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

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"We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us.

“We must recover the sense of the majesty of the creation and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it."

- Wendell Berry

Day 192  - December 31, 1995 -  Our Sunbow base camp remained at the the Fairhaven RV park in Aquila, Arizona, deep in the desert. Not much human habitation here other than the snowbirds in their trailers and buses. 

The last day of 1995 was cold, with a weak Sun and lots of high thin clouds. Darkness seemed to come early. Most walkers called it quits, and crawled into their tents well before midnight. Some are still sick, or recovering from the flu.

Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge - In Arizona, not too far from our base camp. Photo by John and Karen Hollingsworth for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A few people hung out by the fire to talk. There was singing and joking, and a quiet good feeling, even as the night chill pressed around the perimeter. When the clock came round to midnight, they cheered mildly, hugged, then turned in, leaving the first hours of the New Year to the silence of the desert and steady hum of the RV park.

We all recognize that we have a long walk ahead of us tomorrow, the first day of the new year. We plan make miles to and then beyond our camp in Aquila, heading west toward Parker, Arizona. Parker sits on the eastern side of the Colorado River, and California—our destination for over six months of walking—sits on the far side.


Note that on this day—December 31 in the year 1853—the United States completed the Gadsden Purchase from Mexico, our Turtle Island neighbor to the south.

The transaction involved land not too far from where our base camp is tonight, some 30,000 square miles of land. The territory is now legally defined as the southern parts of Arizona and southwest New Mexico.

A few years before the Gadsden Purchase was completed, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had described the U.S.-Mexico boundary, albeit  vaguely. The Gadsden Purchase was a follow-up to settle matters.

According to the harsh terms of the Guadalupe-Hidalgo treaty, signed at the close of the U.S.-Mexican War in 1848, Mexico was compelled to abandon its claims to Texas and to cede to the United States the territories now known as Arizona, California, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Nevada. The vast and stunningly beautiful land ceded to the U.S. by Mexico constituted about two-fifths of all her territory. It was a major loss for Mexico, a loss not forgotten.

The native peoples—the peoples who have inhabited the region for thousands of years—were not a party to the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The treaty was between the incorporated governments established by the newcomers to Turtle Island. They made no place at the table for the original peoples.

U.S. President Franklin Pierce was convinced by Jefferson Davis, then the U.S.A.’s Secretary of War, to send James Gadsden—who had personal financial interests in the matter—to negotiate the purchase with Mexico.

At the time many Americans were ashamed of the massive land grab represented by the Guadalupe-Hidalgo Treaty. They felt the U.S. had no just cause to make war against Mexico, and that the terms of the treaty at the end of the war were unfair and greedy. Because the subsequent Gadsden Purchase involved monetary payments from the U.S. to Mexico, some American citizens considered the purchase to be a way to salvage the U.S. national honor. But the deals still left a lot of boundary issues unresolved in the minds of native peoples.


Final Arizona Sunset - with a saguaro cactus, near Gila Bend. The sun goes down on the year 1995. Photo by David Choi courtesy of flckr.com

Even today many of the mestizo, or people of mixed heritage, who live in or near the borderline that cuts up Turtle Island, are unhappy with the arrangements. They feel that neatly carved, so-called legal boundaries are unnatural. They have a different kind of relationship with the territory, remembering that for thousands of years it was held in common for the benefit of all the people who lived upon it, not sectioned off, cut up, and legally encumbered. Natural features such as mountains, rivers, and deserts set the boundaries, not lines on maps.

Grandfather Commanda always takes a keen interest when the subject of borders comes up. His is the keeper of the Jay Treaty Wampum, which serves as a sacred record of the legal boundary set between the United States and Canada and native rights. He is ever mindful of the spiritual lessons that derive from borders and borderlessness.

According to the way Grandfather teaches, the direction that we Sunbow 5 pilgrims are walking, west, is symbolized by the canoe. The canoe is a metaphor for the journey, the journey of life, and the journey beyond boundaries within to the heart of the heart. West is a direction of introspection. Grandfather teaches that it is the direction from which we contemplate the journey of life—for ourselves as individuals, and for ourselves as a group of human beings.


Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden

Read Day 193 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire

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Odyssey of the 8th Fire Copyright © 2006-2008 by Steven McFadden