Darla Banks didn’t plan to visit Mt. Pleasant while organizing the last leg of a walk started by her father several years ago. After attending a ceremony at the boarding school earlier this week, they found a new friend and a new mission.
Banks and three other people, including her son, started walking from Leech Lake, Minnesota, and plan to end their journey on July 15 in Washington DC Banks said she plans to visit the Bureau of Indian Affairs office and ask what they’re doing to represent indigenous peoples.
While in Mt. Pleasant, they plan to do a little more walking. On Saturday, they plan to walk from the home on South Shepherd Road they’ve been staying at this week to the boarding school, where’ll say a prayer for more than 200 missing or dead people, including more than 10 whose recent disappearances remain unsolved.
Raising awareness about domestic violence was already part of the message they carried. The issue was added to the last walk organized by her father Dennis Banks, an indigenous activist and co-founder of the American Indian Movement. Banks organized several great walks during his final years, including two of the three legs of the walk his daughter is now finishing.
In organizing the third and final leg of a walk he started, Darla is also carrying his legacy forward. She is planning to meet with people her father knew when he was alive. She joined him during some of his walks, so she knows them, but she is also learning to organize in her father’s footsteps.
Dennis Banks died in 2017. The message of his final walk was a declaration of war against drugs. His daughter and three companions are traveling with a tent that serves as an exhibit of Dennis’ life and beliefs.
Dennis added raising awareness to domestic violence as part of his final walk’s message. Darla’s daughter went missing in October 2015 and was found 52 days later in the woods, where her boyfriend left her body after he strangled her. He attempted to destroy the remains, too.
Darla said they thought they’d done everything to prevent her death at her boyfriend’s hands, but each time they contacted a domestic violence agency they were given a new phone number that ultimately provided them no assistance.
She is carrying the story of her daughter with her to DC Along the way, they’re adding to it with stories they collect from indigenous communities they visit along the way. At the last one, they were given a photo book and during down times during their walk they are adding photos and momentous of the missing and murdered indigenous people they hear about along the way.
They were to the south and east of Isabella County when they realized that a ceremony was taking place at the property of the boarding school earlier this week. The plans were to go down through Detroit and head towards DC
Instead, they detoured back to the boarding school, where they met Kelly Hawkins. Hawkins shared a story about a missing person, and Darla, her son Waabooz, an Arizona woman named Tracker and a fourth woman from Oklahoma pitched tents in her backyard to stay a few days.
While camped, they’ve added miles to their walk. On Saturday, they’ll add more walking back to the boarding school carrying posters bearing the names of missing indigenous people from Isabella County. Once there, they’ll say a prayer. Darla said they hope they help the spirits of the missing move on.
Once they’ve finished, Darla said they’ll have fulfilled their mission and it’ll be time to leave Mt. Pleasant.