"When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money."
- Cree teaching
Day 61 - Tuesday, August 22, 1995 - Tom hasn’t been seen around camp too much lately, several of the walkers tell me. He’s been on the move, restless, often heading off somewhere on what he calls “walk business.” No one is sure where he has been so much of the time, but he has not been around camp. The walkers made a point of telling me this over the phone. They are perturbed.
Tom -- man of resourcefulness, man of passions, man of twists and turns -- checked in with me by phone. He told me he is just doing what he needs to do to get the walk ready to move forward, and his whereabouts at any given moment are unimportant. He doesn't want his freedom cramped. He says he is still upset about having to move our camp away from the pow wow grounds in Cherokee.
Tom Dostou holds the eagle staff of the Sunbow 5 Walk. Alycia Longriver (Kokum) in the background stretching. Photo by Jane Therese, July, 1995.
The deep source of Tom's irritation was plain: “In Indian Country today,” he said, “we have the traditional keepers of the spiritual responsibilities and we have the BIA governments -- the Indian Reorganization Act governments -- which are yielding themselves and their sovereignty and power to the United States government. So there is a basic conflict afoot in the land related to these issues.
“The electeds in tribal government,” Tom said, “are very interested in what they call economic development. I was at Window Rock (Arizona) a couple of years ago, the very week that the Indian nations came together and declared, ‘No more will the United States government bargain on our behalf with energy corporations; we're going to form our own OPEC.’ That’s what became CERT -- the Coalition of Energy Resource Tribes.
"The electeds then began negotiating themselves with energy corporations so that they could make some money, but it still meant selling the Earth, selling the energy. That descibes a very basic mindset right there.”
In the evening Rita Sebastian made fry bread, Ned Paschene made corn soup, and Charlie Commando made chicken pot pie. Charlie has earned a reputation as a skilled camp cook — a chef of distinction. The walkers feasted while admiring all around them the Great Smoky Mountains.
Hundreds of years ago a great soul and a gifted teacher known as The Pale One was born in The Great Smoky Mountains. Some of the old stories say he was born of a virgin mother, that his body radiated sweet light, and that he spoke the language of all creatures.
The life of the Pale One is considered so just, so exemplary, that even today his true name is spoken only in ceremony. It is said that he was born in a time when the people had forgotten their original instructions, neglected their spiritual duties, and become greedy and warlike.
With his life and teachings, the Pale One revived the highest aspirations of the Cherokee people, helping to rekindle the sacred fires.
It is said that what the Pale One did, in essence, was to reaffirm the basic principles of creation. He reminded people that it is vitally important to speak only words of truth. He taught virtue by example. And he demonstrated the absolute importance of respect, and of being in good relationship with all beings.
"The Cherokee memory of the Pale One is similar to the story you hear among many traditional peoples of the Americas,” Grandmother Johnie Leverett explained to me.
"There are stories similar to this among many of the Nations. You may hear, for example, of the Great Peacemaker of the Iroquois, of Massauu of the Hopi, Quetzalcoatl of the Aztec, Ku’Kulkan of the Maya, Gucumatz and Viracocha of South America, and Pte San Wi [White Buffalo Calf Woman] of the Lakota, and others. About them all it is said that they would return when the people were in a time of great need.”
The traditions of these teachers underlie the mystic past and present of Turtle Island, the New World. They are, as many have observed, similar to the Old World myths of return, or a second coming, which arise from the traditions of Chaldea, Sumeria, Babylonia, Assyria, Greece, Egypt, Rome, and, in more recent times, in the traditions of Christianity.
As described by Dhyani Ywahoo in her book Voices of our Ancestors, the human being known as Pale One specifically reminded the Cherokee people how to live in harmony with the fundamental truths of creation: What occurs around you and within you reflects your own mind and shows you the dream you are weaving.
The Pale One taught the original instructions by example. Respect all life. Speak only of the good qualities of others. Neither kill nor harbor thoughts of an angry nature, for they destroy peace like an arrow. Generosity of heart brings peace and abundance for all in the circle. If you see what needs doing, do it now.
Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden
Read Day 62 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire