Over the weekend, a band of community members participated in the 4th annual Native American Walk for Sobriety in Richmond, California.
The event, which took place on Saturday, July 14, was organized by the California chapter of the United Urban Warrior Society (UUWS), a national organization that advocates for the rights of Native Americans.
“The most important goal of the Native Walk for Sobriety [are] the ideas of self-empowerment, self-worth and self-esteem,” said Mike Kinney, chairperson for the California chapter of the UUWS.
The walk is especially important to the Native American community because substance abuse has long been a problem: “mass extermination and ethnic cleansing of Native Americans over centuries has Indian Country’ suffering from historic trauma,” Kinney explained in a recent essay published by the Richmond Standard. “For many of us, unsolved grief has led to alcoholism,” he said.
The goal of the walk is to make the community aware of the issues surrounding substance abuse, said Kinney. “Native Americans have historically had extreme difficulty with the use of alcohol. Problems continue among contemporary Native Americans.”
As more people become aware of these issues, some Native American communities, like UUWS, are taking action to stop the cycle. “The return to our traditional spiritual beliefs and values helps us to lead lives free of alcohol, and Native Sobriety walks are crucial in raising awareness surrounding the issues of alcoholism and alcohol abuse in the Native communities,” said Kinney in his essay.
A day prior to the approximately one-mile walk from the Grocery Outlet to the Native American Health Center in Richmond, supporters of the UUWS gathered at the local Souper Center to serve a hot meal to about 145 people in need. The service was made possible by a donation from Rebecca Marlin Pet Care in nearby San Pablo.
“We in the Native Community know how important it is for we as Native People to set positive and spiritual examples to our high-risk teens and young adults,” said Kinney.
“Historically, Indian Country has always had social marches throughout the United States to bring awareness to mainstream society to better educate them about our conditions and how we were living both then and now. Native Sobriety Walks are a direct outgrowth of that,” he said.
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