"There's a certain blindness that people enjoy hiding behind. Their eyes are closed to certain experiences. They they can say, 'Well, I didn't know.' This perpetual blindness seems to be like a disease. People say, 'The world's a mess, but as long as it's not depriving me of food and shelter, I really don't need to do anything about it.' Yet we do need to do something, and we do need to make deep personal decisions about this."
- Yehwehnode, Grandmother Twylah Nitsch
Day 74 - Monday, September 4, 1995 - After his long bus ride, Grandfather Commanda arrived in Memphis, Tennessee. He met with Traci Sampson, who is helping to plan events for when our walk arrives in the river city. Then he met with some folks from the Choctaw nation, and visited one of their sacred sites on the Mississippi River, where they a joined in prayers for all the people of the earth.
Five of the Sunbow pilgrims drove across Tennessee to Memphis, to pick grandfather up, and bring him back to Chatanooga to be wtih all of the walkers. Together the whole group decided to move their camp to a quiet place so they can meet in council to address the difficulties and dissension that have arisen.
The walk, now numbering about 40 people, was welcomed to the Hawkwind Earth Renewal Cooperative in Valley Head, Alabama, by Tarwater and Charla Hermann. Hawkwind is about 35 miles south of Chattanooga. With 90 acres of lushly forested land, campsites, and ceremonial grounds, Hawkwind is an ideal place for the council.
As the council circle began, Grandfather Commanda encouraged the group to consider the big picture. He recalled how when he was a young man his own grandfather had told him that there would come a time when native peoples would finally be free to speak out. At that time, he was told, native voices would be needed, and native people could be leaders to help with the profound healing that would be needed in the world.
"This is the time," Grandfather said, "this is the time my grandfather prophesied about. What we are doing is so important, it must be done in the right way."
The circle is an overlooked part of our North American continent’s democratic heritage. In a circle everyone is equal. There is no pretense of superiority or hierarchy. All people—young and old, men and women, left or right, rich or poor—are equals. All are accorded respect: an opportunity to speak and to be heard.
In a circle the emphasis is on speaking truth, and hearing the truth. The process assures one specific objective: that each member of the group have his or her say about the important matters concerning the community, and that each viewpoint gets respectfully heard.
The circle is an important step to achieving what is known among native peoples as "being of one mind." Each opinion is expressed and heard without argument or discussion. This critical step requires that each member of the circle respect the right of other individual members to speak, and the understanding that hearing all points of view are essential.
The natural world is diverse. Opinions are equally diverse, and generally considered by individuals to be unique and important. Respect for this process—that is, a speaker must not be interrupted—is essential for creating a vision which reflects the diversity of life. Thus, the circle ensures recognition and respect for every participant.
Some circles may employ a tool, such as a "talking stick," or a "talking feather," to help in ordering the process. The talking stick is passed on from speaker to speaker. Whoever holds the stick is recognized as the speaker, and he or she may speak without interruption for as long as she or he chooses.
The talking stick is a powerful tool, It allows a person the safety to talk about the most sensitive issues within a context of respect. It teaches people to respect the viewpoints of others, while still granting each individual the privilege to disagree.
Because participants in the circle may not interrupt the person holding the stick, listeners are free from the need to construct responses -- whether they approve or disapprove of what the speaker is saying. Listeners are relaxed and available to absorb the speaker's full and true message.
Today's Sunbow 5 cicle was exceptional because of this venerable and effective tradition, and because of the importance of the walker's shared vision. The group wrangled with issues both petty and profound.
When the circle was over for the day, the Hawkwind hosts treated the walkers to a magnificent feast: organic salad and fruit, pot roast, lasagna, pies and cakes. Tarwater and Charla were praised as "hosts from heaven."
Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden
Read Day 75 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire