"The way of life known as Western Civilization is on a death path... Our essential message to the world is a basic call to consciousness. The destruction of native cultures and people is the same process which has destroyed and is destroying life on this planet...the principles of righteousness demand that all thoughts of prejudice, privilege or superiority be swept away and that recognition be given to the reality that Creation is intended for the benefit of all equally: even the birds and the animals, the trees and insects, as well as the human beings."
- The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Address to the Western World
Day 45 - Sunday, August 6, 1995 - The remnants of Hurricane Erin drifted over Virginia, unleashing big rain upon the forested shoulders of the Blue Ridge, where the walkers huddled in their tents.
When the rain finally eased in the afternoon the walkers rolled out. Everything was soaked—tents, tarps, sleeping bags, shirts, socks and shoes. So it goes. As most campers understand from experience, no matter how miserable you are, you must get up anyway, start the fire, make the coffee and get on with life. If you are lucky, your stuff will dry out before you have to get back into it for the next night.
This was the first heavy rain the walk has encountered since setting out on June 23. Perhaps the dry weather had lulled the Sunbow pilgrims into a sense of complacency. They vowed to be better prepared next time.
The storm drifted east. The Sun began shining. The eagles reappeared. The walkers enjoyed a wonderfully fresh and progressively sunny afternoon as they made their way to the Sedalia Center at the foot of Terrapin Mountain along the Blue Ridge Parkway. All the gear was further dried out at the new camp, where the walkers were hosted by Robert Grey Fox Bryan, his son Cody, and other members of the center.
In the evening the Sunbow walkers met with the chief, the council, and the elders of the Monacan Nation to enjoy a major feed: fried chicken, potato salad and beans. The local Coca-Cola distributor donated soft drinks for the feast, and an extra four cases of Coke and four cases of Powerade for the walkers to take along on the road with them.
The Monacan people say they have lived here at Bear Mountain for over 10,000 years. But they have just recently (1989) been recognized as a nation by the Commonwealth of Virginia, and that in general they have been re-awakening and strengthening themselves as a people.
There are few written records about the Monacans, but it is known that their culture combined farming, hunting, fishing and gathering for their food and materials. At the time of Colonial settlement the Monacan tribe was composed of an estimated 1,200 people, while the Monacan Confederacy (which included the Monacans, Tutelo, Saponi and Mannahoac Nations) had 5,200 or more human beings.
Eventually the Monacans got squeezed between the expanding English colony and their traditional enemies, the Cherokees. By 1700, like so many other tribes before and after them, the Monacans had been just about eliminated from their ancestral territory by wars and smallpox epidemics. At one point the tribe was reduced to fewer than 120 people. But slowly and quietly they have come back. The Monacans now have about 1,400 members, and they have gained a measure of public standing with their official recognition by Virginia.
After the big feed, Monacan elder Eddie Brown participated in a pipe ceremony with the walkers.
He told them that the Monacan people understand very well why we are walking: "This is the time of purification our ancestors spoke of so long ago. Everyone who has eyes can see. The Creator will clean the Earth if we do not. We need to be sharing our understandings and our love with each other." he said. "We understand that this is why you are walking." Then the elder blessed the walk and all the walkers.
The Monacan elders asked the Sunbow walkers to pray for their teacher, a Lakota man named George Whitewolf. He has been having serious health problems in recent weeks.
As it happens, Whitewolf has been helping many of the Monacan people to understand the Siouian traditions that are their heritage. The Lakota people—who nowadays are most closely associated with the far western plains of North America—are close relatives of the eastern based Monacan. Both speak languages from the Siouian family. In fact, The Lakotas, Nakotas, and Dakotas originally migrated from this general territory to the Upper Midwest, then later moved out onto the Plains.
Jim Dunning, a Vietnam veteran and member of the United American Indians of Delaware Valley, called the Sunbow 5 coordinator's office. He wanted to relate to me what has happened to him since he hosted the walkers in his home outside Philadelphia. Jim told me that he has been fired from his job as director of the Governor's Veterans Outreach and Assistance Center, where he worked as an employee of the American Legion. He just got outright canned with damn little explanation. Jim has been director for the last 12 years, and so this was a major shock.
While our Sunbow 5 walk was at Jim's place (Day 22), several suspicious men were seen scouting around. Everyone knew that we were—for some reason—being watched. Jim told me he felt that this surveillance was somehow connected to the loss of his job.
Jim mentioned how towards the conclusion of his termination interview at the vet center—allegedly for having taken an "unauthorized absence"—the American Legion official conducting the interview asked him a surprising question: "Hey, what was that walk all about anyway?"
Jim wondered how the official would have learned about our walk, or learned about Jim's hospitality to and support of the walk. Jim told me he feels betrayed and desperate. He is looking for work.
Tom Dostou and I later talked this situation over at some length. He told me he was deeply troubled to hear about Jim, and that he thinks the CIA is monitoring our walk, and trying to create problems for it. Tom said he is sure the CIA was also watching and messing with the walk while we were in Washington, DC.
Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden
Read Day 46 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire