Published April 10, 2017
WHITECLAY, NEBRASKA – On Saturday, April 8, 2017, the Longest Walk 5.2 gathered in White Clay, Nebraska to bring attention to the devastating negative impact alcohol has on American Indians.
The New York Times recently described Whiteclay as a “town is a rural skid row, with only a dozen residents, a street strewn with debris, four ramshackle liquor stores and little else.”
Whiteclay is located residents across the state line in Nebraska from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, that is located in South Dakota. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is a dry reservation where no alcohol is sold.
The four liquor stores sell some five million cans of beer each year.
“The Longest Walk 5.2 is a prayer walk and run from San Francisco to Washington D.C. supporting indigenous communities in seeking spiritual and cultural solutions to drug, alcohol abuse, and domestic violence,” said Bobby Wallace, National Walk Chief. “We hope to help shed light on the predatory alcohol vendors in White Clay and honor the community’s ongoing, decades-long battle against these businesses.”
The Longest Walk 5.2 started on Feb 12, 2017 in San Francisco, California, and follows a central route through the states, ending in Washington D.C. on July 15. During their five-month trek, the runners and walkers are crossing 18 mountain ranges and visiting 54 tribal communities on a 153-day spiritual journey.
The group is also collecting data and testimonies from community members in order to understand how these issues are affecting them, to help inspire change, and to find solutions. One in four Native Americans babies on the reservation is born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, in addition to other illegal activities such as human trafficking and domestic violence.
The Longest Walks recall days when indigenous messengers traveled long distances to spread news, and continues centuries-long indigenous resistance to colonization. The first Longest Walk took place in 1978 to protest 11 Congressional bills that would have repealed treaties that ensured Indian sovereignty, all of which were struck down after the march.
In 2016, American Indian Movement co-founder Dennis Banks initiated the Longest Walk 5, in memory of his granddaughter Rose Downwind, who was brutally murdered by her boyfriend. The Walk crossed the country on a southern route covering Indian Country from La Jolla Shores, California to Washington D.C. In 2018, the Longest Walk 5.3 will cover the Northern route across the country from Seattle to Washington, D.C.
After leaving Whiteclay, the Longest Walk 5.2 made its way into Pine Ridge Village to the Billy Mills Center where it conducted a ceremony.
Levi Rickert contributed to this article.
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