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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"He (Crazy Horse) saw his people being driven into spiritual darkness and poverty while others prospered in a material way all around them. But even in the darkest times he saw that the eyes of a few of his people kept the light of dawn and the wisdom of the Earth, which they passed on to some of their grandchildren.

"...he saw a time come when his people began to awaken, not all at once, but a few here and there, and then more and more, and he saw that they were dancing in the beautiful light of the Spirit World under the Sacred Tree even while still on Earth.

"Then he was amazed to see that dancing under that tree were representatives of all races who had become brothers, and he realized that the world would be made new again and in peace and harmony, not just by his people, by members of all the races of mankind."

   - Vinson Brown

Day 220 - Sunday, January 28, 1996 – At 5:30 AM under soggy skies about half of our band of pilgrims rolled out of our tents at the Circle V Ranch, climbed into four vehicles, and proceeded down the mountain. We are headed for the Los Angeles airport to pick up Grandfather Commanda and his daughter, Evelyn Dewache.

Our ride down the mountains through Los Padres National Forest was absolutely spectacular. We could see Santa Barbara below, and the Channel Islands out in the sea. As the sun lifted, brilliant rosy fingers of light began to penetrate, evaporating the roiling wisps of fog, and revealing a dozen or more platforms pumping oil from the bed of the sea.

Interestingly, the Channel Islands belong not to the United States of America, but to the nation state of Mexico. When the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was written in 1848 to end the Mexican-American War, somehow the American negotiators (who were calling all the shots) forgot to specify the Channel Islands. They were left out of the treaty and thus -- technically -- remain a legal posession of Mexico -- a territorial peculiarity that is widely overlooked.

Channel Islands - Santa Cruz Island, off the California coast. (Photo by Rutabegabunny, courtesy of flckr.com)


After we got to the airport, about 20 Sunbow walkers converged on Southwest Airlines, Gate 4B, to greet the flight from Canada bearing Grandfather Commanda and Evelyn.

Shortly after we arrived at the gate, Tom Dostou strolled up with his wife Naoko Haga, Fern Mathias of the Southern California chapter of the American Indian Movement (AIM), two of Fern’s children, and Fern’s grandmother, Dorothy, from the Dakota nation.

Tom was wearing a brand new red and black ski jacket, and he had his hands thrust deep in the pockets. He also wore a baseball cap with the logo of the Southern California Chapter of AIM. He had it on backwards, with the bill pulled down over his neck. Both Tom and Naoko seemed profoundly uncomfortable, distant and concerned.

Ho Washtay and entourage soon joined the gathering crowd at the airport, as did Cahuilla Margaret Red Elk and Linda White Wolf Sanchez. The women were resplendent in ceremonial dresses, wearing feathers in their hair.

When the plane came in there was a great logjam of people as everyone clustered to greet Grandfather. Eventually we walked outside and stood on a concrete platform while the announcer blared information about flights, traffic whizzed by, airplanes roared overhead, and travelers loitered about smoking cigarettes and shuttling baggage to and fro.

Braid of Sweet Grass

In the midst of this common chaos, we quietly formed a circle. Grandfather lit a braid of sweet grass and traversed the circle, walking as always with the direction of the Sun, to bless us with the smoke. Then, he came around the circle a second time to shake our hands in a traditional manner. Each person followed him, so we all shook hands with each other.

Rita later told me that when Grandfather burned the sweet grass at the airport and went around the circle it was with a very specific intention of looking into each person’s heart. “That’s why when he clasped our hands he put his head on our left shoulder and rested for a moment there,” she said. “He was looking into our hearts.”


Grandfather told us that he wanted to find out what was going on. He said he’s going to go with Tom, and talk with him today, and that he will come to our camp soon. Evelyn looked at our band of walkers in a knowing way. “Don’t worry,” she said. “It’s going to be alright.”

William and Evelyn departed with Tom and Naoko, followed by the Chumash warriors and the AIM contingent. We returned to the parking lot, and began the return trip to Santa Barbara.


We drove back toward our camp, pulling off at the State Street exit in Santa Barbara in the early afternoon. I opened the Santa Barbara Independent newspaper and saw an ad for the Earthlink Bookshop on State Street. The ad said the controversial native activist Russell Means would be speaking there today, in just 45 minutes.

Russell Means

Sam Dunkley, who’s been with us since Arizona, served as head of security for Russell Means years ago. He wanted to see his old compatriot and so off we went to find the bookstore.

Means has written a book, "Where White Men Fear to Tread," and he will talk at the bookstore to promote it. Even though the talk is scheduled for the same hour as Super Bowl XXX, he has drawn an overflow crowd.

Dressed all in black, Means opened his presentation with a greeting in Lakota. He then told of how his mother instructed him: "If you take all of the green things from the Earth, then nothing would live. If you take all of the winds from the Earth, then nothing would live. But if you take all of the people from the Earth, everything would flourish.”

Later in the talk, he said of himself and his journey, "I had not anger, but rage. Rage comes from pain. That's what it’s all about: pain. That rage was eating me up, and coming out of every pore of my body.”

In hearing Russell Means talk about his rage today, I could not help but think of Tom Dostou and Ho Washtay.

"There is another way,” Means told the crowd. “It is the way that knows that humans do not have the right to rampage, to degrade Mother Earth, and that there are forces beyond anything the European mind has conceived. Humans must be in harmony with all relations or the relations will eventually eliminate the disharmony…There is no need for a revolutionary theory to bring this about; it's beyond human control."


Fry bread - flour, lard, water and salt fried in oil.

Back at the Circle V Ranch that night, we prepared and devoured a meal of fry bread tacos with beans, lettuce, salsa and cheese. Then we sat by the fire.

Based on remarks she overheard at the airport between Tom and Fern Mathias about “having a three-hour ride ahead of them,” Three Rivers speculated that Tom was going to take Grandfather and Evelyn up to the Western Gate at Point Conception for closing ceremonies.

Tom has been talking about today, January 28, as the day when the walk would end. But if he attempts to end the walk today, and if it ends in this way without any of the people who actually did the walking, and without all the colors of people, it would be false. It would be a betrayal of all that was intended with the walk, all that was vowed. It would be a betrayal of the actual walkers, and it would be a betrayal of Grandfather Commanda, who apparently had been unaware until today that Tom never walked with us since the incident with Brianna in Arkansas (Day 107), and that he stayed clear of the walk altogether except for brief visits.


Chumash Grandmothers Liz Dominguez and Adalaina visited with us again tonight. Grandmother Adalaina talked for an extended stretch of time as she stood by the fire, encouraging us to remain strong and to keep faith. She told some of her own story, observing that "We can only teach what we have lived." She sang several medicine songs, and offered tobacco to the fire.

Grandmother Adalaina told us how crucial it is for each person to humble themselves, not before the native people necessarily, but to humble ourselves before Great Spirit.

“You all have not done that,” she said, “and you need to do it to complete your walk. Go to the forest here and offer tobacco to the spirits of this place and ask for their help. Humble yourself to the Great Spirit. What a pity to have come so far and not to have truly opened your heart. Some of you have and some of you have not, this I can see.”

To have come so far - The route of our Sunbow 5 walk: from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, across Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.


Copyright 2007 by Steven McFadden

Read Day 221 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire

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