"One of the first things Seneca children learned was that they might create their own world, their own environment, by visualizing actions and desires in prayer.
"The Senecas believed that everything that made life important came from within. Prayer assisted in developing a guideline toward discipline and self-control."
- Yehwenode (Twylah Nitcsh)
Day 121 - Saturday, October 21, 1995 - Now that Brianna, 17, has departed from both the Sunbow walk and the Rainbow walk to take care of her ailing grandmother, Lauren Keahbone and family have entered into the stream of the Sunbow 5 walk. They have struck up a friendship with Tom.
Lauren and her father have been aboard our walk for several days now, having learned about us through the internet. I spoke with them both on the phone. Lauren said she plans to walk all the way to the Western Gate. Her dad, Mark, 72, will try to walk with the group as far west as central Oklahoma, where he lives. There, he says, he will stop.
They say they are members of the Kiowa Nation, and that home is Anadarko, Oklahoma which is in Caddo County to the west of Chickasha.
"I'm diabetic," Mark told me, "and now something is wrong with my eyes. I've got blood clots in them. Next week I'll be treated by the doctors, so I won't be going on too far with the walk. I can't go all the way. I'm just helping out what little I can while they are here, near where we live. I may be blind for three days after I see the doctors, or maybe more. I'll know in the weeks ahead. I can't say for certain now.
"My daughter and I believe in things like this," Mark said, "and we believe in prayer. The Earth is getting bad: tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and all the hate and war. The Earth is getting poisoned, and nature is changing. The weather is mighty funny, too. Maybe this walk can slow all of that down a little. At least somebody is trying to help. Lauren and I are just trying to help other people who are trying to help. That's why we are with the walk.
"Grandfather Commanda told us that he sees lots of changes coming.That's why he's got this prayer walk together. We want to be part of it.
"We are funny people, we Indians. We start every day with prayers, with smoke. We believe in smoke," Mark said. "We send our prayers up with the smoke, every morning. We make smoke with our cedar every morning, if we have it, or a cigarette, or a pipe. There's different ways we have, and that's what we believe."
Joe Soto. Author photo, 1995
While the Keahbones have one view of our walk, other native people see us differently. Joe tells me that the imminent arrival of our walk is a cause of concern to some native student groups at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. They are debating whether to support us.
According to Joe, the students question whether our walk is completely kosher, in a native sense. Some students definitely do not like that other nations (White, Yellow, Black) are part the walk based on teachings that arise from the Red nations. They question whether our pilgrimage is worthy of support.
Joe, who is both Red and Black, says this kind of objection to the walk is the kind of attitude that will keep us stuck dangerously in the past.
'We have to get over that kind of thinking," he said, "because healing and moving forward has nothing at all to do with the color of your skin, and everything to do with who you really are as a human being and what you are doing with your life."
In the afternoon six Sunbow pilgrims drove ahead of the walk to Norman. That evening they met with eight local residents who have formed a planning committee and established a busy schedule of public events for our Sunbow 5 walk for next weekend.
Saturday night all of the walkers traveled by car to Norman to enjoy a special Coffee House fund-raiser at the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship. About 30 people gathered. One couple drove two hours to get there. They shared tacos, squash, songs, stories, and laughter.
The walk started out for the day at the town of Morris, then paced onward to the west. At lunchtime the walkers were honored to share food with the elders at the Creek Nation Senior Citizen Center. Elders and tribal officials were happy to see the walkers; but they spent most of their time sitting with Grandfather Commanda to hear what he had to say.
Base camp was extended further west today, down the trail to the grounds of St. Gregory's College in Shawnee. The tents will stay set up there Sunday night as well.
The walkers have decided they like having base camp well ahead of the walk, rather than behind it. On organizational and psychological levels it helps to be walking toward camp, rather than walking away from it.
According to Joe Soto, while they are walking they are seeing lots of squawking ravens and healthy numbers of both White Tail Deer and Red Tail Hawks. The land is generally flat, cattle grazing country, Joe said so the walkers are also seeing a lot of cows.
"The land feels really good," Joe observed. "Oklahoma is one of the cleaner states we have been through. The creeks and the rivers are polluted, and we still run into a lot of garbage along the road, but not in the same amounts as other states. They take pretty good care of things around here.
"We saw several fires on Saturday. They burn the fields in this part of the country, for whatever reason, and it gets pretty thick and smoky as you are going along. Byron, who is in the third day of a fast, got a headache from all of that, so we had to help him out and give him a rest.
Most Sunbow pilgrims still wear shorts when they walk on the road during the day, for it has remained generally sunny and warm. However, temperatures plunge at sunset. They have dipped into the 30's the last two nights. Winter is coming, and we need to make preparations now while continuing to move west.
Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden
Read Day 122 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire