PEMBROKE — Dennis Banks said he has never seen anything quite like the reception the Lumbee Tribe gave him on Saturday — except witnessing the birth of his child.
While it’s hard to compete with someone watching their child’s birth, the thunderous roar of a dozen Harley Davidson motorcycles leading the way across the South Carolina line for protest walkers Saturday morning definitely left a lasting impression. And, the dozens of Lumbee and Tuscarora Indians who joined in the walk with the prominent Indian activist left their mark as well.
“I want to say thank you to the Red Rum motorcycle club for leading the way for us,” Banks said shortly after reaching Robeson County along U.S. 301 just south of Rowland. “There’s no greater feeling than having your brothers alongside you. The way you owned the road in front of us protecting the walkers was awesome.
“We finally felt it. We felt welcomed. An old man is not supposed to cry, but I can’t help it. This is the first time we’ve felt this way.”
Banks is leading a group of about 50 natives from across the United States on the “Longest Walk 5,” a 3,600-mile trek that started in San Diego, Ca. on Feb. 13 and ends in Washington, D.C. on July 15.
And, on the 140th anniversary of his tribal ancestors’ defeat of Lt. Col. George Armstrong and the U.S. 7th Calvary at the Battle of Little Big Horn, Banks continued to praise his American Indian people for their hard work and encourage them to continue the battle.
“This land will always be ours,” Banks said. “We have a big job ahead of us. If we don’t forget our past and forget our roots, we will be victorious.”
Banks said the purpose of the walk is to bring attention to the issue of drug abuse and domestic violence in Indian communities. He talked candidly about the brutal murder of his granddaughter and encouraged others to join him in spreading a message to end drugs and the violence leading to thousands of deaths among Indians annually.
The walkers will be in Pembroke until Wednesday. The Lumbee Tribe will provide shelter and food until they continue on their journey.
The group will tour several historic sites while in Robeson County.
They are scheduled to meet with tribal leaders and community members to discuss the issue of drug abuse and domestic violence in the Indian community.
It will not be all work and no fun. The group is scheduled to attend several Lumbee Homecoming events this week.
The Lumbee Regional Development Association hosted them for lunch. The walkers said the air-conditioned building was a huge relief after 3,300 miles on the road — many in temperatures approaching triple digits.
Organizers fed them a traditional Robeson County Indian meal of chicken and pastry with sweet tea, croissants and salad. They attended an afternoon powwow where Banks and the others were honored for their work on behalf of Indians nationwide.
Jeff Hunt is a Tuscarora tribal chief in Robeson County. He said he remembers meeting Banks when the American Indian Movement Banks helped co-found came to the Robeson County Board of Education to protest for Indian schools.
Hunt was 13 at the times.
“I remembering standing on the steps watching him,” Hunt said. “I have been really inspired by Dennis Banks through the years. I want to give thanks to him for all he’s done for the Lumbees and Tuscaroras. We are one Native people and a strong people because of men like him. Thank you my brother for being my brother. He’s a hero to our Indian people.”
Support and community volunteers are needed. To volunteer call Reggie Brewer at 910-301-0351 or Kim Pevia at 910-774-6328.
Donations may be sent to Louise Mitchell at 622 Wiregrass Road, Lumberton, N.C. 28358. Money will go toward buying food for the walkers.
For more information, visit www.longestwalk.us or visit TheLongestWalk.com on Facebook.
James Locklear is the public relations representative for the Lumbee Tribe.