February 18th, 2018
It is like walking into a theater halfway through a movie. There is some confusion as to what is going on. I was there at the very start of the Longest walk 5.3, but I still felt disoriented. You see, nothing ever really starts fresh. Each event is based on something that previously occurred, and each new thing has a history. My problem is that I don’t anything about that history. I don’t know the context.
I was there in the parking lot of the Silver Reef Casino for the water ceremony. I saw the ritual with the altar, with its buffalo skull, its bundles of sage, and the pipe (chanupa). But I didn’t understand it all, over even most of it. There are too many gaps in my knowledge, too many holes in my experience.
A Lakota Indian serves as the spiritual guide for the walk. I do not yet know his name. He’s a scary dude. That may not be a bad thing. He spoke to the assembled group, as the cold wind blew in from Canada. He stayed and chanted, as did his wife. He said some harsh things.
“If you are not 100% with this walk, with our prayer, GO HOME!”
I wasn’t expecting to hear that. He sad the same sort of thing over and over. He made it clear that this walk is not about ego and not about media exposure. It’s about “the people”, although I am not sure who exactly he meant by “the people”. Is it the Native American people, or “people” in a universal sense?
Later, a young man told me about a previous walk. During that walk there was dissension and strife. Part of the Lakota’s talk was in reference to this earlier journey. The spiritual guide wants to prevent a repeat of those troubles.
His words made me think. I had to question my own intentions and motivations. So, why am I here? The honest answer to that is “I don’t know”. I really don’t. I know in my gut that I am supposed to be here with these people. I can’t explain why. I have no rational understanding of all this. If the Lakota cornered me and asked me for my purpose, I would have nothing to say. Maybe he would understand that no answer is also an answer. He said that the spirits tell him what is the hearts of the walkers. Then he known more than I do.
An old man, Wonder Knee, also spoke. He said that all life is sacred, and that we are all one people. That was comforting. Wounded Knee also made it clear that drugs and booze were not allowed on the walk.
Earlier, I talked with an Indian woman named Beatrice. She told me about the importance of protecting women and children from violence. She said,
“Our men must be strong. You must protect us.”I said that I would try.
She became adamant. “No, YOU must protect women!”
I keep thinking about that. I have done a good job of that thus far. I don’t feel like I have.
We didn’t walk far yesterday. Maybe eight miles. We walked on a rad near the coast. Whitecaps rode the waves on the sea. The birches bent in the wind. Across the water, the Cascades stood tall. Mount Baker shown white in sun.
It was beautiful.