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Over 250 participants registered for the O'odham Piipaash Walk on February 20.
O’odham/Piipaash Walk Turning a Negative Into a Positive
By Dodie Manuel
Au-Authm Action News

Saturday, February 20, was no ordinary day; it was a day of prayer and reflection for the past, present and future. Close to 250 participants gathered at the Lehi Grounds to take part in the 13th annual Walk for O’odham Piipaash.

As people arrived, you could feel the positive energy radiating, and when you looked around, you could see it in the faces of people.

It was not always that way.

There was a period back in 2002 when violence in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community was taking its toll on residents. It was a time when crime and suicide were at an all-time high. A group of concerned Community members got tired of the violence taking place in the Community and wanted to do something. In a 2006 Au-Authm Action News article, Anita Rivers, one of the organizers of the walk, said, “There was so much pain going on in the Community, and a group of Community members including elders, spiritual advisors and Council members decided to create a walk for the members, and it was named ‘Walk for O’odham and Piipaash.’”

The first walk started at Red Mountain and ended at Friendship Park. The following year it began in Salt River and ended in Lehi (vice-versa the following year). Some years it would take place in Salt River, followed by Lehi, and yes the dates would change, but it never faltered. It continued to take place over the years and gave people the chance to offer prayers for themselves, their families and for the Community.

Au-Authm Action News spoke to some of the participants of the walk, and the stories they shared echoed the same sentiments for health and well-being of their families and Community.

Community member Amelia Thunderbull from Lehi said this was her first walk. She said she was walking because she has diabetes and high blood pressure. She was also walking for her addiction; she shared that she is a recovering addict of three years. Her son and dog were there to take part in the walk too.

“I am here walking for the generations, for my ancestors who have gone on,” said Carmen Benally, who has been taking part in the walk for the last four years. “It’s a traditional thing in my life and gives me strength and wisdom. It reminds me who I am and where my people traveled, how long they walked to gather food and stuff for their home.”

Josephine Figueroa was there that morning to support her friend. “We are here to get healthy. It’s a way for me to get to know this Community; it’s good to get to know the Community.”

Prior this year’s walk, SRPMIC Council Member Michael Dallas, Sr., welcomed the crowd.

“It’s good to see you here,” said Dallas. He proceeded to provide background information on the walk. “Today we come together united as a people. As we walk, remember those who have gone before us, those who have issues, and those that have diabetes and can’t leave their homes. I think about this walk [when it first] started in 2002; maybe there are some of you here today like myself that [were] not in a good situation in life at that time. I believe some of those walking at that time were walking for myself [and] others like me who were in a wrong situation. Those that are here can walk for those today [struggling] and give them hope in this Community. In an old AAN article, former Vice-President Leonard Rivers [said he] wasn’t sure how long it would last, [but] he hoped this walk would continue. I want to thank everyone for being here today.”

Following the welcome, the participants began the one-mile walk along south on Stapley Drive to McDowell Road heading west to Horne Road heading north to Oak Street heading east, and ended the event with social dancing and a meal provided by Ernie’s Catering. Council Member Jenelle Howard blessed the food. Also in attendance was Council Member Deanna Scabby anc Vice-President Martin Harvier. The walk was coordinated by the Community Relations Office.

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