"No more are we going to stand around ...
This is not the end of The Longest Walk!"
Akwesasne Notes, Summer 1978 (pp. 4-5)
We are part of nature. Our pipes are red. Our faces, many times, we paint red. But we represent the Creation. We hear about Red Power. There are many definitions to Red Power.
Sometimes we refer to Red as the blood. But all colors of Man have the same color of blood. The fish life, they have blood also. The animals, too, have red blood. Everyone has red blood. But everyone was not made out of the red clay of America.
Only the Indian people are the original people of America. Our roots are buried deep in the soils of America. We are the only people who have continued with the oldest religion in this country. We are the people who still yet speak the languages given to us by the Creator. Our religion has survived, our languages have survived.
Long before this building (the Capital) was built, my ancestors talked the language that I talk today. And I hope to see my Indian people continue to live long after this building crumbles! (applause).
I see, in the future, perhaps this civilization is coming near to the end. For that reason, we have continued with the instructions of our ancestors. We are the only people who know how to survive in this country. We have existed here for thousands and thousands of years. The smartest man in America does not know and cannot date the time that we originated.
This is our homeland. We came from no other country. Regardless of how many millions and millions of dollars are spent on an Indian, to make him someone else, all these millions have failed to make a White Man out of the Indian. We are the evidence of the Western Hemisphere!
We still yet walk across the entire United States to come here to present to you the problems that we have. Even though we see many sympathizers, non-Indians, who share with us and who have feelings for us, and perhaps even feel sorry for us, but as an Indian, I feel sorry for the non-Indian. I can see the confusion among them. This society is confused. I can see that as a bystander.
If I were with the society, I too would be confused. In the beginning of time, when everything was created, our ancestors also came about in this part of the world. There is no Indian here, on these grounds, that will say that we came across the Bering Straits. There is no Indian standing among us who will say that we descended from apes and monkeys.
We have always looked at ourselves as human beings. In some institutions we are told that man descended from apes and monkeys! I sometimes believe that there ARE some people that descended from apes and monkeys! That's why in the past two hundred years, there are some people who do not understand what an Indian is. That's how come they don't understand what these eleven bills are all about.
These bills affect human beings. We are the original people here. No one can tell us how to live here! No one is able to direct our lives! We have forgotten in a short time what when the first people landed on our shores, they could not survive. Even the pilgrims could not survive. The Indians showed them the way of survival. We taught them how to live.
We taught them how to plant corn. That corn was a Tree of Life for us. We showed them that this is life here in America. And they survived.
Not too many years afterwards, foreign agents came to our house and tried to tell us how to farm. Not too many years afterwards, they began to tell us how to live. They began to tell us that our religion was wrong, our way of life was no good. This is not the agreement that we made. This is not the treaty that we made with the U.S. government, or any other country.
We agreed that we would remain as independent nations, that we would be sovereign people. It was understood that these people who were seeking freedom could have their freedom and have the same soil to share here, with us. We had enough room for these people because we lived by an understood law. A law that we had for thousands of years.
We had an unchanging government. The law of love, peace, and respect, no man-made laws will ever take the place of it! And this is the law that we have always lived by.
Because we understood this law, every Indian door was open. Through these doors walked Christopher Columbus. Through these doors walked the Pilgrims, because of that law of love and respect that we had for all human beings.
But time changed. After entering our door, they took advantage of the Native people here. Their greed -- we have seen it. Many of our people have died. Many of our people were massacred because they wanted more land. We gave them land through treaties. We gave and we gave, and we have no more to give today!
Not only land was taken. Even the culture, even the religion, under man-made laws, were taken away from the Native people. But we managed to survive. We continued with our way of life.
The jailhouses, the prisons in this country, are no more than four hundred years old. Prior to the coming of Columbus, more than four hundred tribes, speaking different languages, having different ways, having different religions, lived here. None of these tribes had jailhouses. They had no prison walls. They had no insane asylums. No country today can exist without them! Why did we not have any prisons? Why did we not have jailhouses or insane asylums? Because we lived by an understood law.
We understood what life is all about. To this day, we are not confused. My elders, spiritual leaders, medicine men, clan mothers, have no disagreements. We are not that confused. We come to you with one mind. We do not disagree on our religion. I have never tried to convert the Lakota people into Muskogee ways.
On every corner there is a church, each of them trying to convert the other one. We did not come here with that kind of confusion. We respect one another's religion. We respect one another's visions. That is our only way of existing in this country here -- that is our survival. This is our strength. Even though we are greatly outnumbered, our ideas will overcome those numbers!
A confused society cannot exist forever. The first people who came here were lost. They are still yet lost! They have been confused so much, we have to go on the green light and stop on the red one. We have been separated from the natural way of life so far that the government doesn't understand the Indian language.
People in this society have been driven away, and have been taken away so far from reality that they will not sit down under a tree and talk to us. They won't even sit down in their office to listen to the Indian. We have experienced this all this time, even in the local offices at home. Those who are holding positions through the government refuse to listen to the grassroots Indians because they have been so far away from that natural way of thinking. They have to look at a piece of paper and get directions from the higher-ups. Even their minds are controlled. They can't make decisions for themselves.
Now we understand that the bills that affect us, affect the grassroots people. Not the ones that are trying to be an Indian in Hollywood, but the Indian at home on reservations. These bills are affecting them.
This is not the first time that the Indian people have walked so many miles. I am, as I said, from the Muskogee tribe, known also as the Creek tribe. If you study your history, my ancestral homelands were in Georgia, and it so happens that the President is from there. He knows why I am here! (applause).
The Long Walk began in Georgia and Alabama and Florida. We thought it ended in Oklahoma, but it did not end there. So I have taken part in the Long Walk again. Every tribe has a trail of tears. We wonder when it is going to end. I would like to see the time come when we can act like human beings and be able to sit around and iron our problems out.
We never say anything about the Geneva Conference here in the United States. The press did not bring this out. Why? Documents were presented there that were so damaging! It was a disgrace to this country! Why does the Native of America have to go to another country to seek human rights?
Today, we too are interested in human rights, as well as those people in Berlin. How much rights does the Indian have? If there is anyone here who is a non-Indian, do not look at me as the most discriminated against. Look at yourself. My people have never discriminated against me. But I think the White man is most discriminated against because he is discriminated against by his own kind. I learned this through Watergate!
The truth! We are the believers in the truth, and not in facts as this society follows. We believe in the truth. Many times you may want to know how many people I represent. I represent the truth. And I represent the future generations of my people.
It makes me wonder. If the Indian can be slapped around and shoved around all these years, who is going to be the next Indian? A few years ago, Black people fought for what they wanted. They could see the signs in many states. On the doors was written, "NO COLOREDS ALLOWED." We don't see that any more. But they had to fight for it.
Today we see another sign on there that doesn't have anything to do with your color. We've seen it over and over. I am using it as an example -- I'm not saying whether it is good or bad. But on that door that no colored sign is not there, but there is a sign that says, "No Shirt. No Shoes. No Service." (laughter)
It doesn't say anything about your color any more. But in the future, you will probably be the next Indian. If you are not careful, you are going to be the next Indian. After a while, we are going to walk up to that door and we are going to read a sign that says, " All the People with Mustaches, Stay Out!"
In the future, there is going to be somebody else suffering. He too will wake up one day and find out that he has no rights. He too will find out that he is not a free person either. We can see that, very much like the shadow of the clouds that come over us. We can see that as a shadow today. And I am sure that my children will live long enough to see that all the freedom will be taken from all human beings. Already this is going on.
You talk about discriminating against the Indians. Don't think that is an Indian problem. You had better wake up. You had better find out where you stand as a free person!
Again we come here to educate the American people about what is going on in this country. The present-day problems of the Indian people have not been looked into yet. It is time that American people be educated in a proper way. The Native people you will see today. No matter how many of my brothers are jailed, no matter how many of them will go down into graves. You may silence me by a bullet some day. You may put me behind the bars some day. But that will not kill, and that will not jail the religion of my ancestors!
The movement of the Indian people will continue to go on. We have been made indestructible! Today the younger generation of my people stands up in pride of the Indian people. No more are we going to stand around and watch these bills go by. We're not going to have this any more. We are going to continue to march! This is not the end of The Longest Walk!
We are going to continue to walk, and walk, and walk until we find freedom for all the Native people! And I will remind you, you may not be an Indian, but you better join us. Your life is at stake. Your survival depends on this. At one time the churches told us that there is only one way. But now I am looking at their church membership. They are declining. How come their children don't want to go to church any more? How come that businessman's son doesn't want to go to church any more? He prefers to be out on the road hitchhiking. He prefers to be running around with his shirt off! So, what does that mean? It means that the only freedom that our young people have is to walk around here barefooted, because it means comfort. And nothing will take the place of being comfortable and satisfied in life! And that's what we are here for! HO!
Copyright for this article is held by Akwesasne Notes, Mohawk Nation, via Rooseveltown, NY, USA
Related Material, including "Geneva, 1977: A Report on the Hemispheric Movement of Indigenous Peoples," was published by Akwesasne Notes in Basic Call to Consciousness [Revised edition, 1991: Book Publishing Co., PO Box 99, Summertown, TN 38483 USA (ISBN: 091399023X)]
"A Conversation with Phillip Deere" videorecording made at the Wampanoag Sovereignty Conference in Mashpee, Massachusetts, 1979, is available at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst Library [Call Number V1340].