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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“Be well, my children, and think good thoughts of peace and togetherness. Peace for all life on earth, and peace with one another in our homes, families, and countries.

“We are not so different in Creator’s eyes. The same great Father Sun shines his love on each of us daily, just as Mother Earth prepares the sustenance for our table, do they not? We are one after all.”

- Dan Evehema, Hopi

Day 206  - Sunday, January 14, 1996 – Today we're moving our base camp further west, so we gathered early for a closing circle at Bigfoot Lake in Twentynine Palms. We thanked all the people of the community who had been so helpful to us.

Joe Soto - (Author photo)

Then Joe spoke to our circle. He told us some of what had been discussed behind closed doors yesterday at the powwow with the representatives of the American Indian Movement (AIM), the Chumash people, and also Tom. Joe told us that while some people were highly suspicious of our walk, that we would be helped and supported the rest of the way.

“During the walk we have had a lot of time to think and go inside,” Joe said. “We have discovered we are not that different at all. We have come to a place where, if not careful of the decisions we make, all of our children—brown, black, red, white, yellow—are at risk.

“Our elders tell us there is hope. We must meet each other at the center of the circle, find our common ground, then take action to clean up our environment."


After packing up and moving our motley caravan down the road, we drove past Casino Morongo, one of the oldest Indian gaming facilities in California. The casino started as a modest bingo hall many years ago, but by now has grown to become garishly imposing, a perpetual neon lure to motorists driving along I-10.

Our destination was a bit further, deeper into the Morongo Reservation, home to a mix of a mix of Cahuilla, Serrano, Luiseno, and Cupeno people.

The road toward San Gorgonio Mountain - the highest peak in Southern California. (Photo by Nathan Masters, courtesy of flcker.com

Our new campsite is up high on the side of the San Gorgonio Mountain pass, in the foothills of the San Bernardino mountain range, where wild buckwheat, mesquite, and chaparral grow in profusion.

Just as we walked on to the site of our new base camp to look around, an eagle lifted up on the hillside below us, and then rose to dance in the sky over our heads. 

At our new campsite the ground is rough, but we clear the trash and dead brush so we can set up our tents. We have a spectacular view of Mt. San Gorgonio. From where we are, San Gorgonio appears towering, majestic. The snowy summit is not as visible as it might be, for it is encircled with a wreath of foggy, constantly swirling vapors—a haze of grey-blue pollution that routinely drifts this way from the vast, industrialized, automobilized regions of San Bernardino and Los Angeles County.

Each night for the last couple of weeks Venus—the Evening Star—has been spectacularly visible in the west just before sunset. Now we will see it over the shoulder of this massive mountain, as if Venus Hesperus were leading us on our way forward to the sea.

Mount San Jacinto - North face of San Jacinto Mountains, the steepest escarpment in North America. (Photo by Kit Conn, GNU free documentation).


After establishing our camp, we walked through the reservation praying and drumming.

We completed our prayer walk that afternoon at the home of Art and Frances Jurado. Art is the local medicine man. In his yard we circled up with two visitors who had driven out from Los Angeles, Linda White Wolf Sanchez, and Cahuilla Margaret Red Elk, who is both Cahuilla and Lakota. She is director of the AIM chapter in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and just yesterday she gifted our walk with a trunk load of beautiful foods.

Cahuilla told us that what we are doing with our walk is very important, and that many Indian people know that. "Don't loose faith in the sacredness of what you are doing,” she said. “Don’t loose sight of that in the day to day, because of your humanness. But when this is over you will see and understand how important, how sacred this walk is.”

Hawk on the wing - (Photo, Brian Scott)

Cahuilla gifted our walk staff with both a hawk feather, and a very old, well-traveled eagle feather.

"Hawk is the messenger,” Cahuilla told us.” This will help you carry your message to the people and to the Creator. Eagle is sacred, and dedicated. It will help you to remember that you are more than your pitiful human personalities.

“Remember these teachings with humility. Thousands of people are watching you. Remember, you are being watched."

Cahuilla then asked to sit in council with the women. Because she knew that there had been confusion and controversy around native traditions concerning the Moontime cycle, she wanted to speak with the women pilgrims in depth about this.


Late in the afternoon Art Jurado called for a pipe circle. This time the only people allowed into the circle were native. All the rest of us were told to stand outside the circle.

Pipe and pipe bag

That did not sit well with most of us. Three Rivers told me she took particular offense.

“As I looked around the circle that afternoon and saw all the white faces,” she said, I thought about what had happened on Friday, and about how much time, sacrifice and energy we all had put into the walk. I thought to myself, ‘what a snub. Here we are walking to fulfill Grandfather Commanda’s message to bring the races together, and we get all the way out to California and we still have a line in the sand because of racist attitudes.’ That’s not right.

Only the native people in the inner circle were allowed to smoke the pipe. Then Art came around to touch the other people on the shoulder with his pipe, a lesser honor. Three Rivers stepped back and refused.

“Joe came over to me right after the ceremony was over," Three Rivers continued, "and said he wanted to talk with me. I said, ‘Oh no you don’t. I’m mad as hell.’ Then I went and sat by my tent. Joe came to me again to talk, insisting that we talk. So we walked off into the desert a little bit, he started in on me about refusing the pipe.

“I told Joe, ‘If all the brothers and sisters can’t participate in the pipe ceremony as equal human beings, then I don’t want any part of it.'

“Joe started countering, saying that there had been over 500 years of injustice toward indigenous people since Christopher Columbus arrived at this continent, and that because of that 500 years of injustice against native people… But I stopped him right there.

“I told Joe, we were sent out here on this prayer walk to get past all of that. If this is the way you want it, then you can take all the white footsteps out of it and where are you? You’re not here; you are back somewhere on the other side of the Mississippi River and you are alone.

“I told him, I’m really disturbed you let this go down. Had it been me as leader, then when only natives were invited into the circle, I would have said, ‘I respect you and your pipe, but if my brothers and sisters can’t be part of this circle, then not me.

“I told him that I felt in my gut that if every one of our walkers was not welcomed to the closing ceremony at the Western Gate, that then none of us would get to go to it.”


Copyright 2007 by Steven McFadden

Read Day 207 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire

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