Published February 18, 2017
SAN FRANCISCO – The Longest Walk 5.2 kicked off on Ohlone territory. The runners and walkers began the walk with prayer and ceremony at Crissy Field, located in San Francisco, California.
Ohlone Nation members Dee Dee Ybarra and Donna Manzanares Otero of the Rumsen Ama Turataj Nation honored all in attendance with a prayer and sacred song in the Rumsen language. It is a personal journey for them as they lost two brothers, as a result of drug and alcohol abuse. They honor their brothers memories by participating in this walk.
The primary objective of the walk is to raise awareness of drug, alcohol abuse, and domestic violence. As evidence shows, there is a strong statistical correlation between drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence.
Dennis Banks is the Honorary adviser for the walk. When he explained his reason for spearheading the walk, he spoke of his great loss in explicit detail. His beloved granddaughter Rose Downwind was brutally murdered by her boyfriend. Dennis said, “Every step of the walk is a prayer.” So the walkers walk in prayer to honor her memory, and all those who have been affected by drug abuse and domestic violence. The event honored the past and looked toward making a positive change for future generations. It is Banks’ deepest hope that this walk will encourage others to seek cultural and spiritual solutions to end drug abuse and domestic violence.
Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement, speaks about the ills of drug abuse and domestic violence.
Revered elders Fred Short, and Norman “Wounded Knee DeOcampo” blessed the event, and walkers, with prayers and sacred ceremony. Additionally, the Aztec dance group Calpulli Nanahuatzin performed a prayer dance.
The walkers left Crissy Field and walked and ran to Berkeley where they had a prayer ceremony with drumming and singing at the North Berkeley shellmound. They prayed to protect this land from further desecration. The shellmound, where the ancestors of the Rumsen Ohlone lie in their final resting place has already been paved over for a parking lot. A few times a year the Ohlone people have ceremony at this parking lot to pray for their relatives that lie underneath and for future generations that are here now and the ones that are yet to be.
After the ceremony at the North Berkeley Shellmound, the group was honored with a dinner at the Intertribal Friendship house (IFH) located in Oakland, California. This “Urban Rez” is a local meeting place for all nations. The primary objective of the IFH Is to promote the ability of Native people to thrive in an urban environment. The IFH provides many services including ceremony, weekly song and dance classes. They have created a safe environment in an effort to strengthen cultural identity, promote health, inter-generational healing, and support the development of extended family. They work tirelessly to keep Native traditions alive and strong for the future generations.
Carol Wappepah, Executive Director of the Intertribal Friendship House believes it is her role to honor and help the Native community in an effort to keep the circle strong and whole, for we are all related.
Photos by Patricia Montes Gregory
Arthur Jacobs contributed to this story while travelling with Longest Walk 5-2