"Earth is now beginning a new solar race, a solar generation created by the sacred Sun. Like an arrow or a sacred knife, the energy comes to all on planet Earth. Solar fire is upon us. The fire is in everyone."
- Willaru Huayata
Day 98 - Thursday, September 28, 1995 - Just after the rosy fingers of dawn reached across the sky, Dave Reid strummed his guitar and raised his voice softly in a series of merry songs. We assembled in the parking lot of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, where the walk had stopped on Sunday. The walkers chatted and stretched, preparing for the day, waiting for Grandfather Commanda.
Grandfather Commanda rests
Grandfather did not come. After a late night and much excitement, his blood pressure was high. With the support of a helper, he rested for the morning in his motel room. He had a long plane flight to Washington, DC scheduled for the afternoon, so he felt it was wisest to rest.
After it became clear that Grandfather would remain resting in his motel room before flying to Washington, Ned thumped the drum and then lifted his voice in a chant, a walking chant. The walkers responded as one, lifting their voices and their feet, setting off in prayer through downtown Memphis one final time.
With Grandfather's blessing, and with the support and best wishes of about a dozen local residents, including poet Marylou Awiakta, the Sunbow 5 pilgrims once again started walking West toward the great river.
|A view of the Mississippi River from downtown Memphis, Tennessee. Photo courtesy of stock.xchng.com
We walked about a mile along city blocks to the eastern shore of the Mesechabe—the Choctaw name for the Mississippi River—and waited there for the boat which would ferry us to the western shore.
The great river has had many names over the years: Mesechabe , Missi Sipi, The Big Muddy, Old Man River, and, as characterized by the poet T.S. Eliot in Four Quartets, "a strong brown God—sullen, untamed, and intractable."
The vast Mississippi links seven mighty rivers, and dozens of smaller ones. Together the Mississippi and its tributaries drain two-thirds of North America.
As they came to the muddy shore of this dividing flow, the walkers appreciated their river crossing as a major transition point in their journey West.
On the eastern shore of the sacred river, on this bright, sunny morning, the Sunbow 5 walkers offered tobacco and prayers for the waters, the wildlife, the forests, and the human beings who depend upon all of it. Then they boarded a boat and ferried across the great silt-darkened river to Arkansas on the far shore.
Choctaw relatives on the western shore had anticipated us. They had cleared brush away from an old section of the original Trail of Tears, the trail their ancestors were forced to walk when they were removed in the 1830s to Oklahoma. Thus, when the walkers landed on the western shore, they were able without impediment to place their feet along that pathway, and to make their prayers.
"We found a real heaviness on the western shore of the river," Tom Dostou observed. "There was a noticeably heavy feeling along the old pathway of the Trail of Tears. It's not just me, everyone felt it. It's a deep sadness that lingers."
In the early afternoon, winging away from Memphis to Washington, DC aboard a jetliner, Grandfather Commanda, Jacki and I were able to gaze down upon the city, upon the big bend in the river, and upon the ancient ceremonial center of the Chucalissa Indian Mounds.
Yesterday Joe, Jacki, several other walkers, and I had visited the mounds of Chucalissa. The ruins of this native American town sit on the Mississippi bluff five miles south of downtown Memphis.
|Chucalissa - A band of about eight walkers gathered in a prayer circle on the ancient village mounds along the Mississippi at Memphis. We visited with the keeper, a man named Wood Bell. Author photo.
At one time the community was home to over a thousand native human beings. Now it is a museum, operated by the University of Memphis Department of Anthropology. The museum features a reconstructed 15th century Indian village.
When we arrived at the mounds, we gathered in a prayer circle to remember everyone who had lived here, and to send our voices out in a sacred manner to the whole of the Sacred Hoop—everyone and everything.
As we sat in our circle we look up to see Wood Bell, a 73-year-old Choctaw elder. A gentle soul, Wood Bell told us that he has been the keeper of these mounds, the custodian, for the last 23 years. He came upon our circle while he was making his rounds before closing up for the day.
When Wood Bell heard who we are and why we are walking a tear came to his eye. He was happy to see us. He told us he had always known that someday a walk such as ours would venture across Turtle Island, and he wished us well.
As we left Chucalissa to rejoin our companions, we looked back and saw that Wood Bell had gone to the top of one of the mounds. He had lifted his head and in arms in prayer, and he was creating a powerful tableau as he faced the great river.
Flying above these mounds and away in a roaring jet, Grandfather, Jacki, and I could look down upon this, and also upon the broad, flat expanse, of Arkansas land across the river, the land where the walk is traveling today.
Alhough it was a cloudless, a thick, battleship-gray syrup of air pollution hung over the whole of the western territory. That was unmistakeable.
We were flying toward Washington, DC to participate in a vigil called One Mind, One Heart, One Prayer. Just as our walk had a point of origin at the House of Mica when the Hopi fulfilled their instructions in November of 1994, so did the Prayer Vigil. The vigil was seen as another way to communicate directly with people, since governments showed no interest in the messages of the Earth keepers.
Aboard the plane I read the flier announcing the Washington prayer vigil. The flier was titled One Mind, One Heart, One Prayer:
“Our time is the fulfillment of prophesy...We can approach and enter the next millennium with the wisdom, strength and courage to actualize a better life on Earth for all, or we can arrive broken, doubtful and disconnected from each other...
"...According to several Native American prophesies, the turning point in history will be recognized by spiritual gatherings dedicated to creating an integrated and healthy world. It is these gatherings which lay the foundation for new alliances, new communities, new vision and new wisdom to grow."
As the plane flew closer to Washington, Grandfather handed me a document to read. It was a paper he had submitted last year to a conference, The Wisdom of the First Nations: A Partnership for a Sustainable Future.
In his paper Grandfather wrote that the sacred instructions given by Creator to native people at the time of creation included the following:
◊ To take care of Mother Earth.
and the other colors of human beings.
◊ To respect all of Creation.
◊ To honor all life, and to support that honor.
◊ To be grateful from the heart for all life.
◊ To love and to express that love.
◊ To be humble. Humility is the gift of understanding.
◊ To be kind with oneself and with others.
◊ To share feelings and personal concerns and commitments.
◊ To be honest with oneself and with others
Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden
Read Day 99 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire