Odyssey of the 8th Fire is the true tale
of an epic pilgrimage for the Earth
across North America

by people of all colors and faiths.

  - A creative non-fiction book in online evolution - ◊
© - 2007 by Steven McFadden

To hear a sample
audio recording of
Odyssey of the 8th Fire,
click here.


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"The Mother Earth provides us with food, provides us with air, provides us with water. We, the people, are going to have to put our thoughts together, our power together, to save our planet here. We've only got one water, one air, one Mother Earth."

- Corbin Harney, Shoshone

Day 213  - Sunday, January 21, 1996 - When it is rainy, foggy, clammy, and sharply cold, inertia sets in. A body just wants to remain huddled in the protective warmth – such as it is – of a tent and sleeping bag.

Joe's drum (Photo by Regula Vellacott)

But we're on a mission for the Earth. We need to walk today. Joe was the first to summon his will, and crawl out of his canvas igloo. He grabbed his drum, and set up a monumental pounding of beat and yowling of song.

The 45 or so Sunbow pilgrims encamped on the rocky exposure at Rancho Chorro Grande rolled out to face the surreal icy fog. We built up our fire, made and ate our oatmeal, then mounted up in vehicles. We wound our way down the precariously steep dirt road from our camp, then plunged 20 miles down the steep twists of the canyon road to Ojai.

Our plan is to drive the Pacific Coast Highway, Route 1, all the way to Malibu, which is ancestral Chumash territory. It's in Malibu that we will meet Ho Washtay, the rest of the Harmony Warriors, the Cuauhtémoc Aztec ceremonial dancers, and Tom and Naoko. Then as one large, unified group, we will set out on our prayer walk for the day, striving to make 15-20 miles toward the Western Gate.

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As we dove down toward the sea at Malibu in Jacki’s Jeep Cherokee, we tuned the radio to a Sunday morning sermon. The preacher was reading the day’s Bible lesson from Exodus. The five of us in the jeep were captivated to hear him say: "By faith the chosen people survived 40 years of wandering in the wilderness so that they might enter the promised land. Faith was the key.

“So many obstacles blocked them," the preacher said. “Then, at the end of their long journey, the chosen people had to face another trial at the city of Jericho...But really, the people didn’t have much alternative other than to trust and obey. They didn’t have the forces to actually conquer Jericho. God told them to march and blow and shout, and that the walls would fall. So that’s what they did and that’s what happened.”

As far as we are concerned, that radio minister is preaching to the faithful. We gave ourselves looks of shared astonishment at the sermon we'd just heard, and gave the preacher a hoot and a cheer for his exhortation on faith.

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Chumash paddlers - aboard the Elye'wun (swordfish) pass by the mountains near Carpinteria, California. (Photo by Nick in SB, courtesy of flckr.com)

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In Malibu, we gathered at the last remaining traditional village site of the Chumash nation. The fresh springs of Malibu Creek, flowing sweet and strong to the sea, were historically prime locations for Chumash villages. In olden times they called the territory Humaliwu, meaning “where the surf sounds loudly.“

While some of us moved the walk's base camp yesterday, some of us keep on stepping along the road. This site is where our steps ended yesterday, and where they will start up again today.

A member of the Chumash nation, Ho Washtay was there in Malibu with everyone waiting for us. He took the opportunity to tell us a little about his people and the region. He said that all of this region was historically Chumash land. Now it’s all taken, and all covered over with developments of one kind or another. This complete dispossession is an experience the Chumash have in common with the Gabrielleno-Tongva people, the tribal affiliation for many of the Harmony Warriors.

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Ho Washtay shared with us some of the origin story of the Chumash, and how the rainbow bridge played a large part in that story. He said his people began their existence on the Channel Islands, just off the coast of this part of California.

Eventually the island of Santa Cruz was getting too crowded with human beings. The Earth Goddess, Hutash, made a bridge out of very high, long rainbow. The multicolored bridge stretched from Santa Cruz Island all the way to the mountains near Carpinteria on the mainland.

Swordfish sculpture - (Photo by TreMichLan, courtesy of flckr.com)

Hutash told the Chumash to cross the Rainbow Bridge, and to fill the whole world with people. 

As the people made their way across, some walked safely. Others made the mistake of looking down. They got so dizzy that they fell off the rainbow into the ocean.

Hutash felt sad about this, and so transformed some of the people into dolphins. Others became swordfish. In this manner continued the relationship between these sea creatures and the Chumash people, a relationship that is remembered and honored to this day in the Dolphin and Swordfish clans. 

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As we stood together at one of the ancient sites, Ho Washtay told us that some time ago archeologists surveyed Malibu and found 24 Chumash village locations. The site where we are gathering this morning is the last one, the only Chumash village site in Malibu not yet fully developed for condos, houses, or a shopping center. But it will be built upon soon.

Case front-end loader

About 15 months ago a developer began to build condos on this site. Almost immediately archaeologists began to find artifacts associated with native burial sites. Eventually, according to Ho Washtay, they found as many as 300 Chumash gravesites. Despite Chumash protests, the builders got approvals to go ahead.

The site is slated for immediate development. There are stacks of rebar and thick planks scattered about, and a big real estate sign seeking early buyers.

We could see that the builders have already poured some foundations. A huge Case 480LL front-end loader is poised at the edge of the site, ominously aimed toward the heart of the land

After speaking about the struggles of the Chumash people to protect the graves of their ancestors, Ho Washtay asked us to join him in remembering and honoring with prayer the ancestors whose graves have been dug up and moved. We asked that the land here be respected and protected.

Then we put down tobacco, and turned to take up our drums, our staffs, and our flags for a day of walking

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Malibu shore - We walk parallel to the sea now, heading north. Photo by Agenda893, courtesy of flckr.com)

We began our beat on the drums, and aimed our steps down the hillside and out onto Route 1. We headed north in a steady, soaking rain. As in previous days, the Cuauhtémoc Aztec ceremonial dancers and drummers led the way for us with their driving, entraining rhythms. The rain became progressively heavier. Our entourage carried on, undaunted.

We had walked for only 45 minutes, and were just building momentum walking along Route 1 when word came. We were asked to stop walking. We are told that some Chumash elders have asked that we stop. We pause for a circle just beyond the Italian restaurant.

The Aztec dancers performed steps to close the ceremonial procession. We were dismissed and sent to walk back to where we parked the vehicles. Nothing much was explained. We were not given the names of the Chumash elders, or the reasons why they are stopping us. We were just told to stop.

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Ned, Joe, Sam, and some of the other native people are getting ready to drive off to a meeting with the Chumash elders. They are going to go in one vehicle, while the rest of us -- about 40 walkers -- are being told to drive back to our base camp at Rancho Chorro Grande above Ojai.

Before departing for the meeting, Joe asked everyone in camp to consider fasting from now through the end of the walk, which is maybe some seven to ten days. He said the meeting he was driving off to was crucial, and he asked us to stay united in support. With no discussion, we all agreed to fast.

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Copyright 2007 by Steven McFadden

Read Day 214 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire

 
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