Chief Ernie Peters Longwalker got his name from his 1978 cross- continent walk aimed at defeating congressional legislation that would have dissolved the Native American reservation system. The protest began with ceremonies on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, then moved for the start of the trek to Sacramento, California, where about 25 people set off, a number that swelled to tens of thousands of concerned citizens by the time it hit Washington, D.C., five months later. Midway through the walk, the column of marchers took fully half a day to pass beneath the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
The legislation died, even though it had considerable popular support. The outcome, however, was no surprise to Longwalker, a full-blooded Mdewakontonwan Dakotah (Sioux) medicine man, who had been chosen by his fellow Native American chiefs to lead the peaceful protest march. He says that if one lives the truth–by living honorably, purely, and righteously–the power of the Great Spirit will be manifested. And manifested it was in the downfall of the antireservation bill–and also in the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, which ended the widespread federal persecution aimed at preventing Indian dances and other religious ceremonies. This harassment climaxed in the 1890s with an outright ban on the rites. It was lifted only in 1934 but continued with unofficial but considerable fierceness until 1978. During all this time, the rites were practiced underground.
Longwalker remains a leader within the Native American community. He has continued to fight for the rights of his people though his efforts are not as widely known in the 21st century.
In this clip Longwalker agreed to talk about his ancestors view of life and our world with a well-known progressive rock musician, Jon Anderson, known for his work with YES, Vangelis, Kitaro, Youth Orchestras, indigenous musicians, etc. The audio of Longwalker’s voice was recorded outside underneath a tree on his land as he spoke to Jon Anderson. Anderson added music to Longwalker’s words after their original recording.