Happy Birthday, Dennis Banks
Published April 14, 2106
CANTON, OKLAHOMA – On Tuesday April 12, 2016 the Longest Walk 5 – War on Drugs and Domestic Violence took time out to celebrate the birthday of Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement and the leader of the Longest Walk.
The Longest Walk made a stop in Arapaho Country at the home of American Indian Movement veteran Viola Hatch.
It was an extraordinary birthday and unconventional celebration, it was unique because in this birthday celebration Dennis gave more gifts than he received. Dennis presented the American Indian community of Watonga with life chancing teachings. He taught the community how to build a traditional sweat lodge from start to finish. He gifted them with songs, prayers, and words of wisdom.
His teachings had an impact on the youth, such as William Knapp, Oglala Lakota, from Minneapolis Minnesota who is on Longest Walk 5. He is walking from Canton, Oklahoma to Washington, D.C. in honor his late brother, Jason Elias, who passed away last year.
Knapp shared his thoughts about the importance of the Longest Walk with Native News Online:
“This walk is important to me for several reasons. The main reason I am walking is due to the fact that every morning there is a Native sister, mother, or grandmother, who is missing, being sold in the sex slave market, or they end up finding their remains somewhere.
The second reason I am walking is because my brother, Jason Elias. was a big part of the American Indian Movement in the Twin Cities Area. After my brother passed away, Dennis renamed the facility in honor of my brother. It is now known as the American Indian Movement Jason Elias Twin Cities Chapter. On this walk I will be walking in memory of him.
Growing up, I was raised in the traditional Native American way. I was involved with building sweat lodges, dancing in sundances, and always praying.
To me it was an honor to be able to do it with such an influential man in American Indian history, such as Dennis Banks. Just to be there with him and experience the knowledge that he has to offer has been great. Now I will be able to pass that on to other generations of youth, as well as be able to carry on his words to educate others.”
Building a Sweat Lodge
The sweat lodge was made possible through the generosity of Viola Hatch, her daughter Sue Hatch Silcott, and her grandson, Brian Fielder, members of the Southern Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes.
Viola met Dennis in 1969 when they both served as members of the American Indian Task Force, established to address and expose the misappropriation of government funds through the school system. Throughout the years, Viola has remained a great supporter of Banks and the American Indian Movement.
Viola comes from a long line of chiefs. She was raised in accordance with American Indian traditions and values. The grandfathers and grandmothers provided instructions that taught her and her family how to live. Her love for her fellow Native community is clear. She wants the youth to have a place to learn the traditional American Indian ways, which is why she made her house available to host the lodge. She wants the youth to have a place to cleanse themselves, she wants them to grow up as she did, in the traditional way.
“I want the youth to know who they are, who they are related to. I also want them to know their culture, and where they are going in the future,” says Hatch.
She wants the youth to have the same opportunities that she had, and that is why she and her family made this learning experience possible.
It is people like her that serve to bridge the past to the present so that her people can have a future. She is an example of how American Indians can live their lives in honor of ‘All Our Relations.’
Special thanks to P.M.G. for her words and story flow!
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