More than 300 people on Friday donned their walking shoes for the 11th annual Four Corners Walking Together For Healthier Nations in which Native American tribes converged onto the Four Corners area as a way to get the message out about living a healthier lifestyle.
Residents from Towaoc joined in on the 19.5 mile walk to honor the memory of Ernest House Sr. and asked his son, Ernest House Jr. to hold its flag for the walk.
Starting in Towaoc Friday morning, 238 walkers later grew to more than 300 walkers.
Some elected to walk shorter distances or joined the walk at one of the rest areas that were placed every three miles on the route on Highway 160.
House, who was given the honor of holding the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s flag, called the walk a great event and was hoping it would convince people to live a healthier lifestyle, which was something his late father preached to his family.
House Sr. was a former Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe Chairman who died after a motorcycle accident on Sept. 17, 2011 in McElmo Canyon.
House Jr. said the hope is that residents would join in on the walk for a fun way to get out and continue to exercise in their daily lives after the event was finished. He added the walk was to promote healthier lifestyles for all people, not just people from Native American tribes.
He said the opening ceremony with the sun rising over the top of the mountains was an extremely nice and powerful image.
House said it was a great honor that the event was dedicated to his late father, adding that he and his family were humbled when they were approached by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe to ask if they would grant them the permission and blessing to dedicate the walk to Ernest House Sr.
House’s older sisters, who now live in Arizona also came for the walk.
“We were just honored they would want to honor our father in this way,” House Jr. said.
He said the walk was a multi-state event, as walkers from each of the Four Corner states converged at the Four Corners Monument.
Dewitt Baker, who traveled from Ignacio to walk with his friends, said it is something he has been doing for the past 11 years.
“The reason why I came was to promote a healthier lifestyle,” he said, and added this was an extremely important message and was a way to emphasize exercise.
Jana Mills, at the halfway point, took off her shoes and rubbed her feet and vowed to complete the entire walk.
She said the walk meant a lot to her because her mother was a diabetic and the one way to live a healthier life even with diabetes was to exercise.
“Every year (the event) gets bigger for the awareness of the disease,” she said. “It’s about health.”
Michael Vicenti said he begin participating in the event during the last few years.
“The walk supplements the idea of being healthy, and it is a great idea,” he said.
Bradley Hite, vice chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, said the event was being shared by other tribes who were walking toward the Four Corners on Friday.
Hite at the halfway point said there were still 150 people who were still walking after nearly 10 miles, and he too mentioned how dangerous diabetes can be.
“It’s not a disease that affects only one race,” Hite said.
Jerry Collins House said he decided to walk this year because it seemed to be the perfect way to honor his late uncle.
Steve Hite, brother of Bradley, was not walking the event on Friday, but trailed the walkers in an all-terrain vehicle that was loaded with bottled water and a first-aid kit for walkers who needed assistance, though an ambulance was close by.
“My main purpose is to keep them hydrated,” he said.
Lorraine Ben walked the first three miles and then drove ahead to the rest stops to welcome the participants who continued to walk.
“I will help out with the food and water,” she said.
“I think it’s great for all the Native American people because it’s good for our health,” added Rosalina Tom, House’s youngest sister.
Willla Whiteskunk said this walk reinforced the warnings her late brother always gave her about losing weight to prevent future health problems.
Michael Maresh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org