"Don't look to us for your answers. Our way is not The Way. Look into your own heart, and come as close to the voice of your own heart as you can so you can hear the voice of your own heritage. You must figure it out, and see through which tradition it will speak. You must find your own way." - Manuel Hoyongowa, Hopi
Day 15 - Friday, July 7, 1995 - At 9 AM the walkers met at the Willis Bridge and began walking down Second Avenue to 44th St. and then over to UN headquarters close by the shore of the East River. As the walkers passed through Harlem many people on the streets offered warm smiles, and wishes of “good morning.”
The walkers moved on through the hot morning, pacing swiftly on the city streets. They soon reached the bureaucratic and technological base station of the United Nations headquarters, a distinctive building with a glass facade perched upon the fabled island acquired through an infamous 1626 trade among a company of European merchants and some of the Lenape peoples.
The Lenape, an Algonquin Nation, were the original inhabitants of Manhatta, what is now known as New York City, according to Evan Pritchard’s book, Native New Yorkers. Pritchard writes, “The Lenape, as part of the Algonquin world, were inheritors of 'The Way of the Heron.' In Lenape the words would be Aaney Tlika. The Way of the Heron is the way of the peacemaker, and it is a great tradition throughout the Algonquin world.”
Manhatta, an ancient home for the Lanape, was a place where the Way of the Heron was known and respected.
In later years, when the founders of the United States of America set out to create a new form of democratic government, they explicitly looked to the peacemaking traditions of the Lenape and the Haudenausenee (Iroquois). A great number of the legal and spiritual principles that guided native nations served as direct inspiration for the Constitution of the United States of America.
Historian Gregory Schaff, Ph.D., author of Wampum Belts and Peace Trees, conducted 14 years of research on the authenticity of this aspect of U.S. history. Schaff’s work culminated in his 1990 testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. As a result of his convincing evidence, Congress passed a resolution that was signed by President George Herbert Walker Bush. With the resolution, for the first time in history, the U.S. government officially recognized that many principal ideas for the U. S. Constitution came from the American Indian people.
At UN headquarters the Sunbow 5 walkers met with Delphine Redshirt, the chairperson of the UN's Committee for the "International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples (1995-2004)," and also with Elsa Stamatopoulou, an official of the UN's Centre for Human Rights.
Grandfather Commanda opened the meeting with a prayer before Ms. Stamatopoulou welcomed the walkers. In her remarks she outlined what the UN was doing for the Earth and for indigenous peoples as if, Tom Dostou felt, she were expecting criticism. But when Tom had a chance to speak he said, that's not why the walk is happening, nor why we have come to the UN on this day. "We have come to continue the dialogue, and to pray for all the people and for the UN."
"Many of the nation states that belong to the UN are afraid of indigenous peoples," Tom said. "But we have no guns, no money, and no systems of power of the kind that they need to be concerned about. We have our spiritual basis. That's about it.
“We don't want to overthrow the nation states and create more fear, hate, and harm. That won't help anybody. We don't feel we 'own' the land, but rather that we are all—every color, and nationality, and religion—tenants on the Earth Mother. Indigenous people are trying to help show the industrial-commercial nation-states how to live on the land, how to be in good relation with it. That's something that we all need to know.”
Tom sat back and rested while Grandfather Commanda opened his medicine bag. He withdrew the Seven Fires Wampum Belt to show it to the walkers and to the UN officials.
Wampum Belts are made of beads fashioned from the shell of the Quahog clam (venus mercenaria). The Latin name was given to wampum by settlers from Europe, who mistakenly assumed that, because the beads were frequently traded, that they had something like a monetary (or mercenary) value. But their true value to traditional peoples was never material, and is not now. Wampum is a spiritual record keeper, used so that some things will not be forgotten. When held or worn they act as a pledge of the truth of the words being spoken.
Wampum beads are smooth, alive to the touch. They are either a creamy white or a soft purple in color. It takes much time and great skill to craft the beads. Working in a prayerful way, expert wampum makers shaped thick strips of clamshell into cylinders, and then hollowed the cylinders with tiny and brittle stone drills. The finished beads were then carefully woven together in various symbolic patterns with buckskin strips. A wampum maker typically took forty full moons—more than 3 1/2 years—fabricating each belt.
They are also used as symbols of high office, and as records, of diplomatic negotiations and treaties.
The capacity to read or decipher the belts is a gift and a discipline. The belts contain hundreds of wampum pieces strung together. Each wampum piece has a meaning; every one must be counted, and color and arrangement interpreted. The relation of one token to the other, and to the whole, must be carefully studied to supply continuity to the record.
The Seven Fires Wampum Belt, which Grandfather showed at the UN, is primarily dark, purple wampum beads, with a pattern of seven white diamonds, each diamond representing a 'fire,' or epoch of time. The middle fire is represented by a double diamond, indicating the promise of an Eighth Fire, or epoch, if people heed the foundational lessons of love, caring, sharing, respect and forgiveness.
|Grandfather William Commanda (Center) - shows the Seven Fires Wampum Belt at the House of Mica (UN Headquarters, assisted by Frank Decontie (l) and Eddie Decontie (r). (UN Photos 184764/J.Issac).
Grandfather Commanda explained to everyone about the belts, and briefly told the meaning of each of the seven diamonds (representing the Seven Fires and potential 8th Fire) as symbolically represented on the belt.
“We are in the time of the Seventh Fire now. That's the reason for this walk. We need to maintain our honesty, and to bring things into keeping with the way the Creator intended. That way we can bring the double-diamond at the center of the belt together, to make one diamond representing the lighting of an 8th Fire. That fire does not have to burn or destroy, but it can illuminate this world that we are part of. It's up to us which way it burns. We have the choice now, and can use our will as we want. It's up to the people."
"The first key is forgiveness: to forgive those people, and nations, and races that we feel have done us harm. We may not forget, but we have to forgive. That will begin to heal the hurt. We have to forgive ourselves, too, for the harm we have done to ourselves and to others. It's very difficult. It's not easy. But that's what's required.
"Those are the teachings that have been handed down to me. That's part of what the wampum belt is about, and that's what I have to share.
"If all the races come together," Grandfather Commanda said, "and stop doing what they are doing, it can begin. Forgiveness, peace, love, respect—those are the four important things. With all of that, then the waters can again be pure, the air can be clean, the Earth can be healed, and the children can live.
"Whether it will happen or not, we don't know. The people have the choice. The time to choose is now. We pray for the good things. That's why the walk."
Grandfather Commanda had held the Wampum Belt and showed it to the world here at the United Nations headquarters less than two years ago in 1993.
That 1993 meeting sponsored by Crescentera and other non-profit groups—The Cry of the Earth—was the fulfillment of an ancient Hopi instruction. Because the messages the elders delivered were of critical importance, while in New York the Sunbow 5 walkers recalled how the Cry of the Earth came to pass, and the key messages presented by the spiritual elders of Turtle Island.
When traditional elders of North America delivered their prophetic messages to the leaders of the world at UN headquarters on November 22, 1993, they say they fulfilled instructions that were given to the Hopi people by Creator at the beginning of this epoch of history.
The Hopi were joined and supported at the Cry of the Earth by 24 other spiritual leaders from the Four Directions, representing the Maya, Huichol, Lakota, Mi'kmaq, the Haudenausenee (Iroquois) and Algonquin Nations of North America.
Collectively, the elders delivered an explicit warning that the time of purification spoken of in their traditions is already in progress, and likely to intensify unless people return to follow the instructions of the Creator: to live simply, in respect and harmony with all things. They presented their prophecies, handed down orally since antiquity, regarding the ecological, spiritual, and ethical crises confronting humanity today.
As the Hopi tell the story, at the beginning of this epoch of history (the Fourth World) they were instructed by Spirit to watch for a time when the world was beset by great troubles: chaos, or "koyaanisquatsi." At this urgent juncture of history, the Hopi would have a particular responsibility: to make four attempts to address the nations of the world, whose leaders would be gathered at the House of Mica to talk about their problems.
If they were permitted to speak in the House of Mica, the Hopi would then be free to give public voice to the warning they say they have been entrusted with for thousands of years, in the hope that some nations would actively listen. Their essential message—to return to peace and harmony with the whole circle of life—would thereby help ease the Earth and its people through the era of purification.
|Traditional elders of the Four Directions meet with UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali in his office at the conclusion of the Cry of the Earth. Photo by Wanelle Fitch, 1993.
Within the halls at the House of Mica, the native speakers called for unity, and agreed that we have already entered the time of withering fruit: a time when erratic weather patterns, earth movements, starvation, epidemics, violence, and war have come to pass with great frequency and intensity, as grandmothers and grandfathers of antiquity had foretold.
The elders at the Cry of the Earth agreed that this is a time for people to return to spirit, and to heal the heart. Various speakers identified keys to this healing process: the Iroquois spoke of love for one another and respect for all of nature; the Algonquin spoke of forgiveness and sacrifice; the Mi'kmaq spoke of the importance of honesty, respect, sharing, and caring; and the Maya referred to the end of a Great Cycle as described in their mathematically and astronomically precise calendars.
Because the messages of the elders remain relevant, and because they were a primary motivation for our Sunbow 5 Walk, they are a key part of our odyssey. What follows are some excerpts from the messages that the elders spoke at the House of Mica:
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Martin Gashweseoma, Hopi Caretaker of the Sovereign Hopi Nation for the Great Spirit, Massau'u: "We are now living in the fourth and final world of the Hopi. We are at a most critical time in human history. It is a crossroads at which the outcome of our actions will decide the fate of all life on earth.
"At the beginning of this fourth world the Hopi were told to watch for specific signs which would mark this crucial period and were also given instructions for actions to avoid the annihilation of this world, and for life to continue.
"The instructions included a directive to travel to a great house of mica (glass) which would be built on the distant eastern shore of this continent where leaders of the earth's nations would gather. The Hopi were instructed to knock on the door of this house in order to deliver their message to those gathered there. If refused, they were to knock again until they had done so four times…
"When this happens, all the world leaders and all the people will be corrupted and will not know whom to look to for direction to correct this corruption. When all this happens, it will mean that we are all nearing the end. Then the wars will come about like powerful winds, and will spread from country to country and bring purification or destruction to this world. The more we turn away from the instructions of the Great Spirit, Massau'u, the more signs we see in the form of earthquakes, floods, drought, fires, tornadoes, as Nature makes ready her revenge.
“All of this will happen at one time along with the wars and corruption. We see this now as young children become angry, killing each other and their parents. They show no respect. We are all corrupt.
"…Now we are seeking a way to solve our present situation. This is the last world, we are not going anywhere from here. If we destroy this, the highest world, which is like heaven, we will be given no other chances.
"Let us consider this matter seriously so that this world is not destroyed, so that we can continue to live and save this land and life for the generations to come."
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Chief Leon Shenandoah, Tadadaho, Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy: "It is prophesied in our Instructions that the end of the world will be near when the trees start dying from the tops down. That's what the maples are doing now. Our Instructions say the time will come when there will be no corn, when nothing will grow in the garden, when the water will be unfit to drink...We were instructed to carry love for one another, and to show great respect for all the beings of the earth.
"In our ways, spiritual consciousness is the highest form of politics. We must live in harmony with the natural world and recognize that excessive exploitation can only lead to our own destruction. We cannot trade the welfare of our future generations for profit now.
"We must stand together, the four sacred colors of man, as the one family that we are, in the interest of peace. We must abolish nuclear and conventional weapons of war...We must raise leaders of peace. We must unite the religions of the world as a spiritual force strong enough to prevail in peace.
“We (human beings) are a spiritual energy that is thousands of times stronger than nuclear energy. Our energy is the combined will of all people with the spirit of the natural world, to be of one body, one heart, and one mind for peace."
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William Commanda, Keeper of the Seven Fires Wampum Belt for the Algonkian Nations: “We are here due to the urgency of the cry of our Mother Earth and the urgency or our concerns for all forms of life. We have agreed to present our Wampum Belts which are a sacred link to the spiritual and physical forces which contain the power and knowledge of life from past to present to future…the healing is essential.
"...Today each one of us can see what is happening in our natural world. We have become so dependent on our natural resources and having put monetary gains on them, we have put ourselves above the natural order and have tried in vain to control the Earth's bounty. Man is responsible for any ecological disasters in recent years. We are losing our natural resources at an alarming rate...
"The four sacred tools that Native people apply to their lives are honesty, humility, sharing, and respect. Within these four tools, unconditional love, trust, support, understanding, compromising, and extended positive emotions come into reality.
"They are the keys to the doorways of existence, the keys to survival in this time. They have been known to work in regard to Anishinabe people for thousands of years. These traditional values are a direction not only for native people, but to all mankind."
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David Gehue, Mi'kmaq, Spiritual Counselor: "The Cry of the Earth is clearly a fulfillment of the final prophecies. They all coincide; they all say the same thing basically, sometimes in different words or with different stories. But they all lead to the same thing.
"The understanding that comes from the Miq Maq is that we—all the Wabanaki, People of the Light—were the first ones encountered by the Europeans. They got to us first, and we were absolutely bombarded. That bombardment caused 500 years of depletion and destruction of our traditions and ceremonies. But now they are coming back. It was predicted a long time ago that we would finally come back into the circle to complete it. Now we have done it. We have completed the Sacred Hoop by opening the Eastern Door, which was the final door of all the directions that had to be opened.
"So now, what comes next?" Mr. Gehue asked rhetorically. "The elders have been saying for a long, long time, that the world is going to go faster. Things have always happened; there have always been big storms, and earthquakes, floods, and fires, but now they are happening fast, and it's accelerating. It's going to go a lot faster. Because of this, it's real important that we start to slow down.
"Heal the inner self: you have to be open for that. You have to master you -- your weaknesses, your fears, and your rages. You have to master that. You have to make sure that you are thinking clearly, and feeling clearly.
"The key for all the people in North America is, get to know who you are. Get rid of all your emotional and spiritual garbage—hate, fear, fire and brimstone, all that junk. Creator is not standing somewhere with a big stick ready to beat you. You can be who you are. You need to be who you are. That's the bottom line."
Because no government officials responded to the elders at Cry of the Earth in 1993, our prayer walk became an idea. The idea evolved and drew allies. Now we are on the road.
Tom Dostou was in New York at the time of Cry of the Earth in November 1993. He says he was looking for support to bring back across the border to insurgent First Nations rebels in Canada. But he was so moved by what he heard at the Cry of the Earth, he said, that he renounced violence and proclaimed a life-long commitment to peace.
While at the Cry of the Earth, Tom met Naoko Haga, a Japanese woman who had been living in the US for several years. Her husband, Hiroshi, had recently died, and she was still in mourning. As she talked with Tom she told him of the vision she and her husband had long shared—the vision of the Sunbow, or Sundog, as an emerging symbol of racial and religious harmony.
For Tom this was new information, new insight. Combined with the messages of the traditional elders of the Four Directions at the House of Mica, it had a powerful impact upon him. It led to his commitment, and to Naoko's, to spearhead the Sunbow 5 Walk for the Earth, and to do it under the spiritual guidance of William Commanda.
On this hot July day, as Grandfather and the Sunbow 5 walkers sat with UN officials in a conference room deep within the House of Mica, all this was recalled and considered.
After all had spoken, at the request of Delphine Redshirt, Grandfather Commanda brought our meeting at the House of Mica to a close with a simple, quiet prayer in the Algonquin language. All the people shook hands in a circle before departing.
Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden