“It is good to have an end to journey towards;
but it is the journey that matters in the end.”
- Ursula K. LeGuin
Day 223 - Wednesday, January 31, 1996 – Absolute rain was upon our camp and upon California. Wave after wave of pelting drops drove upon the Circle V Ranch. Most of us slept late, sheltered from the storm in tents or cabins. We may take our rest. We have no where to go, nothing to do in the early morning.
We gathered for breakfast around 10, and that's when Grandfather Commanda invited us to come to one of the small ranch cabins at 11. He wants to talk with us, and to show us the wampum belt that he is entrusted to keep for the people.
For many Sunbow walkers this will be their first opportunity to view the wampum belt, the belt which symbolizes so many of the teachings at the heart of our endeavor.
|Grandfather William Commanda - Shows the Seven Fires Wampum Belt.
In a wood-paneled cabin, while rain beat steadily upon the dark roof, Grandfather welcomed us all. He set up a small table and covered it with a prayer cloth. Upon the cloth he set an eagle feather, and the Seven Fires Wampum Belt.
Then he burned sage and sweet grass, using a sea shell as a vessel to contain the medicines and the fire. In this traditional manner, he made everything fresh and clear, and helped bring us to our center. Since some people -- including Jun San and Jun Ji -- have had to depart, there are only about 35 Sunbow pilgrims left in camp. Every single one of us came to sit in the cabin with Grandfather.
Ned and Joe held the two ends of the Seven Fires Wampum Belt. After a pause, Grandfather began to share with us some of the things he said he is carrying in his heart. He held a trimmed eagle feather in his right hand as he spoke. His words rode gently and directly through the soft, steady thrum of raindrops on the cabin.
“Businesses and government often try to get you to forget why you were put here on Earth,” Grandfather said. “But I want to encourage you, and others, to think about that long and deep. Why were you put here on this Earth? That's a very basic question in the traditions of this land, Turtle Island. And this is your home. We all live here now.
"This is a special time in the life of our world," he told us. "If you stay strong, if you tell the truth, and if you continue with caring, sharing, respect, and forgiveness, then we will light the 8th Fire. That's a teaching the belt holds. This is what I know.”
Grandfather Commanda asked us all to take time to reflect on the overall journey, the vision of the walk, and how it went from beginning to end. He encouraged us to really spend some time with that.
As he met with us in the cabin, Grandfather's countenance became serious and sad. He began to talk with us about Tom, the head man for the Sunbow walk. None of us have seen Tom since Sunday. He and Naoko have not come to the Circle V Ranch to be with us.
Grandfather said he felt it was important to remember that the Sunbow 5 pilgrimage did not arise between him and Tom, but between him and Tom and Creator.
He continued, "There is a brother who is responsible for all of us being here, but who fell. Here at the end of our journey, a man has fallen. We cannot push him away. We must not turn our back on him. We must pick him up again. We must continue to forgive him and to love him," Grandfather said." Remember, he is our brother. We must help him to get up.”
We sat quietly and respectfully listening to Grandfather, knowing he was speaking the truth, and that he was showing us the way to heal.
In a solemn manner, Grandfather said we had earned the right to touch the belt. He invited all of us to learn about the belt, to look upon it, to touch it, to meditate with it.
The Seven Fires belt, which dates to about 1400 C.E., is purple with diamond patterns in soft, creamy white. As with other wampum belts, this one uses the natural language of sea shells, and the universal language of symbols, to convey memories and messages.
Wampum beads are fashioned from the shell of the quahog clam, an ancient species native to North America, a creature sensitive to the sea -- not just ocean waters, but also the cosmic sea of ethers. The wampum shell has the form and qualities necessary to hold records and to serve as keys to the spirit realms. With sinew, the wampum beads are woven into belts to represent and express records of natural laws and natural truths.
The designs on the wampum belts are senders and receivers of an elegantly subtle energy, an energy that, the elders say, technical instruments have yet to reveal. But the energy patterns are as real as anything on the electromagnetic spectrum. The wampums have the capacity to hold a spiritual imprint of universal knowledge and wisdom.
The diamond pattern of wampum beads on the Seven Fires belt represents seven fires. The seven fires represent seven epochs of time, and they also represent the promise of an eighth time -- an 8th Fire.
Silverio Jimenez, age 16 - Walked the Sunbow trail from Virginia to California. (Author photo).
Rita reports that yesterday she met with some of the Grandmothers from the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation – Mojave Nation. They had some really good news. They told her that the proposal to establish a nuclear dumpsite at Ward Valley is dead (Day 195). It’s not going to happen. They have succeeded in blocking it, keeping their holy land free of nuclear waste which would remain mutantly poison for thousands of years into the future.
The Grandmothers sent greetings and thanksgiving to all the Sunbow walkers, for the help and support we gave when our pilgrimage came through Parker, Arizona. They really appreciate that we walked, and sang and prayed, and danced with them. They wish us blessings on the completion of our journey, Rita said.
Copyright 2007 by Steven McFadden
Read Day 224 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire