PREWITT, NEW MEXICO — At dawn on Saturday morning a group of Diné people and their supporters embark on a 350-mile journey on foot as an act of cultural revitalization.
The walk is the second of four that will occur this year. The first leg concluded in late February after the young activists walked 225 miles from Dził Naa’oodiłíí (Huerfano Mountain) to Tsoodził (Mount Taylor). The movement, entitled Nihigaal Bee Iina (Our Journey for Existence), will begin near Tsoodził (Mt. Taylor) and end at Dook’o’osliid (San Francsico Peaks) and will last about a month and a half.
The walk is occurring at this place and time for several reasons. First, this year marks the 150th anniversary of Hwééldi, a period of time when 9,000 Diné people were incarcerated for four years at a concentration camp at Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The walk is an honoring and a celebration of the resilience of Diné ancestors and a prayer that Diné people can have that same resilience today in the face of a very difficult colonial legacy.
The walk is also meant to further expose the disproportionate amount of resource extraction and contamination suffered by Diné people for the benefit of others, which not only contributes to local and global environmental problems but also runs contrary to traditional Diné values of protecting Nihima Nahadzáán (Mother Earth).
Walkers believe that the burden placed on Diné people through oil, gas and coal extraction should be exposed and challenged as a form of environmental injustice as water contamination, increased violence and safety hazards to young women due to massive imports of oil boom workers affect Diné people on a daily basis.
The walk begins at the chapter house in Prewitt, New Mexico where the proposed Piñon Pipeline would end after transporting oil extracted from the Navajo Nation’s Eastern Agency. Prewitt is also where uranium was first discovered in Diné Bikeyah (Navajo Homeland). Roughly half of the uranium used to build the infamous atomic bombs, which destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan, was mined from this area. Walkers mourn and challenge the exploitation of sacred places for nuclear-based energy and weaponry.
Walkers will travel along segments of the Transwestern Pipeline, which spans from St. Michaels, AZ to Luepp, NM, as well as Church Rock, New Mexico, where, in 1979, the greatest nuclear disaster in American history occurred. At that time, roughly 90 million gallons of radioactive waste washed down the Rio Puerco throughout many Diné communities. Walkers hope that by praying and walking in these affected areas they can help heal, inspire and unite the land and people.
Amidst the heaviness of these many issues, walkers also want to bring joy and laughter to each of the communities they visit through music, art and poetry. Walkers believe that one of the most important things at this time is to gathering Diné people together. Through this unification walkers believe Diné people can confront and overcome these many challenges and co-create healthy communities based on the principles of k’é (kinship, interdependence) and hozhó (inner/outer harmony, inter-beauty).
The tentative starting points for the first week of the walk are as follows and are subject to change: 3/21 Prewitt Chapter House, 3/22 Smith Lake Chapter House, 3/23 Crownpoint Chapter House, 3/25 Mariano Lake Chapter House, 3/26 Pinedale Chapter House, 3/27 Church Rock Chapter House, 3/28 Gallup, New Mexico.
All respectful peoples are invited to join the walk and can call 949-536-0988 for specific information.