"Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you're riding through the ruts, don't complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don't bury your thoughts. Put your vision to reality. Wake up and live."
- Bob Marley
Day 86 - Saturday, September 16, 1995 - Joe, Ned, Running Fawn, and Scott got back in the car and drove the road South from Kissimmee to Okeechobee, Florida. They went to visit with Alice Snow, Seminole elder.
Seated in a circle with Grandmother Alice, they discussed Hurricane Marilyn, spiraling powerfully off to the East in the Caribbean sea, and also the 13 eagles and single falcon that Joe and Running Fawn had seen together on the wing just before noon on Friday. Joe felt it signaled the birth of a new leader among the Taino people.
|Sign in the sky - Joe and Running Fawn saw a single falcon on the wing, in a sky filled with thirteen eagles. They took it as an important sign. Photo of Peregrine Falcon by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Late in the day when all was complete, the four travelers turned around and drove back to Kissimmee to visit one more time with Joe's dad, Ishmael, who continued to improve following his surgery for a stomach cancer. Then deep into the hot and muggy Florida night, they clambered aboard and pointed their car Northwest, heading off to rejoin the walk.
Joe chuckled when he heard that up in Nashville, where the main body of walkers was spending a final day, torrents of rain were falling—the remnants of a Hurricane with a name spelled the same way his dad spells his name: Ishmael.
During the day the main body of walkers journeyed to Shelbyville, Tennessee, to the home of Red Feather, a local woman of Cherokee heritage. There they sat in purification lodges. Because of the heavy rain, it took a long time to strengthen the fire and get the rocks glowing hot for the lodges. But in time all was well done. A Lakota man named Jay-Jay poured water to help the walkers out.
Saturday night about 40 people came to meet the pilgrims and to hear them speak at the Unity Church on Franklin Road in Nashville.
"It was hard for me to speak last night," Tom Dostou later observed when we spoke by phone. "They were all good people, that was plain. The audience was mainly a group of middle-class people who looked like they probably live in suburbia, and, of course, we were who we are.
"I'm not trying to be a Pollyanna, or a prophet of doom. I just want to tell people what is going on: what we see and what we know. That's important, and that's a lot of what our walk is about. Sometimes it's hard for people to hear. But you know, you just can't solve any problem until you know you've got a problem.
"Every so often I go away from the main walk and into the Black or Oriental communities to talk with people about what we are doing. Their response to the walk is very interesting. Most of the people I've met in those communities think we are wasting our time. They see the need to band together, but they don't see any reaching out, no real dialogue.
"There is a deep level of frustration among many non-White people in this nation. I hear that a lot...Sometimes when I visit with people in these communities I can see their eyes kind of glaze over when I start to talk about racial harmony. They just don't think I'm being realistic. The response is often incredulity: 'You've gotta be kidding me? Get real. This is never going to change...'
"Grandfather Commanda tells me that he sees that eyes-glazed-over look sometimes when he talks with White audiences.
"Everything will be going along fine, and then he will bring up some native issues that people are uncomfortable with and don't want to hear about, and their eyes will glaze right over.
"But you can't solve a problem until you can identify it, until you acknowledge it," Tom said. "That's step one: seeing what is real. Then you can begin to put your minds together to talk about solutions."
E-mail Subject: What is the walk like?
What is the walk like? Very hard to describe. I stopped writing home to friends because it is impossible to convey the feelings and happenings of the walk to anyone not here. It is difficult and challenging on all levels: physical, emotional and spiritual.
|Kokum - Alycia Longriver lifts her arms in prayer as she stands beneath the mid-day Sun. Photo by Jane Therese, 1995.
Last night and tonight we are staying at a land trust on top of a mountain area. We are told to watch out for copperhead snakes in the area, our showers are a hose, and the bathroom is an outhouse or the woods.
We had bologna sandwiches last night. Tonight people are bringing by a potluck dinner and sharing a circle with us. These are warm people, doing what they can for us and sharing what they have with us. We thank Creator for our blessings. I am also thankful for my brother and sister walkers, who have given up all shreds of 'typical' life and comforts to be on this walk for Mother Earth and the healing of people.
Every day I see so much personal growth among the walkers, and so much transformation since the time each joined the walk. Each walker is special and has been chosen to be here for some reason. One cannot be on the walk for very long unless one is meant to be here.
Walking is getting into a state of mind, a focus, saying our individual prayers and feelings to ourselves, blocking out the pain in knees, ankles, and feet, as the miles go by in the course of a day, setting up tents to sleep, having whatever is available to eat, talking in the circle a bit, then going to bed in hopes of physically healing to walk the next day.
Each footstep is a prayer for those who lived once, those who are living now, and for the next seven generations to come.
What we sacrifice personally to do this walk might seem a lot to people, but it is nothing for the gift of being led here to serve Creator's will in a prayerful way for the coming of a caring, sharing new world.
In each place we stop, we observe, listen, and feel: what are the environmental needs of this community; what are the people needs of this community? We are learning much, and are preparing ourselves for the work to follow after this walk is completed. Pray for the healing with us.
— Alycia Longriver
Read Day 87 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire
Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden