Do you have the wisdom necessary for the journey?

April 5, 2015

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the start of the great multicultural pilgrimage from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1995 under guidance of traditional native wisdom keepers. The journey was — and is — the Odyssey of the 8th Fire.

As the meme below attests, I’m moved this year to continue letting people know about the epic saga I authored back in 2007 to tell the tale. As time passes the story becomes increasingly relevant.

Odyssey of the 8th Fire


Dead Bees, 4th of July & Sacred Tobacco

July 4, 2014

July 4, 2014 – When I read the news this morning of how Home Depot and other major retailers are selling home gardeners plants which are treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, now known to be a principal factor in the collapse of bee populations, it sent me into a disquieted reverie.

tobAs I’ve previously written about at length, the neonicotinoid poisons causing the collapse of bee colonies are a synthetic form of the sacred native plant tobacco.

For millennia here on Turtle Island (North America) tobacco has been known and respected as the chief, or most powerful, of what are spoken of as the four sacred herbs, which also include sage, cedar and sweetgrass.

Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine and other framers of the Declaration of Independence – which we celebrate on the 4th of July – smoked sacred tobacco when they met and consulted with representatives the oldest living participatory democracies in the world, the Haudenausenee, or Iroquois Six Nation and the Lenape. Used in a proper manner, native tobacco has potential for great good.

Out of those meetings, sanctified with tobacco, native traditions of democracy became a key influence on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. This is a much-overlooked part of America’s history as detailed in Gregory Schaff’s book Wampum Belts and Peace Trees.

Later when the founders finally did constitute the US of A they made a grave omission by leaving out a core element of Native democracy: the role of women. Thus American democracy was not whole. Women had no voice in US government until the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1920.

Likewise, when chemical corporations took up the tobacco plant as a model they overlooked the whole, sacred dimension of the plant and created a limited, synthetic version. They exaggerated the yang element of tobacco to produce nicotine analogs bearing names such as clothianidin, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, and thiamethoxam.

Rather than using sacred tobacco in a respectful manner to promote life, the chemical corporations  manufactured life-annihilating poisons – the neonicotinoids – which are now killing off our bees and other pollinators. Tobacco has been perverted, chemically synthesized to an extreme yang (masculine) state, and has thereby become a major factor in collapsing the balance of nature – essential to our survival.

Gardeners who buy plants may become unwitting accomplices in this destruction of life. According to the Friends of the Earth, until further notice gardeners should assume the plants they buy from most garden centers contain neonicotinoid pesticides. We need to ask questions and continue to advocate for revolutionary change — a natural, healthy balance in our gardens and farm fields.

Otherwise, as the New York Times has editorialized, “nothing less than the world’s ability to produce food is at risk from these chemicals.”


Remembering an Epic Walk for the Earth

June 23, 2014
Walking under the sign of the Whirling Rainbow

Walking under the sign of the Whirling Rainbow

Nineteen years ago today – June 23, 1995 – a small band of pilgrims set out walking from the Atlantic to the Pacific on an epic journey that I have come to regard, and to write about, as the Odyssey of the 8th Fire.

The saga of their journey is well worth knowing, for it remains critically relevant to the journey all of us are making now through an era of profound change upon our Earth.

As well as the tale of the pilgrims’ travels on foot across Turtle Island (North America), Odyssey of the 8th Fire is the essential story of their meetings with dozens of traditional, learned elders of North America. They gifted the pilgrims with messages to deliver to all the people.

Reading Odyssey of the 8th Fire online is a demanding quest. The story is exceedingly long. Because of this, and because many of the elders who are part of the story noted that their teachings take both time and attention to understand, I recommend this literary pilgrimage be undertaken step by step, over a span of eight months or so.

Odyssey consists of a lengthy Prologue, and then 225 accounts, one for each day of travel. Those journal entries are ordered chronologically.

By engaging this online account of the epic walk one day at a time, a reader can make a steady eight-month literary and spiritual pilgrimage from East to West across Turtle Island (North America). The journey proceeds place to place, elder to elder, teaching to teaching.

breaker
“I ask you to listen not just with your minds. I ask you to listen with your hearts, because that is the only way you can receive what it is — what we are giving. These are the teachings of our hearts.

“This walk is going to take eight or nine months. There are lots of elders out there across Turtle Island, and they have many beautiful teachings, many teachings that all the people need now. It is our hope, it is our prayer that they will come forward now that the Eastern Door is open

“It is our prayer that they will meet us as we walk; that they will teach and share what they understand from their hearts. Be patient. Listen to the elders. You need patience to receive these teachings. It doesn’t all come at once. You need patience.”

– Frank Decontie, Algonquin
 – June 23, 1995
 – First Encounter Beach, Massachusetts


“Profiles in Wisdom” – bestseller now an ebook

July 21, 2012

This wise and provocative collection is highly recommended.” – Library Journal

I’m pleased to report that Harlem Writer’s Guild has this week announced that one of my early books, the best-selling Profiles in Wisdom: Native Elders Speak About the Earth, has been converted to an eBook file format.  The new eBook version, EPUB, is becoming the standard for the eBook industry.

With the epic fires, drought and storms that have marked this summer, the publication of this work as an ebook seems all the more relevant. Many of the venerable native elders I interviewed for the book spoke of Earth Changes, as understood from their traditional teachings. And they offer much guidance on how we can respond.

In writing the book, I took my lead from John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning Profiles in Courage. Focusing on the quality and relevance of sagacity, the book Profiles in Wisdom presents the stories and thinking of 17 Native American spiritual elders. As our existing culture shifts, what do the ancient ones who have been trained in the sacred traditions of Turtle Island (North America) have to say to us? The elders offer penetrating and poetic insight on a host of crucial matters.

Profiles in Wisdom gives the elders an opportunity to relate their diverse teachings about the human relationship with the Earth. Each of the elders has a personal story, character trait, or insight that can help us get in touch with our own innate wisdom. Their teachings are in response to a series of critical questions asked of each of them: What is your personal story? What do you see happening in the world now? What do you see ahead? What specific advice do you offer to those who will listen? What have you come to know about living in balance on the Earth? How could other people apply these lessons?

Profiles in Wisdom is available for immediate download as an ebook on many web sites.

New York Times Book Review:Profiles in Wisdom does a fine job not only of presenting the dignity, complexity, and wit of important Indian philosophers and religious leaders, but also of issuing cautions agains easy uplift and wisdom injections…There are some stirring and unexpected powers unleashed in this book.”

The Washington Times, John Elvin: “Our leaders should sit and listen to the counsel Steven McFadden has gathered in this book.”


Lakota Draw a Line on the Land: Try to Block Keystone Pipeline Trucks

March 6, 2012

A series of events breaking along the border of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota may well develop into a major news story with resonant consequences for the law, for the environment, for treaty rights, and for the land.

Lakota people attempt to block trucks carrying equipment for the Keystone XL Pipeline tar sands project. Photo by Carlin Red Blanket, Sr.

As of Monday, March 5, 2012 the Lakota Oyate* have taken a stand on their Reservation border, drawing a line in an attempt to block the passage of trucks carrying equipment for the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

KILI Radio 90.1 on the reservation has broadcast an Action Alert, calling all Lakota men “to come stand in defense of their treaty-bound reservation land.”

According to KILI, the Pipeline trucks are refusing to turn around claiming they have corporate rights that supercede any other laws

The vast earth-changing Keystone XL pipeline project — ripping up the tar sands of the Northlands and then pumping the toxic goo thousands of miles over fertile but fragile land to the Gulf of Mexico — was supposed to be on hold. But TransCanada, the foreign-owned corporation, continues aggressively to shove, spurt and snake parts of the pipeline forward.

This developing confrontation between Native peoples — who from their traditions understand that they bear responsibilities as keepers of the earth — and the huge multinational corporate XL Pipeline complex, could become an international focal point.

Updates from the scene as of Tuesday report that the trucks are being allowed to pass, and that Lakota people were arrested late Monday as they attempted to halt the trucks from entering their sovereign territory.

Meanwhile, troubles on the South edge of the Pine Ridge Reservation (the border between South Dakota and Nebraska) came into a strange, fuzzy focus in today’s edition of The New York Times. The Times published a disturbing story about the alcohol-induced heartache and misery anchored in Whiteclay, Nebraska, a notorious town squatting on the south border of the Pine Ridge Reservation.

* Notes on Oyate from Wikipedia: In January 2008, the Lakota Freedom Delegation split into two groups. One group was led by Canupa Gluha Mani (Duane Martin Sr.). He is a leader of Cante Tenza, the traditional Strongheart Warrior Society, that has included leaders such as Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. This group is called Lakota Oyate. The other group is called the “Republic of Lakotah” and is led by Russell Means. In December 2008, Lakota Oyate received the support and standing of the traditional treaty council of the Oglala Tiospayes.


New ebook: Tales of the Whirling Rainbow

September 19, 2010

As of this weekend, I have published a new ebook Tales of the Whirling Rainbow: Authentic Myths & Mysteries for 2012.

The book is my account of some of the key myths and mysteries of the Americas, and an exploration of how those myths are echoed in real time as we edge toward the signal year of 2012. The true stories in the book arise out of my experiences over the last four decades as I have traveled with the traditional wisdom keepers of the Americas, and also out of the venerable tradition of storytelling. While the tales are not overtly agrarian, they all do ultimately bear upon our relationship with the land.

This new ebook is in part a pastiche of elements that I have written for other books and articles, now woven together in a new telling both by the context of time as 2012 approaches, and also by the living, mythic image of the whirling rainbow.

In his book Transformations of Myth Through Time, the late Joseph Campbell noted that a society that does not have a myth to support it and give it coherence goes into dissolution. “That,” he wrote, “is what’s happening to us.”

And that, I feel, is why it is worthwhile to tell the rainbow tales again in yet another way in this ebook: to contribute a word picture of what I regard as a supporting and coherent myth for our times, a mystery to engage the fullness of the contemporary soul.


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