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'Longest Walk' Reaches Washington

Sally Arthy

WASHINGTON - Thousands of demonstrators are gathering in Washington DC after a five month long journey across America to draw attention to the state of the environment and press for the protection of sacred Native American sites.Thirty years ago, 40,000 Native Americans and their supporters participated in an historic cross-country march called the Longest Walk. 0711 15

They travelled 3,600 miles from San Francisco to Washington gathering support to successfully halt bills before Congress, that Native Americans said threatened their sovereignty.

Commemorating that event, two groups of walkers set out from Alcatraz Island last February.

The Longest Walk 2 was longer by demand according to organiser Dennis Banks, who founded the first walk in 1978.

One group passed through southern states like Texas, Alabama and Tennessee while the northern delegation has walked through Pennsylvania and surrounding states.


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Along the way they have picked up 3,800 bags of trash and gathered a list of American-Indian worries - everything from concern about burial grounds under threat in Kentucky to fears about the future of the Arizona Mountains threatened by ski resort development.

Today the marchers are due to end their journey at the White House and later present a 30-page manifesto to a Democratic Congressman, Rep. John Conyers, who advocates on a wide range of minority issues.

Some sceptics have questioned the impact a group of people on foot can have.

But one marcher, Shanawa Littlebow, has no doubts.

"To say it doesn't work, it's to say a wheel doesn't work when it's turning. We're turning. We're walking. It's working," he said.

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