Native American runners from various tribes are running to the nation’s capital to spread awareness of the abuse of drugs and alcohol and domestic violence, suicide and bullying.
“I was a drug abuser. I was heavy into cocaine and used to be a drug trafficker,” said Michael Shortey, of Steamboat, Arizona.
Shortey said he lived a crazy life of partying when he was younger and after getting clean and sober wanted to be a role model for his family and community.
Shortey then discovered the Longest Walk 5.2 and decided to try his best to make the journey for his sobriety.
The Longest Walk is a cross-country running and walking journey for Native Americans. It left Chrissy Park in San Francisco on Feb. 12 with plans to arrive at the White House in Washington on July 15. Its goal is to raise awareness of alcohol and drug abuse and domestic violence in Native American communities.
Its purpose is also to raise awareness of other Native issues, said Simon R. Jones, interviewed by phone from Fort Duchesne, Utah.
“We have land rights, water rights and sacred sites,” he said.
The Longest Walk is led by Dennis Banks, of the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota and co-founder of the American Indian Movement. It was set up to seek cultural solutions to substance abuse and create resources to end these problems.
Jones, originally from Klagetoh, Arizona, is part of the group of runners traveling to D.C. The lone Diné runner in last year’s Longest Walk run, this year he is joined by three other Diné runners.
The runners will head into Colorado, making stops in Craig and Denver, and White Clay, Nebraska, near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation before running north towards Cannon Ball, North Dakota.