"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware."
- Martin Buber
Day 2 - Saturday, June 24, 1995 - Grandfather Commanda felt stronger when he got up this morning. He joined the walk and stepped along with everyone in prayer for a couple of miles. Slightly stooped with age and gray-haired, he walked with the aid of a cane and wore his stylish silver-tone cowboy hat.
Grandfather William Commanda
During a rest Grandfather sat with the walkers and told of the vision that had come the previous night when he went to First Encounter Beach with Rita. He told about the Little People, and he told about the three signs he saw: the Eagle, the Caribou, and the Thunderbird.
Everyone understood that the vision related to the walk in some specific and important ways, but no one could fathom the meaning. The vision was set aside as temporarily inscrutable.
The walkers are beginning to get a sense of who William Commanda is. A man of age, experience, and good heart, he is the great, great grandson of Pakinawatik, the Anishinabe chief who in the mid-1800s led his people to settle in their traditional hunting grounds around the Ottawa River in Canada.
As a young man William earned his living as a guide for hunters and fishermen. He took them deep into the bush, the north woods of Canada. Eventually he became disgusted. Wealthy hunters would sometimes keep shooting caribou or catching fish even after they had far more than they could eat. After the thrill of the kill, or the taking of a trophy, the hunters would abandon the carcasses in the forest. The Indians thought the hunters greedy for taking more than they could use; the hunters accused the guides of being lazy for wanting to stop.
William walked away from the whole situation, and took up canoe building. Eventually he earned international respect as a skilled craftsman, the maker of elegant birch bark canoes.
As William tells the story to all who ask, he went through a stretch of life as an alcoholic. Then in 1961 when he was heavy into drinking and smoking, he was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors told him that he had but a short time to live. A few days later he woke up one morning and started weeping. He wept and he prayed: "Creator, if you have any purpose for me let me live, otherwise let me die quickly."
Something happened. William says he was filled with grace. "On that day I was re-born -- born again to be the way the Creator wanted me to be." He changed his life. He stopped smoking and drinking, and began praying regularly. He says that with the help of sweat-lodges he became able to hear the Creator more clearly. Since that time in the 1960s he has attempted to walk a path of peace and reconciliation.
Now everyone calls him Grandfather, or Mishomis in the Algonquin language. He is recognized as a spiritual leader with the Mamuwinini people in Maniwaki, Quebec. The Mamuwinini were nomads until the time of colonization, and that is what their name means – the human beings who are nomads.
Quiet, gentle, and firm, Grandfather speaks softly and laughs easily. He has in his old age traveled the world to teach and to pray for healing at the great sacred places of our Earth Mother.
Grandfather says he and other traditional elders pray regularly about three issues in particular: that youths will give up drugs and alcohol, that the pollution of Mother Earth will be stopped, and that all races will understand that we are one people under one Creator. "This is what is needed," he says. "To be one people with one mind, and one heart. Respect and forgiveness."
While William is a soft-spoken, quietly intense Scorpio, the headman for our Sunbow 5 Walk, Tom Dostou, is a pole apart. Tom is a Taurus: short, stocky, bull-necked, charismatic, confrontational, combustible.
Outwardly confident and determined, Tom says he was at Kanasetake Reserve in Oka, Quebec in 1990 when heavily armed Mohawks on the reserve near Montreal squared off against Canadian army troops and police in a 90-day siege. That conflict revolved around issues of native sovereignty. Tempers flared on all sides.
Tom says he has been involved in many other edgy actions. He describes himself as a half-breed, the child of a Wabanaki man and an Irish woman. But when he came to realization during his journey to the House of Mica in 1993, he says he vowed to walk a road of peace. He is determined to lead the Sunbow 5 walk to the Western Gate.
As the walkers slowly crossed ancestral Wampanoag territory, Dennis Gonsalves, Aquinnah band, showed the way. He walked first, and carried the walk's eagle staff.
The steps were long, hot, tiring. Through miscommunication, the walkers became separated. They were forced to dedicate hours of earnest energy to find one another, and get to a place of rest for the night. The strain, the confusion, and the lost hours mounted as the walkers moved on as individuals, each at his or her own pace.
Weary from the scattered day, the walkers pitched camp for the night at the Rowan Tree bookstore in Barnstable, Massachusetts.
I drove the rest of the way home to New Ipswich, New Hampshire, and settled into my office. My role is to be coordinator of the walk -- to provide for the people on the road via phone calls, faxes, e-mails, press releases, prayers, and so forth.
I have been asked to beseech -- to help in all ways, coordinating logistics for the walk as best I can from a distance. The walk needs an anchor, a base station, someone who is not moving and who can receive and relay messages. That’s my job.
Copyright 2006 - by Steven McFadden
Read Day 3 - Odysssey of the 8th Fire