"You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the world always works in circles, and everything tries to be round... The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours....
"Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where Power moves."
- Black Elk
Day 53 - Monday, August 14, 1995 - The day began with a lengthy council circle to discuss the relations among the walkers, what was going right, and what was going wrong. The circle took a long time, and and held many difficult moments, but was ultimately worthwhile.
The walkers passed a feather, spoke their hearts in turn, listening long and carefully to one another. There are a lot of hard feelings going around camp. Nothing really got resolved, but everyone got a chance to be heard in a respectful manner -- that's the beauty, the democracy of the circle. Sometimes that's enough to make a difference.
During the circle, Charlie Commando took time to explain his understanding of the Seven Fires teachings. Like Ned and Joe, Charlie is a big bear of a man from Canada. He has long black hair, a barrel belly, and strong opinions. Bear energy is a big part of our walk, and our medicine. That's clear by now.
Charlie took the eagle feather in his hand, then talked about how the walk and the relationships among the people on the walk are a microcosm of the world at large and also of the Seven Fires prophecy.
“We have both saints and sinners among us," Charlie observed. "Our parts in this undertaking are gradually being revealed to us, with each person playing a part, consciously or unconsciously.”
In saying this, Charlie was giving voice to a viewpoint widely held among the walkers: the notion that our walk is somehow a microcosm of humanity. We are a small band of less than 40 people at the moment, and certainly constitute no more than a speck in the great sea of six billion human beings on our Earth Mother. But at the same time we span a wide spectrum of human behavior and entanglement.
After the circle, over the course of this scorching mid-August day, the walk made relatively efficient progress to Julian Price Park along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, where the walkers secured a reduced rate for campsites.
While the walkers endured a Spartan meal of plain rice the night before, this night they feasted. Loraine Spear drove up from her home in nearby Mill Spring with a carload of fresh organic food, including lots of fruit. In short order, she helped the walkers to cook then devour a mammoth pot of chicken stew with organic noodles, carrots, potatoes, and dumplings. Delicious. Strengthening. Memorable.
In the evening Robert "Gray Fox" Bryant and his nine-year old son Cody found the campsite and joined the walk for a few days. Gray Fox helped to host the walkers at the Sedalia Center in Virginia, and he wanted to come back and take some further steps in support of the Sunbow 5 vision.
Tom honored Gray Fox by presenting him with a large and dramatically beautiful ceremonial pipe. Gray Fox mentioned that he had been praying for a pipe, and thus he was deeply touched by this honor.
Erika Haga, 18, Naoko's daughter and Tom's stepdaughter, told me she wants to finish the walk all the way to the West Coast, before moving on to complete her education. Why? "First of all," Erika explained, "I really believe in what we are doing, and I want to be part of it. I want to be part of the whole thing. It needs to happen, and I want to help make it happen.
"Every one of us who is walking is trying to change the world in some positive way, and we all have good intentions. We are different, and we have little arguments from time to time," Erika said, "but we work on them. We pray, and we listen to the elders, and we work things out. From the walk I am receiving many things that I could not possibly get in college -- the people and the places and the experiences. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will have this memory forever.
"I see the big picture of the walk, what it is about and why we are doing it," Erika said. "I also see that there are little things, too, as we walk and pray and meet people. Those little things make a difference.
"Finally, I have found that it is a good way to learn discipline. I really like the physical walking. There is the discipline of getting up and walking each day. You just do it. You can do it. You just go on, and that teaches you discipline, and that's a good thing to have."
Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden
Read Day 54 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire