R.I.P. Grandfather William Commanda, 97

| 8/3/2011 10:50:48 AM

At the UN - Grandfather Commanda (center) displays the Seven Fires Wampum Belt at The House of Mica - UN headquarters on Manhattan Island.
Dear Relatives –
Grandfather William Commanda died early this morning, two days before the start of his annual gathering in Maniwaki, Quebec, Canada. He was 97 years old.

Among the many accomplishments in his long life as a protector and defender of the land, Grandfather served as Spiritual Advisor to the Sunbow 5 Walk for the Earth in 1995-96, a walk chronicled in Odyssey of the 8th Fire.  The story of Grandfather's leadership of this epic walk is also at the heart of the project to create an audiobook based on the nonfiction Tales of the Whirling Rainbow. I am honored to have known Grandfather, and to have traveled with him, since 1989. He was a remarkable man with a brilliant soul.

Rest in Peace, Mishomis (Grandfather)


One of the many birchbark canoes Grandfather Commanda built over the years. 

One vivid memory I have of Grandfather's resolute nature comes from Friday, November 24, 1995, in the desert to the west of Rio Rancho, New Mexico. It was Day 155 in the Sunbow 5 Walk for the Earth, what I have come to describe as the Odyssey of the 8th Fire. In his 80s at the time, Grandfather served as Spiritual Advisor for the walk and its epic quest across Turtle Island (North America).

Grandfather Commanda (author photo)
Grandfather was leading us from Atlantic to Pacific to meet with and learn from wise elders of all traditions, and to seek out "what had been left by the side of the trail long ago" as described in the Seven Fires Prophecy.

But our grand pilgrimage for peace and unity had hit the wall of human nature by the time we got to New Mexico. We had been arguing viciously among ourselves, and fractured into four or more groups – each group filled with suspicions and hostility.

Nebraska Dave
8/7/2011 9:47:20 AM

Steven, you have mentioned Grandfather Commanda many times in your postings here on GRIT. Great caring men such as he leave a big hole in the lives of the many he has mentored. His loss will be felt by many for a long time. The caring influence he has had for the land of this world will live on through memories of those that knew him. My prayers go out to you during this time of loss and grieving. May you always follow the path of unity.

Steven McFadden_1
8/7/2011 7:38:43 AM

Hi Mary - William Commanda was indeed a remarkable man. They laid him out on Friday in one of the birch bark canoes he was so famous for building, and all the flags in Canada's capital city of Ottawa were lowered to half staff. Grandfather Commanda was a dear friend and traveling companion to me, but not my literal grandfather. In Native rhetoric, the terms 'grandfather' or 'grandmother' are honorifics for respected elders. Everybody -- even the Prime Minister of Canada and the Dalai Lama -- called William 'Grandfather.' - Meegwich, Steven

Mary Carton
8/7/2011 7:25:24 AM

Sorry for your loss. He sounds like he was a wise man and live a full life. I never got to meet either one of my Grandfathers.

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