Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hundreds Welcome Indigenous Rights Walk to Flagstaff

t r u t h o u t | newswire
News Release From Longest Walk 2

-----begin copy of Longest Walk 2 news release-------

Contact: Klee Benally, (928) 380-2629

March 24th, 2008

Hundreds Welcome Indigenous Rights Walk to Flagstaff

Flagstaff, AZ - On Friday, March 21st, Indigenous spiritual leaders, environmental groups, tribal officials and 250 community members welcomed more than 100 participants of the Longest Walk 2.

The Longest Walk 2 marks the 30th anniversary of the original Longest Walk of 1978 that resulted in historic changes for Native Americans.

The Longest Walk 2 is a five- month journey, beginning in San Francisco, CA and finishing in Washington D.C., bringing attention to environmental protection and Native American rights.

"We've crossed 18 mountain ranges. We have walked 980 miles to be here," said Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement and lead coordinator for the Southern Route of the Longest Walk 2. "Thirty years ago a walk took place across this country and one of the issues that we brought before members of congress was the issue of the San Francisco Peaks, the holy mountain. 30 years later we are still concerned about the destruction and the violation of the holiness of this mountain."

Longest Walk 2 participants joined with tribal and spiritual leaders and community members before entering Flagstaff at a sunrise prayer gathering. The ceremony was held on Arizona's San Francisco Peaks where Snowbowl, a small private ski resort, has been attempting to expand and make fake snow from treated sewage effluent. More than 13 Indigenous Nations hold the Peaks holy and are unified in resisting the desecration of this sacred site.

Following the ceremony the walkers proceeded down the holy mountain picking up trash on their way to Flagstaff City Hall for a news conference and rally. Representatives of the Save the Peaks Coalition, Sierra Club, ECHOES, Black Mesa Water Coalition, and C-Aquifer for Dine' addressed the issues facing their communities and voiced their support for the Longest Walk 2. Shelby Ray, a 16-year-old representative of Youth of the Peaks, expressed her gratitude and encouragement to the young walkers saying, "We need more youth to speak out and take action for the environment and our rights."

"The Longest Walk 2 is a spiritual walk for the protection of our Mother Earth," said Jeneda Benally, a volunteer with the Save the Peaks Coalition. "We are honored and blessed to welcome and host everyone who is on this historic journey. From the holy San Francisco Peaks to Black Mesa, Yucca Mountain, Bear Butte, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Shell Mounds, and many, many more, the Longest Walk is here because we are still struggling to protect our cultures and land."

"This movement is a healing of our communities," said Kelvin Long, director of ECHOES, a Flagstaff based Indigenous rights organization.

"The continued desecration of sacred sites in America should be an affront to all people of conscience everywhere," stated attorney and congressional candidate Howard Shanker. "Native Americans have no First Amendment Rights regarding public land use." Shanker has successfully represented tribes and environmental groups in the precedent setting case to protect the holy Peaks.

Phil Stego Jr., Executive Director of Land Management for the White Mountain Apache Tribe stated, "For those of you that believe Indian wars are over, they are not. They are just beginning again. We will fight to the end for our people's existence." Stego also made a point to dispel the myth about the use of reclaimed water at Sunrise ski resort. He stated, "As the Director of Natural Resources for the White Mountain Apache, I can tell you that Snowbowl is lying. We are not using reclaimed water at our ski resort."

"We have Navajo tribal officials who stand up to protect the sacred mountain but don't realize that water is also sacred. We say that water is life," said Calvin Johnson, president of C-Aquifer for Dine', an organization formed to oppose Peabody Coal's use of the C-Aquifer for coal transport from Black Mesa. C-Aquifer for Dine' also opposes the "Settlement Plan" that would reopen the Mohave Generating Station and Peabody Coal mining operations. Johnson led the crowd in chanting, "Protect sacred sites, defend human rights."

"Right now 80% of the natural resources held underneath Indigenous people's lands are being threatened. There is an ongoing war being waged for these resources." said Enei Begaye, director of the Black Mesa Water Coalition. "We agree that we need to stop the war in Iraq and end the occupation of other territories around the world. However it is important to remember that the U.S. is also occupying sovereign nations here in this country. On Behalf of Black Mesa Water Coalition, we'd like to honor the walkers for carrying this message," said Begaye.

People from throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia who have joined the Longest Walk 2 offer their support to the struggles of Indigenous people in the United States. Jun Yasuda, a Buddhist nun from the Nipponzan Myohiji Order in Japan said, "Walk is a prayer, step by step we will walk until mother earth smiles." Yasuda is a veteran of the 1978 Longest Walk and has continued to walk throughout the world for peace and Indigenous Peoples' rights.

The Longest Walk 2 is anticipated to arrive in Washington, D.C. on July 11, 2008. "Upon our arrival, we will deliver a resolution to elected officials. This resolution will document the struggles and concerns from each indigenous community that we encounter during our walk," said Dennis Banks. "Our intention is to give a greater voice to the environmental and indigenous struggles that our government doesn't often acknowledge." "The Havasupai recently invited us down into the Grand Canyon. They told us about the exploratory drilling for and the seepage of uranium into the Colorado River. We were hosted also by the Hualapai where chromium affects their daily lives today." stated Banks.

During the 1978 Longest Walk, thousands converged on Washington, D.C. in an effort that defeated 11 pieces of legislation in Congress that would have abrogated Native American Treaties. As a result of the 1978 Walk, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (1978) was passed.

Since the arrival of the Longest Walk 2 to Flagstaff, many community members have volunteered to cook, provide housing, monetary donations and other supplies.

"I feel like they are making history," said Denise Stoner, an active Dine' (Navajo) mom who has donated food and volunteered kitchen support. "Our rights need to be supported, if we don't say anything now we might not have a chance to." Denise Stoner also urged more people to get involved with the walk, "I know that its kind of hard because we are in a recession, times are tight right now but there are a lot of resources in this town, our community has a lot to offer."

The walkers will remain in the Flagstaff area until March 29th. On Wednesday, March 26th at 6:30 p.m. a panel discussion on the Longest Walk 2 will be held at NAU's Cline Auditorium. On Thursday, March 27th at 5:00 p.m. a benefit concert will be held at the Orpheum Theatre. On Friday, March 28th at 11 a.m. a prayer gathering will be held with opportunity for individuals to speak about issues impacting their communities. The gathering will be held at the Star School, located at 145 Leupp Rd.

After their Flagstaff visit, the Longest Walk 2 will continue though the Navajo Nation. For a complete itinerary, specific directions and additional information please visit:

# # #

Note to editors: High-resolution photos available.

Pelosi Leads Delegation to Meet With Dalai Lama
t r u t h o u t | newswire
Press Release From House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

-----begin copy of Pelosi press release-----

Contact: Brendan Daly/Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616

Friday, March 21, 2008

Pelosi Leads Bipartisan Delegation to Meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India

Dharamsala, India - Today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a bipartisan delegation to express support for the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to discuss the current situation in Tibet.

The delegation was welcomed to the community by thousands of Tibetans in a ceremony led by Speaker Karma Choephel of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. The delegation then proceeded to an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama where they discussed issues relating to Tibet and the plight of Tibetan refugees in India.

In the afternoon, the delegation visited the Tibetan Children's Village, supported in part with U.S. assistance, that educates and looks after thousands of Tibetan children, most of whom are orphans and new refugees from Tibet. The delegation also met with Tibetan monks, nuns, and children who recently escaped Tibet over the perilous Himalayan mountain passes.

Speaker Pelosi has been involved in issues relating to Tibet throughout her congressional career. As a new Member of Congress in 1987, she was in attendance in the U.S. Capitol Building when His Holiness the Dalai Lama first described his "Middle Way Approach" for autonomy for Tibet. Pelosi has been a leading advocate for human rights in China and Tibet including leading an effort to stop the World Bank from pursuing projects environmentally harmful projects in Tibet. In 2007, Pelosi stood with President George Bush to award the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award which may be bestowed by the United States Congress.

In addition to Pelosi, the congressional delegation includes the Chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Ranking Member James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, Chairman of the House Democratic Policy Committee George Miller of California, and Representatives Jim McDermott of Washington, Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, Anna Eshoo of California, Jay Inslee of Washington, Rush Holt of New Jersey and Hilda Solis of California.

Speaker Pelosi delivered the following remarks praising the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and calling for an end to the crackdown by the Chinese government in Tibet:

Transcript of Remarks at Dharamsala Welcome Ceremony

March 21, 2008

"Thank you, Speaker Karma Choepel for your kind introduction and for inviting us to visit your wonderful community. We could never have dreamed of being here at such an important time.

"There is a special relationship between the United States and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It is a relationship that began with a gold watch. As a boy, the Dalai Lama enjoyed science and mechanics. Knowing this, President Franklin Roosevelt gave the very young Dalai Lama a watch showing the phases of the moon and the days of the week. His Holiness still uses the watch today and it affirms our special relationship.

"Last October, the President of the United States presented the Congressional Gold Medal to His Holiness for his 'many enduring and outstanding contributions to peace, non-violence, human rights and religious understanding.' In recognizing his courage we also honor the courage of the Tibetan people, both inside and outside Tibet.

"Today, this delegation from the United States Congress is here to shed the bright light of truth on what is happening in Tibet. In sanskrit the word non-violence means 'truth insistence.' Insistence on the truth is what this is all about. We insist that the world know the truth about what is happening in Tibet.

"If freedom loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China's oppression in Tibet we have lost all moral authority to speak on human rights anywhere in the world. The cause of Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world. A challenge we can help meet.

"When His Holiness the Dalai Lama extended an invitation to visit Dharamsala over 20 years ago little did I know I would be here today as Speaker of the House. Little did we know even a few weeks ago that we would be coming here at this critical time. Maybe it is our karma that we are here now to lend support to the Tibetan people. When we return home we will bring your message and try to meet the challenge to our conscience.

"Thank you!"

# # #

No comments: