Pubdate: Thu, 31 Mar 2016
Source: New Mexican, The (Santa Fe, NM)
Copyright: 2016 The Santa Fe New Mexican


One step, one person at a time, participants in the Longest Walk 5 
are bringing attention to the problems of substance abuse and 
domestic abuse in Native communities in the United States. An 
initiative of the American Indian Movement, walkers arrived in Santa 
Fe on Tuesday, taking a break in the 3,600-mile walk to share their 
mission. The 30-plus participants will be in the area through Friday, 
when AIM founder Dennis Banks will take part in a governors 
conference for the Eight Northern Pueblos Council. On Wednesday, 
Banks and other walkers met with students at the Institute of 
American Indian Arts.

There is a benefit concert from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday at Cities of Gold 
Hotel & Casino in Pojoaque, featuring Danny T and The Stealing 
Thunder band. Entrance is $5 or a bag of supplies for walkers - a 
good deal, as well as a chance to learn more about the struggles 
facing Native people all across the country.

The walkers began their journey from the San Diego area in February 
and plan to end up in Washington, D.C. As they walk, they are sharing 
their stories of the impact of substance abuse in their lives, but 
also seeking to hear from people in different communities. Most 
importantly, they want solutions.

One walker, Adrian Murillo, told greeters in Santa Fe that "Native 
people are suffering from addiction, substance abuse, generational 
abuse that is handed down. There is a need for love and 
understanding. Not enough Native people believe in themselves to be 
what they want to be."

Drug abuse is epidemic right now in the United States, with the 
Centers for Disease Control reporting more than 47,000 drug overdose 
deaths in the United States in 2014. For Native Americans, the 
situation can be dire. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported 
in 2014 that Native young people use drugs more than their white 
peers and start to experiment earlier. Native students' use of heroin 
and Oxycontin was about two to three times higher than national 
averages between 2009 and 2012.

Dennis Banks, who co-founded the American Indian Movement, knows the 
toll of drug abuse and domestic violence. He recently lost a 
granddaughter, a victim of domestic violence. Banks told Indian 
Country Today that, "Domestic violence and drugs are the most 
important issues facing our Native people at this time. I spoke 
recently with a Native woman who told me that four generations of her 
family have suffered from domestic violence. I want to find solutions 
to these problems, no matter how far I must walk to do so."

The first Longest Walk took place in 1978, designed to bring 
attention to bills pending in Congress that would have ended treaties 
with Indian tribes. In part because of the walk, those bills died. 
Since then, AIM has held walks to bring attention to the sacredness 
of life, the problem of diabetes and the importance of Native 
homelands. After leaving Santa Fe, participants in the Longest Walk 5 
will stop at El Santuario de Chimayo before heading up to Taos. They 
expect to end the walk in mid-July.

This latest walk declares a state of war against drugs. As most 
Americans have come to accept, the national War on Drugs - complete 
with arrests and the imprisonment of thousands of citizens - has been 
an abysmal failure. But a war against drugs that starts from the 
ground up, with communities seeking to regain their balance and 
elders showing a better way to live, is greatly needed.

By walking, there is the opportunity to bring people together against 
a common enemy - as well as the chance for people in New Mexico and 
all along the walking route to meet Dennis Banks, a historic figure 
in fighting for the rights of indigenous people.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom