"In these times of turmoil, every human being is being asked to remember their connection to the Creator and to the Earth Mother, making those connections strong. Each person's connection to the Great Mystery, to the Earth Mother, to the spirits of the ancestors and to their Spiritual essences holds the key to finding the balance...
"...Human being tend to forget that no man-made organization is the Source. The only Source is Great Mystery, Creator. Every human being must answer to that Source, not to another human being."
- Jamie Sams
Day 62 - Wednesday, August 23, 1995 - The walk remained encamped on the Qualla Boundary in North Carolina. During the day a scouting party drove the route ahead in Jacki’s Jeep Cherokee to check out potential camp sites and resources. They drove as far as Nanthala, North Carolina, and visited for a while at the Nanthala Outdoor Center.
Nanthala is an old Cherokee word that means, "land of the noonday sun," a fitting image for the deep valleys and gorges where the sun penetrates only when directly overhead at midday. When the walk starts up again, this is where the next base camp will be.
Back in Cherokee late in the afternoon, Amy Grant showed the walkers how to prepare Elderberry Cakes. They made up a heap of them for a late night Elderberry feast after the purification lodges.
There were two lodges in the evening, one for the sisters and one for the brothers. Cherokee elder General Grant poured water for the men; Amy Grant poured for the women. Both sweats were conducted according to local tradition. The prayers were strong.
To shed light on what native people mean when they refer to the “original instructions,” Grandmother Johnie Leverett recounted another old teaching story:
"When Creator created Earth," she said, "he gave everything instructions -- from large animals like wolves and moose, to smaller creations like the grasses and the microbes.
"Creator gave every creation instructions on how to live. As Creator set Creation in motion, the Sun was given its duties, and also the Moon, the stars, the trees, the herbs, the mice, and all of the creatures, including the human beings.
"Just after Creation was set in motion, all of the beings of the Earth could communicate with each other freely, and all got along with one another. But eventually," Johnie said, "the human beings became arrogant and selfish. They began to destroy the Earth, taking much more than needed, and never giving anything back -- just taking. This created great imbalance. The animals and other creations became cramped for room, and felt greatly threatened by the human beings.
"Seeing what was happening, and how the Earth was being destroyed, the creatures began to call councils. The bears, the mice, the toads, the fish, all of them began, each in turn, to have councils among themselves to see if they could find a way to rein in the human population and put a stop to the destruction.
"The deer council was led by Chief Little Deer. As they communicated with each other, the deer were so angry with the humans that they decided to send rheumatism to every hunter who would kill one of them, unless he asked permission first.
"The birds, the other animals, and the creepy crawlers (worms, bugs, microbes, and so forth) each named another disease or affliction, and visited them upon the human beings.
"Soon the human beings were getting sick a lot. That is when the plants held their council.
"Despite everything, the plants and herbs were still friendly to the human beings," Grandmother Johnie said. "When they held their council they talked about what had been done to the human beings by the animals and others. They eventually decided that they would help the people: any time a person was sick and needed to be cured, all they would have to do is ask and one of the herbs would offer a gift of healing. Every tree, shrub, herb, down even to the mosses, agreed to supply a cure for some one of the diseases that had been named by the animals. But, for each plant taken for a cure, the human beings must offer honor and appreciation.
"Today," Johnie observed, "the human beings have again lost understanding of the original instructions. That's why we have dirty water and dirty air, and why we can no longer eat the fish. We have forgotten to pay honor to the Creator and the Creation, to the earth and even to each other. That is the cause of the social breakdowns: lack of respect and honor.
Johnie took a breather on the other end of the telephone. She is getting ready to journey south from Massachusetts, and to catch up with the walk in Tennessee.
"This story," she said by way of concluding our conversation, "is a helpful reminder of why we are walking this Sunbow walk. It's one of the important reasons why we are doing this. People should appreciate that these teachings of honor and respect do not mean that you have to make a big ceremony every time you make a move in life; although traditional Native people always leave a pinch of tobacco, or at least a bright, shiny penny, or something, when they pick a plant or a flower.
"When they are about to take something from nature, people should consider the importance and appropriateness of spending a couple of moments to think thoughts of appreciation for the beauty and usefulness of the plants or whatever they are taking,” Johnie said.
“Just take a couple of moments to say ‘thank you’ to the plants for existing and for sharing their gifts with us.
"Acknowledge the Creator and the creation with thankfulness. That is so important. That's part of what Native people mean when they talk about the Red Road and the original instructions. Give something back, your appreciation and gratitude. Just these steps can begin to change everything."
Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden
Read Day 63 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire