American Indian Movement stops in Carson City during expedition | NevadaAppeal.com

American Indian Movement stops in Carson City during expedition

They've been on foot for 12 days on an expedition from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., and they survived Nevada's stormy wrath of snow, rain and wind. Their resting place for the weekend is at Carson Colony Recreation Department, on South Curry Street. Although they have 2,616 miles to go – along with blisters and aches – that isn't enough to discourage the group of 20, whom are a part of the American Indian Movement.

The trip goes beyond a spiritual journey; the goal is to spread awareness and educate the public about the dangers of substance abuse and domestic violence.

It's otherwise known as "The Longest Walk."

"We want to encourage everyone they can get through addictions, too," said Ray Muckuk, walk captain. "I'm a recovering addict going on 10 years of sobriety. I went back to school, graduated, and now I'm giving back."

American Indian activists and supporters have done these walks for the last 39 years. Each year, they pick a section of the country to travel across and speak with tribal leaders, law enforcement, religious organizations and community members to discuss solutions to combat issues such as drugs and violence. Discussions also include handling other life challenges, whether it be physical or mental health.

The group hands out surveys to each community regarding their experience with the subjects. They do this at every stop until they get to Washington to present the statistics to the annual rally.

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This year, the group is walking through middle portions of the country and is expected to arrive at the annual event kick-off and rally, at the Lincoln Memorial, July 15. The group departed from Chrissy Field in San Francisco Feb. 12, and traveled through Davis and Sacramento.

Since the walk is open to public participation, group members come from all over the world, a diversity in race and beliefs, supporting the American Indian Movement.

For some, it's their first visit to Carson City.

"I've heard about this town in movies and books," Muckuk said. "It's a beautiful place. It seems diverse and I'm no stranger to winter. I love the ski hills, the air and the community."

Although the group is on a precise schedule and can't stay long, they've heard about Carson City's passionate involvement in community service and are hoping to further connect with those kind of people.

"We're in the process of hosting a meeting this weekend," said Kid Valence, run captain. "It's open to all community members to show why we are here. We want to network enough to a point where we can return for our next walk."

Next year marks the 40th anniversary of The Longest Walk, and the 50th anniversary of the American Indian Movement. The planned trail for 2018 goes across the northern part of the country.

However, the purpose of spreading awareness about these issues has an even deeper meaning, especially for Native American Tribes. Originally, the walk was designed to help only those in tribes but once participants discovered that drug abuse and domestic violence spread beyond reservations, it inspired the movement to broaden the education.

"Last year, we focused education with wellness and holistic centers," said longtime participant GinaMarie Quinones. "But after looking at the data we gathered from our travels last year, we knew it would be crucial to include education about how drugs influence domestic violence."

According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, nationally Native Americans have the highest rates of methamphetamine abuse, which violent crimes are attributable to the drug 40 percent of the time.

Another study by Amnesty International showed one in three women around the world suffer from abuse, but Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to be abused.

As for Nevada, the state's history of staggering results in drug abuse and overdose throughout the years pursued the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, passed by Gov. Brian Sandoval in 2015.

But as for statewide results involving residents, regardless of race of beliefs, the statistics broaden. A March 2016 report from Everytown Research showed Nevada ranked fifth for domestic violence involving guns, while 65 percent of that statistic includes women, whom are more likely to be shot and killed by spouses or partners.

And as emotions are running high with fires and protests of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in on the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, the group plans to make a stop there in between April and May.

"It's not just an environmental issue," Valence said. "It's also a human rights issue. The situation may change by the time we get there, but we'll change our route down a faster trail there, if something happens."

"The entire movement is positive and inspiring," Quinones said. "But the world continues to change and now it's time to join forces to represent each of our communities."

The group's next stop is Fallon and are expected to arrive March 1. From there, they will head toward Austin, Eureka and then to Twin Falls, Idaho, before hitting Standing Rock.

From Carson City, Fallon, and beyond, the group is hoping to pick up more people along the way, even if it's just for a few miles.

"We need more community involvement in our walks before we get to D.C.," said Arthur Jacobs, web editor of Native News Online. "It helps us document our journey."

National Chief Bobby Wallace said enough is enough – there's too much drug abuse and domestic violence in the country, and communities should be motivated to come together.

"Grab my hand and we'll step in the darkness together," he said. "We're people who care; it's time to help heal their families and themselves."

To learn more about the walk and signing up for future events, visit longestwalk.us.

Donations also are being accepted through GoFundMe, to support the journey, gofundme.com/n9qbmvn2.

Follow The Long Walk blog by visiting nativenewsonline.net.

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