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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"The four sacred tools that native people apply to their lives are honesty, humility, sharing, and respect."

- Grandfather Commanda

Day 4 - Monday, June 26, 1995 - Months before the walk started, Dennis’ brother, Phil Gonsalves, gathered boxes of white sage from the high forests just inland from the California sea.

Burning sage bundle

Phil is of Wampanoag heritage from Nope (Martha’s Vineyard) but he has lived near the Pacific Ocean in the far west most of his adult life. He understood that our walk would need a lot of sage. In the springtime he made a special trip to a hillside on the Circle V Ranch at Cachuma Lake above Santa Barbara. He went with two Chumash grandmothers, and from the ranch's hillsdes they gathered several big boxes of white sage.

This fourth morning of the journey the walkers reached into one of the cardboard boxes that Phil had sent, and fished out a fat bundle of sage. They burned the sweet herb, smudging up with the smoke as is their custom.

In the native way, people smudge with the smoke of burning herbs in a respectful manner to clear themselves and their surroundings. Just as with an ocean wave cascading on the shore, or a crisp breeze cruising through a pine forest, burning sage releases sweet-smelling, sweet-acting energy.

When a spiritual undertaking is about to begin, it’s understood from long experience to be a wise practice to smudge each person in a group. Each person can bathe in the smoke of sage, clearing old thoughts and feelings, gaining immediate access to the reality of the present moment.

After smudging up on this leaden, overcast, muggy day, the walkers toughed it out on the roads for about 18 miles. By the end of their steps they had entered into ancestral territory of the Assonet and Pokonoket Bands of the Wampanoag people, and encamped on the last remaining scrap of their community land: the Watuppa Reservation near Fall River, Massachusetts. 

Watuppa is historic in the sense that it was the first reservation created in what is now the United States of America. Watuppa came about in 1670, right after the King Philip War.

Back in those days Watuppa was a large, lovely tract of land. But things changed for the reservation about 1930. That’s when the state and the city appropriated most of the native's last parcel of community land to create a reservoir that would feed water into the growing industrial cities nearby. What was left to the Wampanoag people for a reservation was just a few scattered acres. This small place was the Watuppa were the Sunbow walk came to rest.


Four is an important number to many Native Americans, a number worthy of note. On this fourth day of the pilgrimage, Alycia Longriver, a human being of Mik'Maq and Wampanoag heritage, joined our circle. She is tall, strong, bright-eyed, determined.

Alycia Longriver - Image scanned from a newspaper clipping.

As she was welcomed to the circle, Alycia told the other walkers her story. Last year around Labor Day of 1994 when she was 47-years old, she said, she was gifted with an important Medicine Dream. In the dream she was instructed to walk from her mother's home on Wampanoag lands in Mashpee, Massachusetts to California. The dream indicated that she should carry a message of unity, healing, and respect for the Earth

Alycia wanted to respond. But as weeks passed after the dream, she felt doubt. How could she do such a thing? How would she eat or find shelter? What would she do for money? How would she keep safe?

Then one afternoon Alycia was sitting on the stairs outside the public library in Mashpee. She was just passing time, considering the vision she had received and entertaining her doubts. An old woman with white hair came by and put a quarter in her hand, said "bless you," and then walked away. That's all she did. But that’s all it took. In that moment Alycia found the faith to begin. She taped the quarter into her wallet so she could carry it with her.

Before starting out on her walk Alycia clarified and then wrote out her key philosophical points. She had them printed up in a pamphlet entitled Rainbow Walk 1995: “It came through guidance that a type of pilgrimage walk must be undertaken," she wrote, "to create an awareness, a feeling of hope and inspiration among like souls, and to share messages with seekers of better ways."

Alycia drew her inspiration from the true story of a woman known only as Peace Pilgrim. Peace Pilgrim walked the roads of America for 28 years as a witness for peace. Her odyssey began at the time of the Korean War in 1953 and continued until her death in 1981. She walked across America seven times.

Peace Pilgrim walked without money or organizational support, carrying all she owned – shoes and clothing.  As she traveled she talked with people on dusty roads, city streets, in churches, colleges, on TV and radio, and wherever people would listen. She would speak of peace within and peace without.

Peace Pilgrim took a dramatic vow: "I shall remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter, and fasting until given food."

Peace Pilgrim expressed her philosophy in one sentence: "Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love." 

Inspired by the example of Peace Pilgrim, Alycia wrote in her own booklet, "I walk a similar path, with her spirit... she said 'I cannot accept more than I need while others have less than they need. Any goods we cannot let go of, we don't own...such goods own us.’  I share these feelings.”

Alycia trained all autumn, winter, and spring. Then on June 1, 1995 she started walking alone from Mashpee toward California. After more than a week she had made her way well into Connecticut. But as she walked on she began to feel unsafe, especially as she trekked alone through the cities. Men saw her – a woman alone – and continually tried to pick her up or harass her. She was threatened.

With a heavy heart Alycia turned back and returned to her mother's home on Cape Cod.  But then a day after getting home she picked up the Saturday, June 24th edition of the Cape Cod Times and read about the Sunbow 5 Walk for the Earth. She was overjoyed to read in the newspaper that others had a vision similar to hers. She determined to join us on the long walk to the Pacific. She saw it as an opportunity to fulfill her vision and to help carry the message that all of the walkers are carrying. That’s how she came to the Watuppa Reservation today, to join our Sunbow walk.

In the evening Tom and Alycia talked for a long time. Alycia later told me that at that time she initiated a frank discussion with Tom about her sexual background.

Specifically, Alycia says she told Tom that she was born a hermaphrodite -- a human being with full male and female sexual genitals and attributes. Although she used the word hermaphrodite, the emerging modern term is intersexual. In native culture, such human beings are respected, and spoken of as Two Spirit People.

This basic sexual fact has caused Alycia deep pain throughout her life, and so she generally kept it a private matter. But she knew the walk would be long and challenging for everyone, and she said she wanted to begin her part in it with honesty. Alycia told me that Tom gave her assurances, and said he understood. He promised to respect her and to keep her confidence.


That night at the Watuppa Reservation the walkers feasted on bluefish and venison, compliments of Paul Levasseur (Standing Beaver), the Iron River Singers, and a host of relatives. In the tradition of hospitality to sacred wayfarers, the people brought to the circle plenty of food, righteous music, and laughter.

With strong song, the Iron River Singers encouraged the Sunbow 5 walkers onward.


 Copyright 2006 – by Steven McFadden

Read Day 5 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire


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  With thanksgiving — Steven McFadden


| Author's Note | Dedication | Acknowledgements | Donors
Invocation | Prologue | Contents

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