Honoring a Venerable Keeper of the Land


"Central to all of elder Commanda's teachings are the fundamental concepts of equality, as well as respect for Mother Earth, for all life and for people of all racial and cultural backgrounds ... Chief Commanda is convinced that the future of life on the planet depends on our learning to live together in harmony with nature upon the land ..."

– Remarks of Robert Chiarelli, Mayor of Ottawa upon presenting Grandfather Commanda with the Key to the City in 2006.

Grandfather William CommandaMy beloved friend and mentor for over 20 years, Grandfather William Commanda, is cruising through the environmentally and economically  severe summer of 2010, headed resolutely for his 97th birthday come November. Among his adventures this summer in service to the land: meeting England's Queen Elizabeth again, and asking her support for preservation of sacred land. He first met the Queen in 1953 at her coronation. This time she came to his land, Ottawa, capital city of Canada. The story of their encounter this summer is recorded on the blog kept by his companion, Romola Treblecock.

In 1995-96 I had the honor of being one of the walkers with Grandfather when he served as spiritual guide for the Sunbow Five Walk, a pilgrimage lasting eight months. We took our initial steps at First Encounter Beach on the Eastern seaboard of the Atlantic, as native and non-native peoples of all colors and faiths walked in continual ceremony across the continent to take prayers and messages of sustainability and peace-building across the land to the Pacific. All this I chronicled in the free, online epic saga Odyssey of the 8th Fire.

A circle of all nationsBut Grandfather had a long and illustrious history before that pilgrimage. Arriving with the Morning Star in 1913 on the eve of the First World War, he was given his first name by his mother, who called him Ojigkwanong after the star that signifies illumination from darkness. He was born into the Squirrel clan, and like the Squirrel, was destined to walk the hills and valleys, the ups and downs of his life, head first, never going backward. He is the Keeper of the sacred Seven Fires Prophecy Wampum Belt in the time that the teachings are unfolding with the promise of an 8th Fire if the land is respected and honored.

Formerly a builder of birch bark canoes and a wilderness guide, he has been widely acknowledged and honored for his “courage to care” by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples, and is the recipient of both the Wolf and the Harmony Awards for his efforts to create a “Circle of All Nations.” This is the most special of his activities, an annual spiritual gathering that he hosts at his home on the shore of Lake Bitobi in Maniwaki, about 100 kilometers north of Ottawa. The gathering is tradition that has been free and open to all for over 40 years. Almost a thousand people participate every year coming from Canada and the USA, as well as from such distant locations as Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Holland, and France. The dates for this summer are August 6-8, 2010.

Steven McFadden_1
7/27/2010 9:51:35 AM

Hi Dave - Grandfather Commanda is a World Treasure, and I am happy to be able to let a few more people know about him. This Summer is indeed steamy -- not just here in the Heartland, but most places including the far North where Grandfather abides.

Nebraska Dave
7/26/2010 7:24:54 PM

@Steven, Grandfather Commanda has certainly been an advocate to care for the land. We all should take time to be more kind to the land we own. It only makes sense to me that we should be more aware of what’s been happening to the land. Grandfather Commanda has been in tune with that all his life I expect. It’s great to hear how he has made a difference and continues to do so even at age 97. It’s pretty cool that Queen Elizabeth came to visit him. There’s not too many people on this side of the pond that can say that. I hope that you are enjoying your nice Nebraska dog days of summer weather. It’s been hot and humid here but the nights are still cooling off. It’s kind of been a crazy summer for sure. Fall is fast approaching. Fall is one of my favorite seasons and I’m kind of looking forward to it. I hope the rest of the summer is great for you.

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