February 22nd, 2018
Susie is Navajo. She is the mother of four young children. She plans on doing the entire walk across the United States. When I first spoke to her, she told me,
“I am the girl who got shot in the eye at Standing Rock in November of 2016.”
That is how she identified herself. It was the very first thing she said.
Later she told me about her home in Arizona. She told me about her family. She told me a story about her great-great-grandmother.
“My great-great-grandmother was with the tribe as the soldiers forced us to move. She was pregnant with my great-grandfather. At that time, the soldiers would let the mothers give birth and then they would shoot both the newborn child and the mother. Somehow, my great-great-grandmother gave birth and then fled across the river with the baby. That’s why I am here.”
Bobby Wallace is the leader of our group. He’s from a reservation in southern California, near San Diego. He gives us pep talks. He likes to say that we come from all nations. I believe that he is referring mostly to the fact that there are members of several different Indian nations among the walkers. (The word “nation” is meant in a literal sense. The Lummi tribe actually has a national anthem.). There are also several people from Japan with us. I am that stray white guy from Wisconsin who keeps hanging around. IMost of our party are Native Americans. This is their gig. This is their mission.
It’s an eclectic group. There is a wide range of backgrounds and personalities. We are still in the earliest phases of getting to know each other. Being an introvert, I find it hard to mingle. That is why I got up at 3:00 AM to start writing this post.
Kid is from Kentucky. “Kid” is his real name. He is a singer/songwriter and a long distance runner. He is suffering from gout in his ankle, so this walk is a struggle for him. He brought his guitar along with him. He sings to us. He wrote song about his nephew, who died of a heroin overdose.
One thing we all have in common is that each one of us has been scarred by drugs, alcohol, or violence. For every one of us, this walk has a deep, personal aspect. We are all wounded in some way, and we all want healing.
Tony is from La Jolla reservation in the mountains near San Diego. He’s a young man who loves food and a good joke. He dives a huge pick up truck that drags a trailer full of our gear. Jeremiah is another well-built young man. He is a Shoshone from northern Nevada. He sings and drums with a passion. He can be very funny.
As I have mentioned before, Yamada is from Japan. He plays guitar, and he also drums and chants. Makyo is a young woman who is with him. She is a beautiful singer. Ikaeda is a Buddhist monk from Senji’s order. He is thirty-nine years old, bit he looks much younger. He drums and chants as we walk.
Chief Harry Kindness is Mohawk-Oneida. He lived in Wisconsin for many years. Now he lives in Vegas. He is also an elder of the group. He has been doing these walks for decades. He told us, “There is good crazy, and there is bad crazy!” He believes we are “good crazy”.
Pete is a big man. He has a massive head and a toothy grin. He is from the Pit River reservation in California, near Mount Shasta. He told me that all of us are on the walk to put our lives together. We gather little pieces of our lives along the way.
Bob is from an Indian council in Oakland, California. He has long, grey hair. He drums and chants. He keeps track of Yoshi, the eleven-year-old boy who is walking with us. Bob’s friend, Peter, is here too. Peter is a New Yorker who wound up with the Catholic Workers in Tacoma.
Wounded Knee is from Pit River. He’s seventy-six and he’s quite lively. He went on the very first Longest Walk in 1978. He walked with Dennis Banks. Wounded Knee really qualifies as a wise elder. He is funny as hell, and his very compassionate. He gave me knit cap to keep my bald head warm.
Wounded rides in a truck with his friend, Bruce. They argue and complain every time they have to load the gear back into the truck.. I steer clear of those guys when they are loading. I want no part of that action.
Ferdinand is from San Francisco. He’s here for the whole walk. He meditates in an Indian (Asian) fashion. Nothing seems to bother him. He exudes calm.
The membership of the walk is constantly shifting and changing. People come and go. At some point I will have to go. I don’t know when yet. In the meantime, I will watch and learn.