"From Wankan Tanka, the Great Spirit, there came a great unifying life force that flowed in and through all things -- the flowers of the plains, blowing winds, rocks, trees, bids, animals -- and was the same force that had been breathed into the first man. Thus all things were kindred and were brought together by the same Great Mystery."
- Luther Standing Bear
Day 70 - Thursday, August 31, 1995 - Representing the Mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee, a man named Gaines Hobbes visited the Sunbow encampment at the Audubon Acres Sanctuary today.
On behalf of the mayor, Mr. Hobbes officially presented the walkers with the ceremonial Key to the City of Chattanooga. Each one of the walkers received a lapel pin in the form of a key, to signify the city's official welcome -- a momento of their visit to this historic place.
This was another in a seemingly endless string of hot and humid days. Dozens of other visitors also came by the Audubon Center to sit and talk with the walkers. The visitors told of how the city has made a determined effort in recent years to clean the environment so that the children will have a livable place in the future.
The press also came to call: TV reporters from Chattanooga's Channel 3 and Channel 9, also a print reporter from the Chattanooga Times. The walkers really appreciated having an opportunity to get their message, and the messages of the elders, out through the mass media.
The most endearing visitors of the day were two groups of school children. Both groups included very young children, about first grade. The walkers enjoyed spending time with the classes, and spoke primarily about the concepts of honesty and respect: respect for self, respect for others, and respect for the Earth, the only source of our food, water, clothing and shelter.
The Sunbow walkers learned that the Moundbuilders were here first, here in the place we now know as the city of Chattanooga. The ancestors, the Moundbuilders, were here long, long ago -- perhaps 5,000 years or more into the past.
One of hundreds of massive ceremonial mounds found across the southeast and the heartland of Turtle Island. The mounds were constructed by the ancestors, and often marked the center of the cities of the Americas.
As the Sunbow pilgrims learned, at least four major mounds are situated in the valley which is now the location of the city of Chattanooga. The ancestors of the Americas, the Moundbuilders, lived throughout this region, as they inhabited a vast part of North America.
Using the rivers of Turtle Island as their thoroughfares and trade routes, the Moundbuilders created a sophisticated culture and a vast empire stetching from the Appalacians to edge of the Rocky Mountains, and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes.
When North America was first being invaded by Europeans, the incoming soldiers and settlers began to notice a large number of substantial earthworks -- the mounds -- that were obviously constructed by human beings. Because the incoming Europeans could not, or did not want to, understand that the mounds had been built by the peoples they were displacing, some scholars floated the notion that a "Lost Race" had created these impressive architectural forms. The so-called Lost Race was imagined to be a an extinct group of superior beings, the same Lost Race of superior beings who, it was imagined, had built the great pyramids in Egypt.
The Europeans spilling onto Turtle Island tended to see the native human beings of the Americas as savages and subhumans, incapable of such monumental accomplishments. That line of thinking helped to justify, in their minds, the taking of the land and the lives.
But by the late 1870s, researchers Cyrus Thomas and Henry Schoolcraft established that there was no difference between the people buried in some of the the mounds and modern Native Americans. The mounds were built by the ancestors.
The great mounds of North America had a wide variety of forms and functions. Many served as burial mounds, others as temples with wide plazas, and some as the heart of great communities, cities with complex governmental, social, religious, and artistic life.
The mound cultures endured until the arrival of Hernando de Soto and his Spanish gold seekers in the mid-16th century. Their attacks, and the subsequent attacks of unfamiliar diseases, were the final elements bringing the cities and the culture of the mounds to an end.
As the Sunbow pilgrims know from studying maps, they will encounter many of these ancient mounds as they walk on the roads ahead.
The intention is for the walk to stop at some of these mounds to pray for the Earth, for the people, for all the plants and animals that constitute the Sacred Hoop of life, and for the ancestors. The walkers have gained a bit of understanding about the mounds and their uses from elders they have spoken with, and many of the walkers are sensitive to subtle energies which characterize sacred sites. They can feel that many of the mounds are power places; when a person or a group engages such a power place with knowledge and respect, prayers are amplified.