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American Indians and their supporters have ended a 3000 mile walk to Washington D.C. And today they begin lobbying activities in Congress. The point of the activity is to protest what some of the participants call anti indian legislation before Congress. There are 11 bills right now that some American Union say would take away Indian land water mineral and sovereignty rights. The marchers took the name longest walk to refer to the forced marches of Indians from their traditional lands to federal reservations in the last century the American Indians in Washington will participate in a number of spiritual ceremonies while in the capital city and also in lobbying activities and for the next half hour or so will examine a few of the concerns expressed by the people opposed to the legislation before Congress. Joining us from Morehead is Bridget's Shea with her guest. And good afternoon to you Brigid and I'd like you to introduce your guest. I'm with Barbara. Who are you going to bring in from the white Indian reservation. Oh no I think probably somewhat white whitewashed because her
mother was taken away from her Indian parents and turned out to be raised for her white family. You come from that background. I will be good. All right Bridget we'll be getting back to you in just a moment. In our St. Paul studios is Scott Raymond of the meek easy communication center in Minneapolis and we'll be talking with Scott in just a moment we also have someone on the line with us from Washington D.C. at this moment who has been with the longest walk in since we made the contacts so late in the day we're not exactly certain who we're talking to. Is anyone on the line with us right now from Washington or perhaps not just yet we'll make that connection just a bit later in the program. Scott Raymond in St. Paul I'd like to start with you. You were at the longest walk you participated in part of it. And I'd like to hear from you what you understand to be the objectives of that walk. I think the primary objective of the war is to stop the anti indian legislation that's been introduced into the United States Congress and this legislation would
in fact say that the treaties no longer exist. It would just kind of erase the treaties from all the law books that are being used at this time and we think that this is an admission of racism. In fact by the people that are entering the legislation in the Congress and we know that they're backed up by a multimillion dollar law the at this time. And the reason for the. The attempt to end the status of the Indian people have to treaties is because of the large amount of resources energy resources that do lie on Indian when beneath Indian when at this time I'm talking about coal. Good night natural gas oil your rainy and these types of resources that are key to this country at this time and also key to the profits of a large multinational energy corporations.
You know I understand one of the pieces of legislation Scott that has been introduced is by the representative representative from Washington State Jack Cunningham. It is called the Native American Equal Opportunity Act and that is one of the pieces of legislation that the American unions oppose. Can you tell me something about that ad. Well the first thing I'd like to tell you about it is the name is a lie. In fact what it does is abolish and terminate all Indian rights and it actually it abrogates all of the treaties and it would take away the culture of life style and everything that is Indian related to the land Mother Earth and the relationship that Indian people have correctly through the spirituality and culture that we have. And I guess that the name Native American Equal Opportunity Act is a. A way of lying to the public trying to get the public and other congressmen to believe that this would in fact help Indian people good what were telling the people
is that it's going to. Could possibly you know terminate in a literal sense and his sense of genocide. Kill Indian people. And this is this is the word that we've spread throughout the country from San Francisco to DC and from Minneapolis down Dorrance Kansas with a run for survival that with one stroke. Now you were on a portion of the watch yourself is that right now I've been on the walk three times now. Right now I'm on business here in the cities otherwise I'd be in DC now. And you talked with some of the walkers as I understand and in fact brought along a short piece of tape that you recorded as part of that walk and maybe before we hear it you can explain what we're about to hear. OK this tape is with two men young men in their early 20s who have been involved in the planning of the longest walk from the very beginning from the first meeting and they've been with the walk the entire distance from Alcatraz Island to Washington D.C. The first man that you'll hear and I'm the one who's
asking the questions is Bill Simmons. He's a Choctaw originally from Oklahoma and is now living in Oakland and I'd say he must be about 24 25 years old. The second man we would You will hear who you will hear is Perry Seeley. And he's a we aren't Indian who lives in Redding California and who explained that you know we aren't so nearly been completely killed off now. At this time there's very few we lost in the world. So I guess that's good for America. Where did the idea for the longest walk come from. OK we found out that there was legislation in Congress that was calling for the total abrogation totem race of Indian reservations. I would call it emergency conference at d q University in Davis California. Now this conference we had about 100 people participate from different Indian organizations in tribes across the country and out is this conference we formed what we called a national and coalition this
coalition we had we had a meeting with some of the people got together to has been involved in activities such as I said as dance. So we talked about the idea of possibly another caravan across the country to D.C. We talked about a marathon run. We also talked about riding horses across the country. Do we settle with the idea of the longest walk because it's symbolic to all the forced walks of forced marches that our union people have taken under the threat of the United States government. Because in a sense this is a forced march because it's a march for survival for Indian people for Indian Nations. What do you envision the impact of the bills being. There's a lot of tribal tribal people now that they live in traditional lives and practice in their religions on these reservations and living tribal lives and they don't want to live any other way and the only thing I can see is the germination of the treaties is going to force these
people to say they're going to stand up and defend their land or be forced into the mainstream and now and that this is not what they want and they should There shouldn't be that happen because these people they they don't want to have to live like everybody else this is their land and so as you know some of us you know that like my tribe we already lost our land back in California back and now I know as my tribe There's only 30 30 people left in it. So it's going to be the doing dealing or the complete annihilation of Indian peoples with their schools happens. You know that so I can see that that's going to happen just because of the energy shortages they say you know they they wanted to strip mine on the land but they don't know that the people that live there that's this is the end for them if they do that you know what I'm talking about when you talk about this legislation. And in a sense you're terminating when you talk about your sovereignty and you talk about sovereignty
as as individual as Indian Nations. You know the whole world is watching. Just walk yourself because you know they're asking a question of the United States government does not live up to its treaty obligations with the Indian people with Indian Nations. Then how valid are treaties HOW ABOUT HOW ABOUT IS a Panama for you how valid is all the treaties that they have made with other countries you know the word treaty itself sounds like a you know a hundred years ago sounds like a term that they only use something they use for end in people joining in mortar sun you know the trees are also considered agreements or contracts made with between Sabatier nations so what we have to state really what we're bringing attention to what it all boils down to is sovereignty as indeed people as Indian Nations. And what has happened in the past hundred years is that there's been a mis education to the American public by the United States government about what do. The definition of tradition but the real issue is this. When you talk
about tradition you know you had you have to talk about sovereignty because that's what it's all about. Well I'm a survival of offending people I survive a culture of survival of an Indian nation within itself. And that was a tape of a conversation that our guest in St. Paul Scott Raymond had with two gentleman Scott can you give us the names of those to once again place. Yeah the last person was Bill Simmons he's Choctaw from Oakland and curry see who he is. We had Indian names Redding California. And that was a conversation what about a week ago on July 4th. All right. We have of course in our Morehead studios Barbara strum stet with NPR's Bridget shade will be getting to them in just a moment for a general discussion of Indian American Indian concerns on reservations in the city. But first Scott I wanted to press you for a bit more detail about the 11 pieces of legislation that the American unions in Washington this week will be will be concerned with and I think you have a rundown of some of those pieces. First of all
there are 11. There are 11 proposals being considered by Congress right now do you know what stage they're at. OK in the Senate I know that none of the bills are actually going to move through committee in the house however. US Representative Lloyd Meads who is actually the sponsor of some of the legislation from the state of Washington is the chairperson of the Indian Affairs Subcommittee in the house and he could possibly move the legislation through his committee. That has not been done as of yet but he's definitely in a position where he could do that being the chairperson. You know that's the way Congress works. Some of the bills that I'd like to mention are the bills coming out of the state of washing of course there's been a tremendous controversy over the hunting of fishing rights Aboriginal rights that were guaranteed to a new people through treaty. And what has happened is that these rights the law in fact the treaty has been
upheld in court and in people of. Reached a point of technical expertise and you know they've received help from non Indian people so that we could test the treaties in court. And what we're finding out is the treaties really are a law. There they are a law just like any other law as a matter of fact. Treaties are the supreme law of the land and of what has happened is that a lot of the sports fishermen and commercial fishermen see the Indian fishing rights as being a threat to them a threat to them and the fact that they are going to have to come under the regulations of Indian people when they're fishing on Indian land and a threat because Indian people have under the Boldt decision the right to 50 percent of the catch out of the streams in the state of Washington. OK. They claim the sports fisherman the commercial fishermen claim that this is actually damaging the. Opportunity are damaging the fish run so
that the salmon are I guess not able to breed properly. Of course what we're saying about that is that Indian people have been catching salmon for years and years and in fact the Japanese commercial fishermen in the United States commercial fishermen the sports fishermen are the ones that have been sacked you know damaged the salmon run and have threatened many game fish and other fish with extinction and fact have killed off many fish and game throughout this country at this time. And so that's one controversy that's going on it's very heated and there's going to be I guess there has been a lot of violence around that and there is a large lobby that is organized and they have introduced five bills dealing primarily with hunting fishing. The Cunningham bill would terminate all treaties and then there's also another bill having to do with water rights that would. I guess limit the amount of water that Indian
people would be able to use in terms of building their communities and this is a something that really bothers a lot of Indian people because if you look around the reservation communities Indian people never had sanitary facilities such as you know running water good bathrooms and these types of things and you can go five miles down the road in other communities and those communities have those things they have bathrooms everything water they have all of that stuff. In Arizona you can go you know half a mile and in a community that doesn't have any running water at all. Half a mile away they'll be a community that is swimming pools. All right. And so like what's happening is that they want to say to people that you have to quantify your water and they're trying to limit the amount of water Indian communities can have even before you know when people even have water so the water has already been taken away in a way and has never really been accessed available to Indian communities. And now they're trying to telling people that they can only have so much. Earlier we asked you Scott Raymond in our St. Paul studios if you knew the progress
of the legislation we've been talking about now I think we've made our connection with Washington D.C. and Mike Russell is on the line with us. And Mike I wonder first of all you could identify yourself and tell us what the status of the of the 11 pieces of legislation is at this time in Washington. OK. Microphone may have a price and why this from Arizona. You have a private and essential part of Arizona to many of these come from the Colorado River. If you've been keeping in with the had you been with the march since it began on the West Coast. Well I've been with it since. Now your activities in Washington this week not only include lobbying but a number of spiritual ceremonies. Is that right. Right. What can you tell us about the spiritual ceremony where the rock of the spiritual rock was started. Kicked off in a
Alcatraz Island in fiscal bait and they started to rock Sacramento and they've been carrying take a pipe with them all the way it's been every foot of the way Sacramento and about how many supporters would you say are with you now in Washington D.C. we got over 2000 people camped out in a park and we have a lot of support from the black community here in D.C. a lot of support from various right organizations and we've got to try to expand it. And support I had heard earlier Mike that Carette Scott King and Jesse Jackson would be leading a group of American unions and others today today and today appear at a rally at the monument grounds. As far as you are going and I don't think it has started yet. You're on the right of the Capitol doctor they're approaching a man from the greengrocer State Park and so we're going to go up to the Capitol Hill. What do what will the lobbying
activity consist of what will you be telling the members of Congress will be telling them that we are sovereign people and respect our treaty rights treaty that the treaties are around of course are ratified by Congress and whatnot. And we're asking for them to recognize us as people which is kind of hard for them to do. I've been praying all along the way towards towards D.C. for people who are terrorists. There are already praying in Iraq and what kind of reception Mike did you get as you were walking along the 3000 miles from people in the communities you pass through. Right but really we've got a lot of good support from the community. People came out products food products. Find out from Reuters. They don't want to time what is coming to Colorado and Utah and they put us up in the gymnasium for the churches the church
is really screwed up to help us out a lot. So that's Mike Russell talking with us from Washington D.C. And Mike if you can stay on the phone with us please do because we'd like to get back to you again in just a few minutes and we'll get back to Scott Raman in St. Paul in just a short time too. Bridget Shea has been standing by with her guest Barbara strum stead in Morehead and a bit earlier Bridget And Barbara we heard talk we heard Scott talking about some of the general concerns of American Indians especially life on the reservation. And Bridget I'd like to turn it over to you for more on that discussion. All right Dan we can talk about one of the areas of the white treatment of the Indians which is frustrated many of the South has been affected by. I'd like to have her plane of her mother's generation and her mother experienced when they were pulled off of the reservation and how that has affected Barbara and her children and other Indians like her.
My mother you know when the mission came to the reservation they were talked you know told me that this was good for their children to send them to the missionary school so they were sent there their room and board and I said then when she finished there which was probably around a seventh grade then they were sent out to the east coast and Pennsylvania and effectively mother that is to live and work and work you know for white families. Well I said during all this time she was you know assimilating all the way cultures. She wanted all the weight material things at hand. So when she came back to the reservation she wasn't ready to accept her lifestyle than and I did when she married you know my father and I said to her you know for several years after our having nine children it and I was in the fourth grade when she finally succeeded in getting him to leave the reservation and we from then on we lived in the town we were probably the only Indian family and we were just raised his way and my mother didn't want to having to do it in other than our Indian relatives. Consequently all the
children in our family then married white you know and it's been a very subtle form of genocide. The morning commute to we are the engine we hang out you know to where we're no longer even acceptable back on immigration again. When it when it comes to instilling Indian traditional ideas in the children how affected are you able to teach your children these things I haven't been able to teach them very much because I have not been able to get into the Indian community until say my mother four years ago and really really when I went back to school and you know one man or thing agree and then I went into working just specially with nurses or with Indian Healthcare in St. Paul. And that's been really I've been learning you know I've been taking in Indian culture program. But then I was really trying to find out if this is the first time that I can ever say that I've had Indian friends. I've been in you know active in community like within education
in health care. And well you know you name it and I'm really Vernie that all the hurt is there you know and I said maybe that the Indian in me coming out now but I said I feel all the hurt and all the pain. And your mother in a sense make you almost feel guilty about being Indian. You said she didn't want you to wear certain types of clothing. You know I couldn't do that because it signified me being Indian. Maybe we can try to back you at this point we do have other things we can do. But alright Bridgette want to get back to legislation or we'll check back with you in just a moment because we have a couple of questions for Barbara here in St. Paul I think we'd like to pose to her. Want to check in with Mike Russell again in Washington D.C. If Mike is still on the line with us. Mike what will be the activities you mention first that there will be a number of American unions and supporters who will be rallying this afternoon.
But I wonder if you can tell me a bit more about the lobbying tactics that you will be using. Do you have specific senators and members of Congress in mind who you will be talking to about this legislation. Yeah. It's one of the top card of Congress that we have the lobbying for a lot of concern about our car. There's a few other friends of Congressman I can't recall right now but there are. They're lobbying for a friend on our side and I. We've got a little bit of support inside of Congress right now who are the forces that you think are the interest groups that are opposed to the American Indians on these 11 pieces of legislation. Well the main concern is interstate commerce. Pretty correct Committee. A committee by a coalition I mean you can kind of start running this.
The main productivity that they're against and they've got a lot of bucks on their side and a lot of support for what they think are opportunity for Indian. When I spoke to Congress. Now have you been able to identify who any of the lobbyists are for the various groups who support the legislation. Coming out of Washington and already moved out of Washington right now our main concern now the group of American unions and others will be in Washington all week long is out running right and the spiritual leader I understand of the march is a man who has been identified as Ernie Peters to have his name correctly right. Now why has he been selected as a spiritual leader he is at least before this time a man we have not heard much about at least in the Jordie society or the white society who is he and where is he from our computers.
Yes. From a human. Sister kind of threw myself a quarter. And do you know why he was selected as the spiritual leader. I did have a very strong man I've been working with and in activities for a long time. He's a very powerful speaker spiritual leader. I've been involved in all kinds of in your negativity for a long time you have been of course her mother and of course her father Mike Russell thank you for calling us from Washington D.C. Good luck to you this week and we'll be checking in with you I suspect before the week is over. That was Mike Russell from Arizona talking with us he has been on the longest walk the march by American Indians and their supporters to Washington D.C. to lobby in opposition to about 11 pieces of legislation before Congress this week. With us in our St. Paul studios Scott Raymond of Communications Center in Minneapolis.
Scott who also participated in a number of longest walks not only this year but in years gone by. Barbara Strom stat with NPR's Brigid Shay in our Morehead studios. I'd like to turn this discussion into a bit more general discussion of concerns that American Indians have in this country Scott and Barbara. I think many of us have lost track of what has been happening on reservations over the past few years. We know for example from 973 in the occupation of Wounded Knee in South Dakota that there was at that time a tremendous amount of political unrest on that particular reservation in South Dakota. And I'll put this question to Scott first and I'd like Barbara to respond to it after Scott finishes. What do you think is the tone of politics now on Indian reservations. Pretty much in this area around the country if you feel qualified to speak for other areas of the country are the people actively engaged in political action on the reservations. Well I think that there's an effort to I guess achieve
self-determination and sovereignty and the people political leaders on the reservations throughout the country seem to be working very hard to build strong communities. It's a slow go. A lot of people traditional people still don't understand all of what the system is the system that you and I and people in the Twin Cities are accustomed to. You know and I guess that. What I'd like to say about that is that this legislation you know is is designed to stop this self determination effort because around the country most Indian reservations the economic systems and the just the total control of you know who owns the stores gas stations and the businesses and and controls the land really runs the land is actually they're run by non-Indians by white people. And so like what is happening now is that Indian people are achieving this self determination they're becoming more sophisticated in dealing with the system and knowing
what they want and how to get things out of the system that will actually you know make sovereign Indian nations and each of the reservations of course the people that control the economic system the gas stations the resorts the banks and things of these natures the real estate companies and the oil companies and energy companies all have an interest in seeing that Indian nations do not become sovereign because if they do Indian people are going to tell them where to go. You know after they've been stepped on for a long time and they're going to tell them that they don't want Mother Earth destroyed and strip mined and torn up and they're going to tell them that we want to we want to own our own grocery store. You know we want to have running water in our sink. You know we want to have the most bathrooms you know because Indian people don't have these things now. And so like what I see is not. You know a Native American equal opportunity where you know Indian people would be given a fair shake from the system. You know as a senator or congressman freshman Congressman Cunningham would make it out but actually an attempt to just through the
rip off Indian people and to maintain the control that's already been achieved where the land has been stolen. You know the total community is pretty much controlled by non-Indians. And what they're trying to do is stifle self-determination. The government policy the policy that's written into the laws of Congress they're trying to stifle that and stop it and they're trying to circumvent the law which is the treaties by by an act of Congress they're trying to go around. You know the supreme law of the land with a circumventing action which would be an act of Congress. And I see it as a mission of racism on their part no end to racism on the part of the congressmen that are have introduced these bills and barbarous trumps that I'd like to put that question to you in our Morehead studios as well so go ahead. If you're you know if you're looking into the political party really I think what I what I've really been doing a lot of it for you and you could put it in. The political process too is that we would be like the social and foster care for Indian children I see that the ignorant the Ignoring the Indian culture part
you know and the people of that that are involved. You know on that river the fences and a lot of the Indian people that aren't really aware of what their rates are going to be in we see this you know in the adoption process. They don't refer to the extended family you know where their grandparents can actually be the parents and the you know the real parents or not. And there's a lot of old babies being taken away from their mothers and the sterilization things that go on. That's a system you know it's the X knowledge on the part of the Indian and I think we have to get more you know and be the advocate you know for them and we have to be you know I had really difficult to try and get the Indian people to understand that we have to use a lot of the white man we you know especially in the education part in order to be able to come back and help our people. I don't know any part of your question but that we're in now.
You know as you were answering that Barbara I was thinking of the American Indian policy review commission which a few years ago was started to make the first attempts since the 1920s in this country to address some of the concerns of Indians and addressed them by Indians the American Indian policy review commission composed primarily of American Indians from this country. I wonder Barbara do you think that that policy review commission came up with anything that will help the cause of Native Americans in this country. What did you see coming from that commission's work. I'm not even from where we are with I think. Scott Raymond in St. Paul says he is and has a response. Yeah I think the policy review commission came up with a lot of good data on just exactly the kinds of things I was talking about. Before the problem is that of course the Congress is chosen to ignore a lot of reports and recommendations they seem to get filed into some drawer someplace out there in D.C. and these types of commission reports have been ignored largely and a lot of the
legislation that has followed these types of reports is not really helped Indian people it's in fact is has hurt Indian people. Of course there has been like the Kennedy brothers were involved in the Indian Education Act which is really been a tremendous asset to Indian communities and is is really furthered the effort of self-determination. There has been some good pieces of legislation in recent years but so far the policy review commission has been ignored. That's that's my general feeling about it. Barbara I wanted to put another question to you and Mark had. Is it your impression that the family structure on the reservation among American unions is better than it has been in the past few decades. What's your impression of that. You know not not now it isn't. You know if you want to go back you know we're going to tell you about my own childhood. You know we've been horrible. We don't have the drug we're going to have the alcohol we don't have the material things that we want the war you know because we want everything there on the land. We had our own cattle you know. But maybe you want to call for the milk
the government provided of corn in return for the first African return. We want our own you know we. Yes. We lived off the land we lived with the land and our parents you know my parents never asked for or got any welfare to do We were living on our own and our parents were without work. We moved back to my grandmothers You know they were maybe three or four families living there at one time but we didn't have the need we you know to get out to search for other material things or the other objects and then life was good you know and they Kelly come along and tell us well it'll be better for you you know if we send your kids to school if we send your kids to college you know if we could live off the land and we were happy you know we we hand-quilting on their backs. We weren't poor we weren't we weren't big and we raise our own food we eat to survive. Now we're not doing it or not able to know. Covered you know what has changed what has what has caused change. Well you know if it turns out her family is going to the white man's
world they're not allowing him to live you know in harmony with the earth or think or think in a way around don't think equally who can't live off the land for the honeymoon is going away you know and then with the abrogation of all three of them they're going to go where. Christian right I don't think we're you know that a lively Regnault from India I want to thank both of you and Morehead State and Bridget Shay of NPR for joining us for this program we're going to have to conclude now to get to weather information and news headlines and I want to thank Scott Raymond in Armenia in our St. Paul studios. Scott from the Communication Center in Minneapolis and also thanks to Mike Russell who joined us over the phone lines from Washington D.C. who is with the longest walk the march by American Indians across this country to dramatize their concern about eleven pieces of legislation before Congress right now. The American Indians and their supporters will be in Washington all week long lobbying and holding
spiritual ceremonies.
The Longest Walk
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Minnesota Public Radio
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Minnesota Public Radio (St. Paul, Minnesota)
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Episode Description
A 1978 segment from Minnesota Public Radio discusses the Longest Walk, a march undertaken by Native people and supporters to protest 11 bills before Congress that threatened indigenous land, water, minerals, and sovereignty. During 1978, nearly 2,000 Native protesters walked 3,000 miles from Alcatraz Island to Washington D.C. to protest and lobby against the legislation. In this piece, MPR speaks with Mike Russell of the Yavapai tribe from the protest in Washington D.C., with Barbara Strumstad of the Ojibwe tribe from the studios in Moorhead, MN, and with Scott Raymond (tribe unknown), Bill Simmons of the Choctaw tribe, and Perry Celee of the Wiyot tribe. Protesters speak on the legislation, the experience of the walk, Native traditions, and discrimination against Native people. The Longest Walk protest proved successful and none of the legislation passed.
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Guest: Russell, Mike
Guest: Strumstad, Barbara
Host: Olson,Dan
Interviewee: Simmons, Bill
Interviewee: Celee, Perry
Interviewer: Raymond, Scott
Producing Organization: Minnesota Public Radio
Publisher: Minnesota Public Radio
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KSJN-FM (Minnesota Public Radio)
Identifier: 26125 (MPR Media Archive Label)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:34:16
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Chicago: “Midday; The Longest Walk,” 1978-07-17, Minnesota Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 21, 2024,
MLA: “Midday; The Longest Walk.” 1978-07-17. Minnesota Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 21, 2024. <>.
APA: Midday; The Longest Walk. Boston, MA: Minnesota Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from