Published June 9, 2016
ONONDAGA NATION – On the night before he travels to Louisville to partake in the Muhammad Ali memorial service, Onondaga Nation Faithkeeper Oren Lyons, 86, talked with Native News Online about the legendary Muhammad Ali, who he called a “champion for people of color.”
Muhammad Ali passed away last Friday at a hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona. The former three-time heavyweight boxing champion of the world had suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for 32 years. Ali was 74.
Lyons, who first met Ali at the Longest Walk in 1978 in Washington, D.C., was asked by the late champion’s family to be among 12 speakers who are to deliver eulogies at the multi-faith memorial serivce that is expected to attract at least 15,000 people. He will be among former President Bill Clinton, comedian Billy Crystal and broadcasters Bryant Gummel, who will speak in Louisville, the late champion’s hometown.
The Longest Walk began in California in 1978 as the result of a Congress bill that was introduced that sought to terminate treaties held between American Indian nations and the United States. The Longest Walk covered over 3,500 miles from California to Washington, D.C.
“We came down from the Onondaga Nation and met up with the Longest Walk somewhere in Pennsylvania. We wanted to voice our support for the long walkers who traveled across the country,” says Lyons. “We went into Washington together and there was Muhammad Ali waiting for us. We want to honor that.”
“I want to say I think Muhammad Ali was always working for indigenous people. Every one knows his record in the boxing ring, but really I think his work went way beyond that. He changed the narrative for many of us with his support.”
“He was a champion of the people of color. He was a leader. Poor people have very few options to get anything. He found his through the ring, but he went way beyond that when he worked to help others.”
It is with great respect we go down there to honor him,” finished Lyons.