Arrive Rio Vista
5:30 pm: End of Day Circle
6:00 pm: Dinner – Felipe's Chuckwagon
7:00 pm: Cultural Exchange – singing, dancing, story-telling
8:00 pm: Committee Meetings –
Road Team
First Aid Team
Advance Team
Film Team
Clean Up Team
Flag Team
Kitchen Crew
Vehicle Coordinators

§Longest Walk 2008 Logo
by Longest Walk 2 Coordinator Wednesday Jan 30th, 2008 11:52 PM
Longest Walk 1978 to 2008
§Longest Walk Poster
by Longest Walk 2 Coordinator Wednesday Jan 30th, 2008 11:52 PM
"For some of us, the longest walk never ended."
More than a commemoration. This is a movement.
by Longest Walk 2 Coordinator Wednesday Jan 30th, 2008 11:57 PM

We take this opportunity to invite you to be part of an historic event, The Longest Walk 2008. On February 11, 2008, Longest Walk 2 participants will embark on a five-month journey taking two routes 8,000 miles across Turtle Island to Washington, D.C. arriving on July 11, 2008. In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the historic Longest Walk of 1978 that resulted in historic changes for Native America, hundreds of communities are participating in the Longest Walk of 2008 to raise awareness about issues impacting our world environment, to protect Sacred Sites and to clean up Mother Earth. Longest Walk 2 is part of many communities ongoing commitment to protect sacred sites, cultural preservation, and to create awareness about the environment. Both routes will visit Sacred Sites across the Nation and promote educational awareness for Sacred Sites protection and preservation. We are walking to promote positive change in our world. The Longest Walk 2 invites veteran walkers that participated in the 1978 Longest Walk and we reach out the new generations of the future to join us. Our message is: ALL LIFE IS SACRED.

Support The Longest Walk in its fundraising and organizing efforts! Your involvement can include the following support efforts:

Assist with Outreach within your organization and community. Volunteer to organize a welcoming as The Longest Walk arrives within your community.

Assist in gathering supplies: We need many items along the routes such as Socks, Shoes, Warm Coats and Rain Jackets, Tents, Sleeping Bags, etc. Access to Food Banks along the route will be an invaluable resource. A full wish list can be found at

We need a vehicle: We are searching for the use of a vehicle preferably for the entire walk but any portion of the walk will be helpful. A large van or bus is ideal to transport people and store supplies.

Provide local housing: We are asking folks to open their homes, community centers, or assist in organizing overnight housing. If you can provide housing within the Bay Area, or along the Northern or Southern routes, please email lw08housing [at]

We need funds: This is a grassroots based effort supported by individual donations. There are a number of benefit shows that will be held in the coming weeks to raise funds (please see the website for more details). Gas cards and gift certificates are also accepted.

If you, your group or organization would like to sign on as a supporter of our efforts, please fill out a sponsor registration form on the registration page of . With your permission, we will publish your organization/group/individual name on our website. If you would like for your donation to go towards a specific route, supplies or efforts, please make sure and specify your requests on the sponsorship form. We thank you for any and all help that you are willing to give to this historic occasion.


Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Longest Walk 2 Coordinator
Thursday Jan 31st, 2008 12:00 AM
William "Jimbo" Simmons is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation and a life-long member of the American Indian Movement. For the past 25 years he has been working at the International Indian Treaty Council as an Advocate for Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples. As one of the main route coordinators for the 1978 Longest Walk, he is again coordinating the Northern Route for the 2008 Longest Walk.

What was the political climate like when you were organizing and preparing for the walk?

Where had the Native American 'movement' been and where was it headed at that time?
Why was it important for you to walk in 1978?
JS-1977 there was a lot of awareness about Native issues and one of them was about prisoner’s rights. One of the organizations I was working with was involved with prisoner’s rights issues. Then I became more involved in Native American community schools. At that time there was the issue of DQU, and Dennis Banks was involved in fighting extradition to South Dakota. There was a lot of issues being discussed, from trials that were going on to survival schools, to sovereignty and fishing rights in California. One day when I was there in DQ and we were discussing the issue of what we could do as an organization to get involved with the[proposed legislation] terminating treaties and the whole relationship that Native people had with the Federal Government. The idea came around to a walk, a walk across the country. The elder people were joking about who we could get to walk that far. I was one of the youth that volunteered. But before then I was already deciding on being a part of that. I had my mind made up already.
The question was asked what I was walking for. I was in prison and I knew what injustice was about, and no matter how hard we fought for rights… I understood what was happening to our brothers in prison. That was one of my reasons for committing to the walk.
And then along the way came more awareness about other issues. Along the way there were other tribes and peoples that we came into contact with. we were coming into contact every night with sweat lodges, stories, and information about what was going on in those communities.
The Walk was a moving community. Every three days in a different place. 150-300 people in a camp. There was one time we were ready to break camp and move within the hour. I can just imagine what our ancestors’ time was like when I think of it.

What were some of the lasting effects it had on you, your community and the movement?

How was the movement shaped by the Walk when you returned to the Bay Area?

JS-The biggest effect it had on us was the spirituality. The spirituality was part of the indoctrination into that movement. It was what to expect. For me I was a partier before the walk, but during that whole walk I was sober. That was part of my commitment. The alcohol and drugs were a part of destroying our culture. Spirituality had a lot to do with reinforcing our beliefs what we stood for.
Later on that same spirituality, education, that brought me to the Sun Dance way. Which to me was another way of committing yourself to the service of the people trying to maintain that strength and understanding to do what is needed. All for commitment to the people, to the international community and the International Indian Treaty Council.
It has and always will continue to play a good direction of what our people should be moving towards.
When you see the Big Mountain or Iroquois or Six Nation people, or the Western Shoshone at that time [sharing their struggle] Of course the Lakota people, the 1868 Ft. Laramie people. All of that had an impact on what you were learning.

What were some of the challenges you and other organizers faced in getting that walk together?
JS-Gauging from our experiences in those first few weeks where we were totally unprepared, it was an indication that maybe we hadn’t taken ourselves seriously. You know we hadn’t checked the weather. But seeing over 150 people coming across Nevada, Utah, and Colorado kept the bulk of the walk going, through some of the hardest areas to be.
It became a working community. Everyone had a responsibility and something to share. That’s one of the things that came out of it- when times did get hard everyone came together and solutions were made.

In ‘78 there was areas of discrimination and racism. Even today there is still some. We encountered it among the Mormons too.
They were at first reluctant in their support when the walkers came to their town, and then they were trying to missionarize us before they would let us sleep in their facilities. But we compromised and said well, we can play basketball. People on the walk at that time could not stand for some of those people coming out to do their missionary work. But after the basketball game in the first town, a bridge was made and the church opened their doors in other towns.
The weather was one of the most challenging things, later on, as the Walk grew there were 100s and even thousands of people joining it. Some of them not were even prepared to stay any length of time but didn’t want to go home. Some came back with their families. So we had a lot of people who didn’t have the right equipment.

What were some of the successes and victories? In the last 30 years.
JS-Many people don’t know but I think the casinos are one victory that came from the walk. The economic conditions were really looked at by folks on the walk. We brought up sovereignty issues, and issues of self-determination to the communities we walked through and to Washington D.C. Much of that effort turned into bringing in resources to reservations in the form of casinos and smoke shops.
We are still facing many of these issues about sacred sites.

What is happening now that makes it so important for you to walk again?
JS-Well I see a lot of energy from a lot of our younger people on issues that are taking places across Indian country, especially around sacred sites. I want to empower them to rise to another level of resistance. The Walk in’78 was an opportunity where we were able to reach many different people. With the same amount of learning, and respect for one another the Anniversary walk can be another historical opportunity.
In the words of Phillip Deer, “The Longest Walk is not over. We all have our Longest Walk. We all have our history of relocation and forced removals.”
And as a person who has struggled in the last thirty years The Longest Walk has taught me was to stand up for our rights from community to community.

What does it mean to you that this is a spiritual walk?
How does the spiritual component tie into the political and environmental aspects of this walk?

Why is Sacred Sites the issue that is tying this all together?
JS-When you loose the connection to sacred sites you loose the connection on a deeper level.
During ‘78 Walk those were some of the issues we kept seeing as we crossed the country. After the walk in ’78, AIRFA, American Indian Religious Freedom Act passed in response to a lot of pressure around religious freedom for Native Americans. A big one was the right for prisoners to be able to practice sweat lodges and ceremonies. The act also called for the re-internment of sacred bundles and medicines and burial remains. That was to me a big step towards healing of our people.
And thirty years later we are still dealing with sacred sites, I call them sacred places. For us as indigenous people, everywhere is sacred. We don’t have to be in a special place to have prayer, it can happen at any moment.
For some of our ways there are certain places that are the memories of our creation. Medicine Lake, Cave Rock, Sand Creek- where the massacre took place, Bear Butte, or the San Francisco peaks, these are all very sacred areas and sacred places. We see these places being threatened today in the same way we were dealing with thirty years ago.
To me this walk is a link to bring together the past and plan for our future. That is what I see of thirty years of my struggle and my commitment, has brought me to wanting to contribute to that.

What role does the next generation play in Native movements?
JS-We already know they are the leaders, that is their role, whether they want to accept it or not. My generation is passing that responsibility on when it comes to some of our struggles. Prophecy has it that this coming generation is the Seventh Generation. The Seventh Generation is the generation that is supposed to be bringing back the purity and the vision of our ancestors. Re-healing, bringing together they are the ones that can bring more balance back to this earth. In what kind of way I really don’t know at this point.

What lessons would you like to pass on to them?
JS-To really begin to understand what peace an violence is. To know that there is a difference. People talk about using violence to achieve peace. People have to be made aware of what it is that we mean by peace and violence and how it affects our lives on a daily basis. How we can live in balance in spirit and harmony and balance it out.

What do you think you have to learn from the younger generations?
JS-More patience. I think they have a lot of good strength and answers. Maybe they don’t apply them right but they have them. Being patient with them, learning what they have to offer, that is what I have to learn. We are always learning no matter where we are at in our lives.

by Longest Walk 2 Coordinator
Thursday Jan 31st, 2008 12:02 AM
Interview with Morning Star Gali regarding the Longest Walk 1978-2008

What is The Longest Walk 2 for you?

MG-I was born a year after the first longest walk of which my mom and many aunts and uncles of mine had participated in. I was raised with the knowledge and background of my relatives walking across the country for Survival of Indigenous people. The walk had a political focus in successfully abrogating the 11 bills that would have terminated rights for Native peoples, but it definitely had a spiritual focus, from my understanding the walk was prophesized by our elders and there were many experiences that happened along the walk that supported that. I envision The Longest Walk 2 as a walk for cultural survival. The fragile state of our environment very much has direct impacts and effects on Indigenous people, on all people. The Longest Walk 2 is an opportunity for the youth to see firsthand what issues and challenges our communities are facing, what sacred sites are being desecrated and the efforts that are being made to protect them.

As someone from the next generation, what are some lasting effects the Longest Walk of 1978 has had on Native American Communities and the struggle for Native American rights?

MG-There were two pieces of legislation that were passed in favor of Native Peoples and rights after The 1978 Longest Walk. One was AIRFA, American Indian Religious Freedom Act that passed August 11, 1978, one month after the walk arrived in Washington, D.C. Another piece was the Indian Child Welfare Act that was also passed in the same month. For years, so many Native children were being taken out of their homes and placed with White families. They were not fit to live at home with some of the excuses being because the home did not have running water or electricity, the home was not fit for the child to live in.

On a personal level, lasting effects that the walk had for me were the personal stories of hardship and struggle that my relatives endured. My father helped with the American Indian Religious Freedom Act with the portion that applied to Native prisoners and their rights to practice their religion. As freedom of religion is a fundamental right guaranteed to all Americans under the U.S. Constitution, it was considered illegal for Native peoples to practice their traditional customs and ways only 30 years ago! So my parents really instilled that in my sister, and me they made an effort to make sure that we knew our culture and our traditions and that's how they raised us. Even though we grew up in the city, they made a point to take us to our ancestral homeland to maintain that connection and on summers we would travel to different communities, always participating in ceremony. Even at a very young age I can remember taking it seriously, always conducting myself properly as it was something not to play around with and again, having that knowledge that so many had struggled for me to be sitting where I was that day.

When I first started organizing for the walk, I emailed an aunt of mine asking her for some advice on protocol and how things went for them. She stated, "As for you going on the walk, it is a hard thing to do with a baby, it was hard without a baby. It may not be the best thing for her in terms of having a consistent life for months. We slept wet, cold, and dirty many times, on gym floors, in churches, and on the side of the road. We ate whatever was available and sometime we didn't. There is still racism in the world and an even harsher Child Welfare system, who knows what they might think of it. I will do some checking on that.

Having said that it was the most important learning experience I ever had. However, at this point in time you have a different learning experience, which you were lucky enough to get before you were an adult. What we did 30 years ago changed our world into what you live in now. However you choose to change it beyond that is up to you.’

What are some of the current issues that the walk is tied into?

MG-There are many issues that are tied into the walk and as the walk starts that will develop more. For myself, I see sacred sites as one of the issues at the forefront and that falls under religious freedom rights, which was one of the main issues of The 1978 walk. Our elders have told me that in many respects we have gone backwards in our religious freedom rights. Leonard Peltier is being denied ceremonial tobacco for his pipe, as well as all Native prisoners within the Federal Prison System. They are only allowed 1 sweat a month, if that. So as I stated before, this walk is very much a walk for our survival, for cultural survival and to restore harmony with our environment.

What benefit do you hope the walk will bring to the current struggles?

MG-I hope that the walk fulfills its intentions in bringing educational awareness to the various issues that the walk is highlighting, but it was brought to my attention that there is an action component missing and I agree with that. You can only educate people to a point, and there has to be an action component past educating people. There needs to be a common goal to move forward to. We are currently discussing holding a four-day cultural survival summit for when the walk reaches D.C. It will be important for us to come together and strategize on which direction to move forward with, in regards to these issues are people are facing. And again, it comes back to spirituality and bridging the generations to rebuild an intergenerational movement. This walk is an opportunity for our youth to have the option to join together and learn their teachings of which many are disconnected from. This is an opportunity for our elders to participate and pass that knowledge on. Like my aunt said in her email message, this is our opportunity to change the world into what we choose for the next generations ahead.

What differences does the new generation bring to organizing compared to the original walk?

Getting the word out about the walk and asking for support and other organizing efforts is in some ways easier 30 years later with the technology that is now available to us. However, we do not have all of the spiritual leaders and advisors that were available to the youth 30 years ago. Many of them have passed on and it is our job to act with integrity and from our heart so that they will support and join us. We invite the Veteran walkers of 1978 to join and guide the young people in the walk and we welcome the new generations to join in as well. In closing, the young people of The Longest Walk want our elders to know that we cannot thank you enough for carrying on the traditional ways. If it were not for our elders, we would not be speaking and thinking in this manner today. We the young people, want our elders to know that as long as there is breath left in our bodies, we commit ourselves to never allow your teachings to be forgotten. We further commit ourselves to carrying on these peaceful traditional ways.

What are some similarities in organizing today compared to 30 years ago?

In The Manifesto it states, "In our own country the leadership of our people evolves from the natural cycles of Creation. The quality of leadership is one that is in harmony with the universe. It is a leadership that genuinely arises from the people, responds to the people, and does not seek to dominate either people or the natural would. It is a leadership whose vision is constantly trained on the well-being and survival of present and future generations. These are the people who are of The Longest Walk.”

That rings very true to me today, many of the issues and what our people were saying 30 years ago still rings true today. The leadership of this walk will naturally evolve and in many ways there is much that will happen the way that it is supposed to and beyond our control.

What are some of the challenges you have seen in organizing the Longest Walk 2?

MG-I can only speak for myself in acknowledging that I am very much a baby and still have much to learn. We have spent the last year organizing and I think that as soon as I realized how large of a feat that we were taking on, I stalled for a couple of months and didn't know what direction to move in. There are so many areas to cover in regards to logistics. I also had some issues in dealing with some of my male peers, they started questioning my leadership abilities in organizing and this continued to the point of harassment. In one instance, he started berating and disrespecting women of all generations. One of the older men stood up and told him, "Hey if it wasn't for the women, this all would have fallen apart a long time ago,." He mentioned The Longest Walk as one of the examples.

What are some of the successes?

MG-When I first got involved with organizing the walk, a group of us went to Pier 33 on February 11 2007. We had a sunrise gathering and put our prayers down for the coming year and for us all to move forward in a good way. For myself, being able to ask the advice of our elders and relative and look towards their guidance, I am honored to participate in the walk. That is very much what this walk will be about and that is what is successful for me.

by advocate
Thursday Jan 31st, 2008 12:19 AM

• Native American sacred places are where Native Peoples who practice their
traditional religions go to pray for the good day, the precious earth, the blessing
waters, the sweet air and peaceful life for all living beings the world over.
• Native American religions were outlawed under the federal “Civilization
Regulations” from the 1880s to the 1930s. Traditional Native Peoples were not
allowed to go to or pray at their sacred places. All of the traditional religions were
driven underground, some to the point of extinction.
• Myriad Native American sacred places have been destroyed.
• Today, far too many sacred places are being desecrated or threatened by
development, pollution, poisons, recreation, looting, vandalism and by federal or
federally-authorized undertakings.
• The American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 was intended to change the
policy of the United States from one of outlawing and disrespecting traditional
Native religions to one of protecting and respecting them. The Act states:
“That henceforth it shall be the policy of the United States to protect and
preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe,
express, and exercise the traditional religions of the American Indian, Eskimo,
Aleut, and Native Hawaiians, including but not limited to access to sites, use
and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through
ceremonials and traditional rites.”
• There are numerous existing la ws intended to protect Native American sacred
places and even more that can be used to do so, but most of these laws are being
ignored and flaunted.
• Among these existing legal authorities are the American Indian Religious Freedom
Act, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, Executive Order on
Indian Sacred Sites, National Historic Preservation Act, Archaeological Resources
Protection Act, National Environmental Protection Act and other environmental and
cultural laws.
• There are no existing legal protections for certain categories of sacred places and
none that provide a specific cause of action to defend sacred places against
desecration or destruction.
• Native Americans often are pressured to define the sacred when we talk about our
religious freedom and protection of sacred places. No other religious leaders or
practitioners are pressured to define the sacred in their religions or to identify what
is central or indispensable to their beliefs and ceremonies.
• Native Americans are pressured to reveal the details of our exercise of religious
freedom, when no other religious leaders or practitioners are forced or required or
urged or even asked to reveal details.
• Many Native traditional religious matters cannot be discussed or revealed. Some
Native traditional religious matters must remain private and confidential because
disclosure would violate the tenets of the religions themselves. Other Native
traditional religious matters must remain private because many Native leaders and
practitioners still fear that such disclosures would lead to another federal Indian
“civilization” era.
• It has been the experience of Native Americans that disclosure about the location,
nature or use of sacred place leads to assaults on them. Many of these places are
fragile and have been destroyed by too many visitors or vehicles or activities.
• The following description of Native American sacred lands is taken from the
President’s Report to Congress on American Indian Religious Freedom, August 1979,
pursuant to the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, P.L. 95-341:
“The Native peoples of this country believe that certain areas of land are holy. These
lands may be sacred, for example, because of religious events which occurred there,
because they contain specific natural products, because they are the dwelling place
or embodiment of spiritual beings, because they surround or contain burial grounds
or because they are sites conducive to communicating with spiritual beings. There
are specific religious beliefs regarding each sacred site which form the basis for
religious laws governing the site. These laws may prescribe, for example, when and
for what purposes the site may or must be visited, what ceremonies or rituals may or
must take place at the site, what manner of conduct must or must not be observed
at the site, who may or may not go to the site and the consequences to the
individual, group, clan or tribe if the laws are not observed. The ceremonies may also
require preparatory rituals, purification rites or stages of preparation. Both active
participants and observers may need to be readied. Natural substances may need to
be gathered. Those who are unprepared or whose behavior or condition may alter the
ceremony are often not permitted to attend. The proper spiritual atmosphere must be
observed. Structures may need to be built for the ceremony or its preparation. The
ceremony itself may be brief or it may last for days. The number of participants may
range from one individual to a large group.”
Prepared for the Coalition to Protect Native American Sacred Places by The Morning
Star Institute, 611 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, #377, Wash., DC 20003 (202) 547-5531

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