February 27th, 2018
One morning at the Sauk-Suiattle reservation, I had a conversation with Chief Harry Kindness. The Chief is Mohawk-Oneida. He lived in Wisconsin for a long time, but then he got tired of the long winters, and he moved with his wife to Las Vegas. His wife is still in Vegas. She is spending time with her son, who is gravely ill. The Chief’s presence on the Longest Walk is causing his family some financial hardship. While walking across the country, Chief Kindness is not earning an income, and this makes his wife’s life a daily struggle. The Chief and his wife agree that he is doing the right thing by walking for the people, but it is still difficult for them.
I asked the Chief if I could do anything to help. I didn’t feel like I could do very much to alleviate his situation, but I wanted to do something. The Chief allowed me give him a hand. He’s a proud man, and I respect him. He is a leader of men. He is trying to do his duty with regards to both his family and the Native American people as a whole. He’s making hard choices, and I admire him for that.
Everybody participating in this walk is making some kind of sacrifice. The fact that we are doing this work means that we are giving up something else. Ferdinand would disagree with what I just wrote. He told me,
“l am here because I want to be here. It is my choice. I am not a prisoner. I am not a victim. I am not a martyr.”
What Ferdinand says is true. All of us came together voluntarily. However, even though we are doing something that needs to be done, we are still temporarily abandoning our loved ones. We are still setting aside other tasks that are also important. We have made a choice that has to be revisited each day.
We walked eight miles with the Squaxin Island tribe. One lady tagged along with us for part of the march. She was happy and enthusiastic about the walk. She left us after a while, but she was at the Community Kitchen to greet us when we ended our walk there.
The woman smiled and told us, “We have foot baths for all of you walkers. We have hot water and bath salts. You can keep the plastic basins and the towels when you are done soaking your poor, tired feet. You might need them later on your journey.”
I went into the community center and sat down at one the tables in the back of the room. I really didn’t want to soak my feet. I just wanted to sit quietly for a while. I wasn’t able to do that. The woman saw me and came to my table. She and her partner gave me a plastic basin, and then they filled it with hot water.
The woman said with concern, “That water is very hot. Do want us to add a little cold water?”
I told her that I was fine. I asked her for her name.
She replied sweetly, “I am Charlene, and this is June.”
The following morning, we all gathered together for a short walk. After the walk, we planned on moving on to the next reservation. Charlene showed up. She smiled and greeted all of the walkers. Charlene went from person to person saying,
“I just want to shake your hand.’
She came up to and said the same thing. We shook hands, and then she smiled again and turned to approach the next walker.
I felt something in my right hand. I looked at it, and I saw Andrew Jackson staring back up at me. Charlene had given me a twenty dollar bill. I am pretty sure that she gave every walker $20. I felt vaguely uncomfortable. The cash burned my hand.
I gave the money to Chief.