NEWARK — Four American Indians gathered Friday above the site of the ancient fire pit at the Great Circle Earthworks and bowed their heads in prayer.
Solemnly and meditatively, they sprinkled tobacco over the place and sang a song that carried across the grass and beyond the towering trees of the Earthworks grounds.
"It is a prayer song," said Chris Jones, of
Oklahoma, a native of the Euchee tribe. "To let (the spirits) know
we're singing to them ... it travels our prayers."
Jones and four others visited the mounds Friday as one stop on their journey across the country — beginning in California and ending in Washington, D.C. — to raise awareness about the rights and cause of American Indians.
"Natives are the lot to show us Natives are still connected with the earth, and the universe, too," said Carl Sampson, of Nevada, who is Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone.
The group of about 50 American Indians walks for miles each day, though not always all at once. The walk has been deemed "The Longest Walk 2," as it commemorates the 30th anniversary of a similar walk that took place in 1978.
In some instances, when they need to make up mileage, a few are selected to run the distances.
But every step must be accounted for.
"Everything has to be done and a prayer has to be done at each time," said Marie Littlemoon, of the Mescalero Apache tribe, from Trinidad, Colo.
The prayer walk has faced some adversity in the course of the group's journey, which began in mid-February.
In Columbus on Tuesday, Littlemoon said the group met resistance as they made their way across town.
Adriano Buckskin, of Colorado, a native of the Ute tribe, said instances like that illustrate the purpose behind The Longest Walk 2 and its predecessor, which his father walked.
"That's one of the things they walked for," Buckskin said. "That's one of the things my father walked for."
Their journey will continue along the path of U.S. 40 on Friday; the walkers camp overnight and try to get an early start every morning.
They have traveled as many as 90 miles in a day, Littlemoon said, and plan to reach Washington, D.C., on July 11. There they will meet the group of natives who have been traveling the South Route — a trek that runs through the Southern states, eventually heading north through Tennessee, North Carolina and, finally, to Washington, D.C.
In their time at the Earthworks, the visitors were able to watch a video and tour the grounds. They also were given the option of touring a portion of the Octagon Earthworks, now the site of the Moundbuilders Country Club, but chose not to.
"I do not want to see it as a golf course," Littlemoon said.
Jones said the local lack of awareness of the mounds' significance was discouraging to American Indians, citing Native burial grounds on the east side of the city.
"People don't know they could be sitting there watching TV and have my ancestors under them," he said.
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