Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bahe from Big Mountain, remembering the Longest Walk 1978

Bahe, A Dineh from Big Mountain and Longest Walk 1978 Participant, Recalls

Bahe: March 12th, 2008, I wish I was out there with you again, my brothers and sisters. I try to think and pray that I am there with all of you in spirit.
March 1978: We left Green River, UT, and the red sandstone plateaus reminded me of Dineh country, northeastern Arizona. It was just decided that only a few Walkers & Runners were needed and so, I was one of those that volunteered to walk the rest of the day and into the evening. The rest of the walkers and crew would do set-up far ahead since this would be a long and lonesome stretch to Fruita, CO. It seemed like we have been hammered with wintery breeze and cold since we left Richfield. We walked into the night in relays, a Pipe Carrier and two Staff Carriers. Max Bear's Indian wagon, an old dark-brown dodge van, was behind the walkers that evening as the cold wind whipped against the cliffs next to the highway. We took turns until it was passed midnight and we found a flat spot off Highway 50. Those of us that slept out on the ground were lucky to not have it snowed overnight.
We all got up early and there was a fire with fresh coffee and some warmed up left over foods. The sun had not risen yet as we huddled around the fire. You begin to not feel the fatigue after a while of continuous walk even after having only slept four hours. It was a beautiful early morning with red buttes and cliffs all around as I remembered what I learned on my first morning with the 1978 Walk at Scipio. Chief Eagle Feather told the morning Sun Rise Circle at Scipio: "Continue to make strong prayers again today. Tunkacula will hear you. As you pray look about and you may see signs in the trees or in the clouds. Pray to those signs and symbols. It might be a buffalo, an eagle or a deer. Remember those visions all the time as you walk to Washington, D.C."
The sun was starting to rise over the beautiful red sandstone landscapes that displayed many images of Indian people of all ages. We made a little circle as water and some warmed-up food was set aside as offerings to the Walk Pipe. Once we prayed in the Circle it was time to continue on east along Highway 50, and most of us walked this time. As the sun got higher and as we crossed over a large mesa, we began to see the Rocky Mountain range in the far distance with their snowcapped peaks and dark forested slopes. My legs and feet were beginning to tell me if I'm going to give them a break, but then I try to go back to my prayers and think about why I have to walk. Just in time, some cars and vans showed up with fresh Walkers some of those who went ahead from Green River. I climbed into the back of a pickup truck and took a break among some fresh walkers. An older brother, John Thunder Shield, was sitting at the rear of the truck with a traffic caution flag and he joked and talked about things as he waved on approaching traffic.
Then, I had to jump off because I noticed a ravine with tall bushes up ahead. I climbed off as the truck was going slow and I said, "I gotta go to da John." Thunder Shield said to me, "Hey, that's my name! --Ee'eh!" He laughs as I ran toward the ravine. Sometimes, you have to run about a quarter of a mile if no one waits for you after you had your relief. This time a couple of us had to make a visit to this wash, and Thunder Shield and crew waited up ahead so we didn't have to run to catch up. By this time, I had long passed the "blister stage" where I didn't get blisters on my feet anymore, but my knees hurt like it might start to swell. A lot of times a swollen knee can hurt so much that it was hard to walk anymore. You had to give it at least a 24 hour rest.
Our last long rest was in Richfield which seemed like it was weeks ago as I looked forward to the next rest stop. There will be time then to prep for the next long stretch, wash the few clothes I had and especially check on the socks situation, and have plenty of good cooked food. At this point, I had went along with the innovation where you find a new can and wrap some twine around it then, form a handle onto it. Wala! I had a perfect coffee mug and it can even be attached to my belt loop.
Those of us who walked most of the night went ahead leaving the fresh walkers to take over. The Rockies looked very intimidating as I wondered that, only a bunch of Indians would attempt to march into its midst during the unstable climate of late winter.

By Bahe (Katenay) Keediniihii, March 2008

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Big Mountain Dineh Resistance Support for Northern Route, Longest Walk II
February 27, 2008
Yaa'at'eeh Sh' Dine'eh,
(Good Greetings My Relatives)
In the late 70s not long after Wounded Knee 1973 and the capture of political prisoner Leonard Peltier, Indigenous nations of Turtle Island (western hemisphere) came together to do a spiritual walk across the US from San Francisco to Washington D.C. The 1978 Longest Walk was to bring attention to eleven, anti-Indian legislation that were about to go before the US Congress. These legislations were supported by racist, white organizations and their elected representatives. Legislations were intented to carry out numerous aspects of racism and inhumanities like abolishing all Indian treaties and the sterlization of Indian women.
The traditional Dineh elders at Big Mountain in 1978 were resisting federal relocation laws being enforced in the name of Peabody coal companies. Despite their full time resistance movement at home, they decided to support the 1978 Walk. They had one local volunteer who decided to walk all the way to educate other Indian nations and to bring attention to the injustices occuring on Black Mesa. A medicine man conducted a ceremony for the 78 Walk and gave the volunteer walker a sacred bundle with instructions to offer it to the sacred (Colorado) River before the Walk crossed it.
A few elders came to Richfield, Utah to show their support and solidarity for the Walk of 1978. About a week after the first Big Mountain delegate visited to the 1978 Walk, indigenous spiritual leaders of the Walk and a few walkers came to the river's bank outside of Fruita, Colorado to offer the Dineh bundle's contents. Corn pollen were offered in prayer and the sacred stone offerings were gently dispensed on the water's edge. The Longest Walk of 1978 then proceeded across the bridge over the sacred (Colorado) River. This spiritual walk was becoming stronger with more walkers joining, more awareness that there were still Indians in the U.S., and a busload of Dineh walkers showed up soon after the Walk crossed the Colorado River. The early spring snow storms was harsh as the Walk approached the Backbone of the Turtle Island (The Rockies), and the prayers of the peoples' Walk were only getting stronger, too.
The Big Mountain delegation returned, again, with more of its community members to Pueblo, Colorado where the 78 Walk had a one week rest. The Dineh visit also brought with them their local medicine man and he gathered some Dineh youth walkers to hold a special ceremony to make a staff for the Walk. This Dineh visit also brought the much needed traditional foods like corn meals and fresh mutton. Since the Wounded Knee battle of 1973 (WK 73), the traditional Dineh's solidarity with all Red (Indian) Nations at the Pueblo, CO meeting had re-enforced the continuing alliances of WK 73.
Today and 30 years later, some remaining Dineh resisters and their relatives at Big Mountain wish to show their support again. The targeted date for joining the walkers will be when the northern route of Longest Walk II reach Pueblo, CO. There are other efforts being made to support the two Walks of 2008, southern & northern routes, but for many of you who know about the Big Mountain struggle know that we are a very poor country and that we rely on outside resources to initiate our actions. This time I, Kat-the-Bahe, wish to find possible means to make this commemorative effort possible, again.
Or if you are on the Rez and know of others wishing to visit the northern route at Pueblo, CO., feel free to contact me. My Rez List does not even exist so please forward this to the rest of our Rez families. Perhaps, we can all share resources in order to avoid the high gas prices instituted by U.S. oil companies and to share the efforts in transport. This would be so unique to accomplish such a commemoration and to give the northern route a big boost for their strength and for their prayers that will get them to D.C.
It is very crucial that we communicate and acknowledge one another as the way our ancestors have done throughout the ages. With that and together, we can let all other indigenous and non-native communities know that we are still proud of our ancient beliefs and existence. The northern route as you may know is following the original route of 1978 and as we speak, these walkers' footsteps and prayers are crossing those same rivers, same valleys, same mountain ranges and the same grasslands. The decendents of all our Relations: the Winged People, Peoples of the Water, Four Legged Peoples, Those that Crawled on the Soils, and the Ancestors' Spirits will all know, again, that We have not forgotten them nor have we forgotten our efforts to survive with our coming generations.
Contrary to the times of 1978, our environment is more polluted, our ancient sacred places are evermore desecrated, our wise chiefs and medicine people are nearly gone, our understanding of our human self has become less, and our communications with all our relationships, nature and universe, are more severed. Join the Big Mountain Dineh in bringing not only support but a message of great hope that Mother Earth and Father Sky will have pity on us, for that we will retreive our human identities and begin to recount the proper ceremonies of the human races.
The Longest Walk of 1978 has inscripted its legacies in the indigenous histories, and countless memories and wisdom were born from that era and those events. These legacies are still the driving force of many resistance movements and teachings of today's Native struggles. The Longest Walk of 1978 open the doorway for the Big Mountain traditional and sovereign movement to the world. If it weren't for the Longest Walk of 1978, Big Mountain would have never: joined the Dineh alliances for liberation, created community resource camps, formed alliances with non-Indian environmental groups, and established the seed for the Sun Dances of Dineh country.
Thank you so much for listening.
In the Spirit of Chief Barboncito,
Kat (the Bahe)
Big Mountain Dine'eh
Sheep Dog Nation Rocks 2008

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