ASU CASA will host Navajo presentation

(10-23-2015)

mt blanca

At dawn on January 6, 2015, a group of young Diné (Navajo) women and their supporters began to embark on a 1200-mile trek through Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado visiting their four sacred mountains—a tribute to the 150th anniversary of the tragic "Long Walk." The group will share their experiences at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, in the Adams State University Nielsen Library. This event is free and open to the public.

The intent of Nihigaal Bee Iina, Journey for Existence, was to raise awareness about the historical and present day challenges faced by Diné people and inspire hopeful solutions to address these issues.

The Dine walkers arrived in Alamosa on Friday, Oct. 23, and were received by the Adams State Cultural Awareness and Student Achievement Center, CASA. The next day, the journey will continue as they walk to their sacred mountain to the east, Mount Blanca, Tsisnaajini. After a ceremony at Mount Blanca, the group will return to the Adams State CASA Center on Tuesday, Oct. 27. Anyone interested in assisting with food and bottled water, for their Tuesday arrival, can drop off their donations between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday or Tuesday, Oct. 26 and Oct. 28, at the CASA Center, located on the west end of the Nielsen Library parking lot.

The "Long Walk" occurred in 1864 when Colonel Christopher "Kit" Carson, under the command of General James Carleton, enforced a merciless, scorched earth policy to bring Diné people into submission. During this time nearly 9,000 Diné and 500 Mescalero Apache men, women, children, and elderlies were marched at gunpoint for 300 miles to a small patch of arid land known as Bosque Redondo, NM. Many perished along the way.

During their four-year internment at this reservation "experiment," known in Diné as Hwééldi or "the place of suffering," hundreds died due to starvation, illness and physical violence. In 1868, high costs of rations and soldier commissions caused the federal government to disband the experiment and release them back to Diné Tah, the Navajo homeland.

"We are walking to honor the resiliency of our ancestors who 150 years ago were forced to march hundreds of miles in the dead of winter on a genocidal death march," says Dana Eldridge, one of several female organizers of the walk. "They sacrificed and suffered so much so that we could live within these four sacred mountains. So we're walking to honor them."

According to the organizers, the walk is not simply a re-enactment of The Long Walk, but their return to a traditional lifestyle.

"It's something that people don't do anymore. We have the convenience of vehicles. But walking an entire journey is something that's revolutionary in a way," said organizer Nick Ashley of Gallup, NM.

"Our ancestors walked so that we could be here on our homeland singing, dancing and praying the songs they did. But now everyone is chasing the American Dream and neglecting our homeland, our language and way of life," says Kimberly Smith of St. Michaels, Ariz.

For more information call the CASA Center at 719-587-7687.