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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“No one will do for us what we fail to do for ourselves.”

– Mexika proverb

Day 209 - Wednesday, January 17, 1996 - We awakened to drying air, morning prayers at the sacred fire, and the inevitable bowls of oatmeal. With the rising Sun, we headed off to walk together as one group. From now on there will be no more contiguous relays of small groups. We will walk as one unified group, just as the elders have been advising us since Day 1.

Our route today takes us along Foothill Boulevard, a major roadway stretching over 50 miles through Los Angeles County and across the foothills of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains.

Drummer on the move - A member of the Cuauhtémoc Aztec ceremonial dance troupe leads the way, and sounds the drum for us all. (Author Photo).

Three members of the Harmony Warriors Circle are escorting us. Eight dancers from the Cuauhtémoc Aztec ceremonial dance troupe have also come out to journey with us. The dancers are in full, spectacular regalia. Their drum is set into a supermarket-shopping cart, and pulled from the front. The drummer walks behind the cart, and lets fly with two drumsticks, keeping up the rapid, driving beat that is characteristic of their Medicines.


The dancers who escort us today chose their name to honor Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec ruler of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) after Cortés and his troops killed Moctezuma II. Cuauhtémoc's name means, "descending eagle," from the Nahuatl cuauhtli (eagle) and temoc (descent),

Cortés permitted Cuauhtémoc to be tortured. Hot oil was poured over his feet, which were then roasted over an open fire in an effort to make him reveal the whereabouts of supposed gold that the Spaniards demanded. Cuauhtémoc insisted there was no gold, and with nothing to reveal maintained his dignity under the barbarous ordeal. Eventually, Cortés had Cuauhtémoc hanged.

The Torture of Cuauhtémoc - A 19th Century painting by Leandro Izaguirre.

When the Mexika civilization of Tenochtitlan was lost, it's said that all the learned elders gathered and agreed to hide all the wisdom treasures of Turtle Island so the fanatical invaders would have nothing else to destroy of the rich cultures that thrived here. There are many versions of the prophecies spoken at that time, but in all of them there is the promise that Cuauhtémoc—as in the story of culture heroes around the world—would return. The Mexika prophecies hold that when Cuauhtémoc does return in the era of the Sixth Sun (said by many to start in the year 2012) that all that was hidden away will be revealed.

The Sixth Sun is regarded as an era of spirituality, of flowers, of nature, of respect, and of true human equality and freedom, much like the metaphor of the 8th Fire (era) in the Algonquin tradition.


Aztec dancers  - led our walk through Los Angeles County. (Author photo).

Two by two, the Cuauhtémoc dancers took turns leading our prayer walk—whirling, spinning, stepping furiously with bare feet on cold, hard pavement—giving out perhaps ten times the amount of exertion and power that we expend just walking.

The drum and the dance establish a trance wave for all of us, a rapid, staccato, mesmerizing beat that carried us all into an elevated state of spiritual awareness. With determination, speed, and big energy, we continued our prayer mission for the Earth and all the people, animals, and plants.

It is bright and sunny with a refreshing breeze to cool us as we dance and walk. People come by all the time in cars or on foot, but keep going about their business. They pay little attention to our peculiar parade. They look at us, but not too long or too hard.

As the day wore on, and we progressed through Duarte and Monrovia, Foothills Boulevard became Huntington Drive, the pathway of the old, famous Route 66.


After a lunch break the Harmony Warriors asked the red people to come to the front of the walk, and instructed rest of us to walk in the rear. That request stirred up feelings of resentment and division, not the unity that is our core mission, and that we have held as an ideal for 3,000 miles of steps and prayers. The Harmony Warriors – whatever their ultimate motivation -- are making it clear that they do not understand who we are or why we are walking.

Shortly after the Harmony Warriors re-arranged us to place native people in front, we witnessed to a "pollution-bow" -- a rainbow-like ring that was close in to the Sun, not far out or clear like a Sunbow. This portent appeared murky, greasy in tone, as if it were formed in a celestial pool of depleted motor oil.


Our walk ended for the day in the city of Azusa, in a near-deserted parking lot between Carpet City and the El Toro Bravo Mexican restaurant.

As we gathered in the parking lot at the moment of Sunset, the Cuauhtémoc drummers and dancers put on a furious, rousing display. It's astonishing that they have this much energy after being on the road all day.

Blooming sage - (Photo by Charles & Clint, courtesy of flckr.com)

Then Manuel and Vera Rocha, traditional Shoshone chiefs for this region now known as Los Angeles, joined our circle. They have great personal dignity and a quiet, benevolent charisma.

With eloquence, they thanked us for our long walk from the Atlantic Ocean across the back of Turtle Island. Then they blessed us with smoke by burning the sacred sage plant. There is no way to describe such a blessing. One can only close eyes, go within, and receive the goodness.


Come nightfall we at last found our way to the elusive Sizzler Restaurant in Pasadena and gratefully consumed the free dinners we had been dreaming about. The restaurant fed 50 of us, including walkers and Harmony Warriors, and the elders Manuel and Vera. It was a major chow down.

In the car on the way to Sizzler's, Grandmother Vera told me that even though the Tongva (Gabrieleno – Shoshone) are the original people of this area, with a history stretching back many thousands of years, three hundred years ago her ancestors were subjugated, then herded onto Missions by the Spanish military and clergy. Then they were kept in slavery for many long decades. Finally they were cast out of the missions – ‘freed’ was the euphemism employed -- without so much as cup to dip out drinking water, or an acre of land.

That is the way it is today, she said. There are still Shoshonean-Gabrieleno-Tongva people living in the Los Angeles region -- which has in fact the largest population of Native Americans of any US metropolitan area -- yet they still have no land that they hold in common.

Grandmother Vera told me that her people meet from time to time for ceremonial gatherings at the Oak Grove Park where our walk is now encamped, and that they have a regular monthly get together at a local hall to help keep their community intact.

But, she added with a sorrowful sigh, they have no land, not even a square inch. It was all taken long ago.


Copyright 2007 by Steven McFadden

Read Day 210 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire

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