Sacred Foot Steps
Well, today was a pretty interesting day. I’ll start with the second most interesting occurrence:
At the end of the walk today, I arrived on top of Walker Pass at 5,246 feet. It is a milestone for more than one reason. It is the highest elevation of my journey. It is the halfway point in terms of time: the sixth day of a twelve day walk. It is also the halfway point in terms of miles: I now have 109 miles under my feet, and as many to go. I feel blessed. My blisters have disappeared, save one that doesn’t hurt anymore. My achy feet are aching much less. I have met some amazing people, seen signs of the historical walk or its related history, and felt God speak to me at various times.
One striking tape keeps playing through my head. From time to time as I walk, I visualize a thousand confused, hungry, worried Paiutes walking past me, accompanied by a sparse group of US Cavalry on horses moving them onward. Can you imagine what a site that would be? A thousand people walking through near wilderness. With the help of some research savvy friends, I’ve pieced together what I believe to be a fairly accurate historical route of the march. However, knowing “exactly” where they walked at any one place is a rare occasion to have. I believe I came on such an occasion today. At Walker Pass, they would have gone over the lowest point between the mountains – a very narrow gap. So a few hundred feet before the top, I dropped off the road, wondered through the brush and Pinion Pine, and found what is pretty clearly the old wagon road at the low point coming off the pass. I put my hand on the sand and closed my eyes. It seemed I could feel the trampling of feet on the ground. Maybe you think I’m weird, but it was a very moving moment. Some people go to Israel to walk where Jesus and the Patriarchs walked. I’ve come to Walker Pass to touch ground that is also sacred – Creator God felt the pain of his Paiute creation 150 years ago this very day at this very spot.
Pause on that for a moment, then say a prayer for their descendants of today.
Now, believe it or not, there was one more occurrence today that was even more extraordinary – at least to me. I met a very special person. After my walk, my father (who is now helping me with logistics) and I stopped by the Nuui Cunni Intertribal Cultural Center nearby on Lake Isabella. Inside, we met Patricia Malone Henry and her husband, whose name is also Pat. Yes, Pat and Pat! Patricia is a direct descendent of Natives that were massacred nearby on the Kern River – 150 years and three months ago. The same Army Captain that led the forced march I am reversing, came upon some unarmed Indians in a village and literally executed 35 of the men with gun and saber. One of those men was Patricia’s great great grandfather.
Truly a horrific story – even worse when told in full. But Patricia today has a hope and a dream. She has worked diligently for many decades now, and suffered through many personal battles, to see the Native People of the Kern River area come together and be recognized as a tribe by the United States Government. This is no easy task – not in the local Native inter-relational process, nor in the US Government process. But now they are 1,200 Indians strong, and the clock is ticking as they pull together and work to fulfill this dream. Tribal recognition would do wonders for this community, and open many doors previously just imagined. And it would serve to help them hold onto their community, culture, and identity. Please pray for Patricia and this challenging goal.
But to me, Patricia is a wonder. She is the Tribal Chairwoman for the tribe’s council. She puts in countless hours at the cultural center, working to preserve her community and to educate the non-native public. Patricia is Paiute. Patricia loves her people, and she loves all the Native People of the area. I consider her a “Peacemaker” – a gifting with much travail and few outward rewards. Patricia is 79. . .seventy nine! Patricia is one of my new heroes. Some dreams are long fought, and some dreams are worth fighting for. Some are worth walking for, and Patricia has inspired me into the second half of this prayer walk. Thank you, Patricia, for your commitment, and may the dream you share with your people be realized.