In late April, on the 150th Anniversary of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, (29 April 2018,) Robby Romero joined a historic Treaty Ride through 1851 Treaty Land.
Treaty Riders rode more than 400 miles on horseback through the grasslands, badlands, and prairies of the Great Northern Plains into Fort Laramie to challenge the US Government and its Congress to #RightTheWrong and #Honor1851Treaty.
“The Treaty Ride was a prayer in honor of the spirit of our ancestors whose lives were devoted and given to ensure a better world for the generations to come; a world where our culture and ways of life are upheld and preserved.” Says Robby who has long been an activist for both the Environment and Indigenous People’s Civil Rights.
Robby is Apache, and his late, life long friend and mentor, A.I.M. co-founder (with Russel Means), Dennis Banks schooled him well on the tragic untruths of American History. Through Robby I had the great privilege and pleasure, of working for Dennis Banks for a few months, doing publicity writing for his ongoing (Longest) Walk.
Forty years ago, several hundred American Indian activists and supporters marched for five months from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., to protest threats to tribal lands and water rights. The Longest Walk was, until the siege at Standing Rock, the last major event initiated by the Red Power Movement.
Dennis was a brilliant man. I learned so much from him in such a short period of time, I can only imagine what he imparted to Robby over the decades they knew one another. I know it was deep and rich. Rich with culture, tradition and Truth.
When Dennis passed, Robby was just beginning to recover from the loss of another Dennis, another pivotal friend and mentor in his life. Dennis Hopper had informed Robby’s youth like no other, and Dennis Banks had guided him into manhood, along the Red Road of Life.
The death of Hopper profoundly affected Robby and was followed closely by the death of his own mother, the dancer/actress, Rita Rogers who had introduced him to Elvis, Dylan, Hopper and others during his childhood. For the following several years, he lived in Hoppers old studio; the theater in Ranchos. During that time he helped the Dennis Hopper Art Trust with sorting through, accounting for and curating the work Hopper had left behind. He also used the theatre as a music studio . Something Dennis would have loved.
Music kept his head above water, but around the time Standing Rock pipeline protests started up, Dennis Banks happened to be coming through Taos on one of the legs of his Longest Walk, and invited Robby to join him up North, rescuing Robby from a borderline depression and throwing him headlong into something that would ignite his passion for helping others less fortunate than himself.
Incredible creative energy has come from this immersion in the travesty occurring on the Northern Reservations; a recording made during the siege on Standing Rock, Born On The Rez was released exclusively in Indian Country and has blown up!
For Robby, who has been at this a long time, April of 2018 proved a turning point. Not only would the great Ojibwe Warrior, Dennis Banks have celebrated his birthday last month, had he lived to see another year, but Robby was continuing his work, riding on horseback, more than 400 miles across the Great Northern Plains into Fort Laramie to challenge the US Government and its Congress to #RightTheWrong and #Honor1851Treaty.
In April too, the Taos Environmental Film Festival, in partnership with the UNM-Taos Digital Media Arts program, presented a special Mother Earth Day Celebration at the UNM-Taos Bataan Hall showcasing a collection of music pictures made by Robby Romero, and as always his focus was set on the 17th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Robby is a UN Ambassador for Indigenous Peoples. This years theme was: “Indigenous Peoples’ Collective Rights to Lands, Territories and Resources”
“Safeguarding the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Mother Earth is a call to conscience — key to the restoration of life in balance.” Says Robby.
That said, because of all that he is juggling at the moment, along with the recent sale of Dennis Hopper’s old Theatre, as well as a series of unforeseen circumstances, Robby and the Dennis Hopper Art Trust, along with the individual businesses and organizations involved with this year’s Dennis Hopper Day, decided to cancel the event and instead focus on next year’s 50th Anniversary of Easy Rider.
“Look we’ve done Dennis Hopper Day as a free event for the community for four years,” said Robby when we spoke over the weekend. “It’s been very successful, but again it’s never been about commercializing Dennis’ name.”
“It’s a celebration of his life and his considerable contribution to Taos’ continued reputation as an Art Colony.”
Last week the Taos News published an article littered with various inaccuracies, including saying that the annual DHD Easy Rider Ride rode to the cemetery where Hopper is buried. This is false. The ride has never gone there.
“There are broken promises going on here too,” Robby reminds me of the town’s promise to name a street for Hopper, which thus far has not happened.
Robby spent time on Saturday at the Ranchos Plaza, being there to welcome and meet with any who gathered, having not heard of the cancellation.
I heard one guy talking outside the World Cup, saying they were so grateful to receive their Easy Rider Ride 2018 patches and that Robby had encouraged them to cruise the town, in the spirit of Easy Rider, to check out the art galleries and the Lilac Festival.
Everything was ready to go – Robby had even participated in the butchering of the buffalo for the traditional DHD Buffalo Barbeque, when suddenly a series of events occurred that made it clear to the organizers, that this year it needed to be cancelled.
““Circumstances beyond our control made canceling the right thing to do, but we’ll be back next year,” Robby promises. “We’ll have the restored and edited Last Movie showing, along with special guests and great music and more!”
For more on Robby Romero (and the Trail of Broken Treaties), please visit his site linked below. For updates on Dennis Hopper Day, I’ve linked that (official) site as well.
Photographs of Robby Romero (at Taos pueblo, with Dennis Banks and Dennis Hopper and directing a Music Video) thanks to Eagle Thunder Enterprises. Other image of Ft. Laramie Riders, stock files.