On the weekend of March 19, Cochiti Lake had the unique opportunity to play host to participants of “The Longest Walk 3, Reversing Diabetes.”
Participants began the walk Feb. 14 in La Jolla, Calif., and expect to complete the walk during the week of July 8, by arriving in Washington D.C.
Dennis Banks is the founder of the walk. Banks, a member of the Anishinabe from Minnesota, is a well-known leader, teacher, lecturer, actor, activist, author and cofounder of the American Indian Movement. Banks was diagnosed with diabetes two years ago and decided then to treat the disease through nutrition and exercise, rather than drugs.
The Walk was conceived to raise awareness about diabetes, the number of people who have the disease, and how the effects can be reversed or improved with exercise and nutrition.
Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in this country, especially within the Native American population. According to Chief Harry Goodwolf Kindness, leader of the walk, almost 100 percent of the Pima-Papago tribe has the disease. However, Chief Kindness points out that this is not just a Native American disease; all races of people have it.
“We are doing the walk to raise awareness for all people,” said Chief Kindness.
The message of the walkers, as listed on flyers they distribute, states: “Eating and exercising in accordance with the laws of nature, such as eating raw vegetables and walking daily, will help mitigate, stop, or reverse diabetes, save lives and protect the Seventh Generation to come.” (The Seventh Generation refers to all Native Americans).
Each morning, Chief Kindness, of the Mohawk/Oneida tribe from Green Bay, Wis., gets up at 4:30 a.m. and starts the walk alone. He walks about 10-15 miles, setting the trail for the day, and the others catch up to him. The leader, Dennis Banks, decides how far the group will walk each day. Depending on the day and the location, the size of the group of walkers changes. While at Cochiti Lake, this diverse group was comprised of 45 individuals, including participants from France and Japan.
“Anyone is welcome to join the walk, and stay for as long they wish,” Chief Kindness said.
Even though the overall path of the Walk is laid out, the actual route changes, depending on where they stay for the night. They stayed at Cochiti Lake as a result of the partnering agreement Cochiti Dam has with Cochiti Pueblo.
“We expect several hundred, or even thousands of individuals to join the Walk as we get closer to D.C.,” Chief Kindness said.