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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Odyssey of the 8th Fire,
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"What I want is something difficult and translucent,
like birdsong in a time of war."

- Odysseus Elytis

Day 219 - Saturday, January 27, 1996 – As high noon came to Ojai, Ho Washtay and four warriors entered our fire circle at Camp Comfort.

Wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket, and with a couple of arrows enmeshed crosswise in his hair, Ho Washtay held a rattle in his hand. He stood with his arms folded tightly across his chest and said, “This is my land and what I say goes here. I told you not to communicate with the outside world and yet you have done do. I will not forget this.”

Ho Washtay told us our walk was stopped. He said we would not get to the Western Gate, and that neither would Tom.

Then with a beautiful voice he sang three songs: the Chumash Creation Song, the song of the Swordfish Clan, and the Song for Traveling.


Original Sunbow design - Image on our t-shirt backs. (Painting by Tom Barber)

Ho Washtay said he found out that our walk of proclaimed "harmony and unity" is contrary to reality. "We see that you have split into three groups,” he said, “and that along the way you have trashed each other’s intentions and legitimacy as walkers.”

He said their first response was to try and help us resolve our differences and unite us so that we could continue with the vision, but that they had failed.

He said that he and other Chumash people had met with our "so-called leaders." Every time we met with one of them, he said, they had something bad to say about the other.

“We told them that we could not allow this negativity to come on to our land,” Ho Washtay said. “We have enough struggles already.”


California flag

Of all the places on Turtle Island (North America) where land was stolen and murderous injustice foisted upon the native peoples, California stands out for brutality at a systemic level. Most historians agree that California's early settlers and officials used genocidal policies against the Indians to tragic effect, including government-paid bounties for killing Indians.

In the face of this 500-year tide of land theft and violent oppression, native people were forced into a profound but suppressed animosity. At the provocation of our pilgrimage, this resentment seemed to surface full force. Ho Washtay gave it expression with his words and gestures. He said he would not have his land or people disrespected again.


Dolphins in the surf - (photo by MS4Jah courtesy of flckr.com)

Ho Washtay introduced his cousin, Quintan, as being of the Dolphin Clan, Ventura Band of the Chumash nation. Quintan was wearing a Miller beer t-shirt and a black baseball cap. He held eagle and hawk feathers in one hand, and a bundle of sage in the other. In a respectful manner, he thanked us for our sacrifices. He said he had no understanding of the walk or why it was here, and he asked us to explain ourselves.

Joe began to tell him the story of our long walk. But the story got sidetracked as Joe mentioned Tom’s name, and he and Ho Washtay fell into bantering. Ho Washtay accused Joe of being afraid of Tom. He said that every time a problem came up about the walk, Joe mentioned Tom’s name. He said he’d heard it the other way, too, with Tom blaming everything on Joe.

Quintan listened for a while, then told us our walk was officially over. He said we were free to go back where we had come from, and that we should not consider this a disgrace or a defeat. 

He said that the fault was not ours, that we were just ‘hired help of a sort.’ We had done our job well, but now we are no longer needed.

Quintan said full responsibility lies with our elder who at age 83 should have known the protocol, should have knocked on the door, and should have met with Chumash elders long ago. Because this was not done, he said, and because the elders feel disrespected, we will not be received at Point Conception. We should not go to the Western Gate.

Then Quintan sang what he called the Chumash sleep song to put our walk to bed, and to mark the end. His voice was flat. The song was dead. He was trying, but there was no music in it.

Ho Washtay, Quintan, and the warriors walked around our circle, shook our hands, and said good-bye. As he walked, Ho Washtay kept his gaze down, not meeting our eyes.


Toward the end of the circle came a confusing confrontation with a man named David Williams. Apparently David had been organizing and publicizing public events for the walk in Santa Barbara, saying the walk would end at the Chmash sacred site of Humaq, Point Conception. Ho Washtay had ordered David to cease and desist, but he had not. When Ho Washtay recognized David in the circle, and crossed words with him, he became angrier.

Ho Washtay pointed his finger at David and said, “If you ever speak about my people again, I will kill you.”

As soon as he heard the death threat, Joe stepped forward: “Pack it up,” he said, “We’re moving our camp.” We all turned, and started to pack up our tents and sleeping bags.

Then, with our vehicles all loaded for traveling, we waited. We did not know any place to go.


Joe said we have to be careful. “These people have guns,” he said, “and remember, they are with Tom." That comment about us being the ‘hired help’ is, according to Joe, something Tom has been saying. "That’s where they got that idea about us,” he observed, reminding us of Tom’s difficult history with guns.

“We have to be concerned about the very real possibility of violence,” Joe said, “so keep praying."

Cachuma Lake - (Photo by Juan23, courtesy of flckr.com)

We sat in the Camp Comfort parking lot with our vehicles all packed up for over an hour, waiting, being patient, being humble, praying, allowing things to work.

Eventually Sam came back from the pay phones and told us he had spoken with a Grandmother on the Santa Ynez reservation. She encouraged us to come along her way.

She told Sam that it’s safe there. She said that the young men who have been blocking us and threatening us have no official standing, that they do not speak for the whole community.

In a driving rain, we began our caravan to the north led by Liz Dominguez. Ned offered tobacco to each driver, asking all to pray and to be watchful in case the warriors may be on the lookout for us and we may encounter them on the highway.

Our new base camp will be in the mountains behind Santa Barbara, 19 miles up Route 154 at the Circle V ranch, close by Cachuma Lake in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Despite what the Ho Washtay and Quintan said about our walk being over, there was a feeling of certainty among us that our walk would not end until Grandfather Commanda said it was over.

Behind the city - a view of the mountains to the east of Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Gailf548 courtesy of flckr.com)


Copyright 2007 by Steven McFadden

Read Day 220 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire

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