PEMBROKE — “The Longest Walk 5,” an American Indian Movement-sponsored trek across America to bring attention to drug and domestic violence problems plaguing American Indians, will step into Robeson County on Saturday.
The 3,600-mile trek that began in LaJolla, Calif., on Feb. 13, is scheduled to conclude July 15 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Leading the walk is Dennis Banks, who in 1968 co-founded the American Indian Movement as a way to protect the traditional ways of American Indians and to pursue litigation protecting their treaty rights.
Banks, who told The Robesonian on Wednesday that he has been in Robeson County at least 15 times since 1972, is a nationally recognized American leader, teacher, lecturer, and activist. He said that this is his fifth major walk across America aimed at bringing attention to American Indian issues.
“We have been received well by Native American communities across the country,” Banks said. “So far we have met with 52 tribes and discussed with tribal members drug abuse and domestic violence.”
Banks said that the walk was orginally planned to be dedicated to the war on drugs.
“But after my granddaughter … was killed in an incident of domestic violence, domestic violence was added to the theme of this march,” he said.
On Aug. 20, 2015, Banks announced that “The Longest Walk 5” would be held.
“We will call attention to and seek guidance on drug-related issues that are causing devastation on Indian reservations and communities in the U.S.,” according to his August 2015 statement. ” … The information will be used to help determine what we must do to win the war against drugs. This effort will help prepare a new generation of Native American leaders and community leaders to fight the war against drugs.”
According to Kim Pevia, the chairman of a committee of Lumbee individuals, businesses and organizations assisting the walkers during their five days in Robeson County, the event is not directly related to Lumbee Homecoming.
“The timing that the walkers reached Robeson County just happened to be during homecoming,” she said.
About 39 walkers are expected to cross into North Carolina from South Carolina at about 10 a.m. Saturday. They will gather on the parking lot of The Pantry at South of the Border before heading down U.S. 301 to the Indian Cultural Center just outside of Pembroke.
A mini-powwow and a community discussion concerning substance abuse and domestic violence will be held from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the cultural center, Pevia said.
Walkers will be housed during their stay in Robeson County at the Lumbee Tribe’s Pembroke Boys and Girls Club.
At 10 a.m. Monday, a community partnership meeting centering on domestic violence and substance abuse will be held at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s entrepreneurship incubator at 200 Main St. Several local groups that work with substance abuse and domestic violence will attend the meeting, Pevia said.
On Wednesday, the walkers are scheduled to leave Robeson County and move toward Clinton, where members of the Coharie Tribe reside. Some Lumbee tribal members from Robeson County may join the walk and travel with the group until the walk ends on July 15 in Washington, D.C., Pevia said.
According to Pevia the walkers would appreciate donations of bottled water, energy bars, fruits and vegetables. Those wishing to make donations can contact her at 910-774-6328.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.