Onto the Spirit World

root - Posted on 02 December 2009

A Tribute to Willie LoneWolf (Ute/Navajo), Longest Walker

by Mari Villaluna Coordinator Indigenous Peoples Media Project of POOR Magazine/POOR News Network

“I’m from California, She’s from Oklahoma…”

“They found him Mari,” my Auntie Patti told me. Right away I knew what had happened, Uncle Willie was gone from this world. The month before, my Auntie Patti asked if Uncle Willie was here for the Ute Bear dance. I told her I hadn’t seen him. Right then we both knew something was up.

I first met Willie LoneWolf in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was a drummer in the All Nations drum group. I would see him at the Intertribal Friendship House, or different Pow-wows. It wasn’t until I made a decision to go on the Longest Walk 2 (to learn more about the walk go to… http://www.poormagazine.org/index.cfm?L1=news&category=35&story=2061) that Willie Lonewolf became my Uncle Willie.

Uncle Willie probably knew a million songs and sang many of them on the Longest Walk 2. He would drum late into the night, around the fire, or while we were walking and praying. Many people and I would sing backup when Willie sang. Everyone always gathered around him, and always wanted to learn from him. He built sweat lodges, and ran some sweats while we were on the walk. He also was our bus driver on the Northern Route.

When we got to Colorado, Willie and I both fell in love, with different people of course. He fell in love with my Auntie Patty, who always watched over me and took care of me on that walk. I fell in love with my husband. Uncle Willie taught me many songs and always encouraged me to sing, and would teach my husband Adriano different songs. I think they both had a common bond of being both Utes and with being on that walk.

I told a fellow walker that Uncle Willie was gone, and to pray for him. That walker just simply responded, “He was still supposed to teach me so many more things. I wish this didn’t happen.” Uncle Willie taught all the youth of that walk so many things about being Native. He even got called Willie Wonka, and we were his Oompa Loompas.

I remember him talking about his A.I.M. (American Indian Movement) stories, or just singing different songs he knew or would try to remember. The funniest memory I have of him was when we were going into a state park in Colorado. He was driving the bus and saw the police. He pretended that they were the calvary and we where all on horses. Every minute he would give a play by play of what was going on. I laughed every time I thought about it.

My dearest Uncle Willie, I am sending you a digital smoke signal to let you know I hope you have a safe journey crossing into the other world. I don’t understand why you left, and if it was even your choice. You taught the youth so much about being Indigenous on that walk. Every time I sing the Warrior song I will be thinking of you. Please watch over your Oompa Loompas as we will be singing the songs you taught us.


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