John Eggers: The Seven Fires of the Ojibwe
How much do you know about the Seven Fires of the Ojibwe? Personally, I didn’t know anything about them. When White Earth Nation Chairwoman Erma Vizenor recently spoke about the Seven Anishinaabe-Ojibwe Indigenous Prophecies, which I read in the Anishinaabe Today, I was curious to learn more.
In doing some library research, it seems that Seven Prophets came to the Anishinabe when they were living on the northeast coast of North America. The Prophets gave the people seven predictions of what the future would bring. Each of the prophecies was called a fire and each fire referred to a particular era of time that would come in the future. The teachings of the seven prophets are now called the “Seven Fires.”
Do I have your interest? I hope so. Learning about another culture is one of life’s greatest pleasures. There are approximately 196 countries in the world with each one having 10 to 20 or more different cultures. Each of those cultures is as different as the American culture is to the French, the French is to the Brazilian, and the Brazilian is to the German and the German is to the Ojibwe.
That’s nothing you don’t already know but maybe we don’t realize how fortunate we are. Think of the adventure that await us whenever we pick up a National Geographic or visit a different country, or visit with someone from a culture different than ours, it is a marvelous opportunity.
The First Prophet reported that during the First Fire the Anishinabe nation would travel to a different ground. They were to look for a turtle shaped island. The people would know the chosen ground had been reached when they came to a land where food grows on water. If they did not move on, they would be destroyed.
The Second Prophet told the people that they would be camped by a large body of water. A boy would be born to point the way and show the direction of the stepping stones of the Anishinabe people.
The Anishinabe would find the path to their chosen ground where food grows on water was told by the Third Prophet.
The Fourth Prophet was two who came as one. One of the prophets said, “You will know the future of our people by what face the light skinned race wears. If they come wearing the face of brotherhood, then there will come a time of wonderful change for generations to come. They will bring new knowledge and articles that can be joined with the knowledge of this country. In this way two nations will join to make a mighty nation.
“This new nation will be joined by two more so that the four will form the mightiest nation of all. You will know the face of brotherhood if the light skinned race comes carrying no weapons, if they come bearing only their knowledge and a handshake.”
“The other Fourth Prophet warned to be careful because the face of brotherhood and the face of death look very much alike. If they come carrying a weapon their hearts may be filled with greed for the riches of this land.”
The Fifth Prophet said, “In the time of the Fifth Fire there will come a time of great struggle that will grip the lives of all native people. If the people accept this promise of a new way and abandon the old teachings, then the struggle of the Fifth Fire will be with the people for many generations.”
In the time of the Sixth Fire, children will be taken away and grandsons and granddaughters will turn against the elders. In this way the elders will lose their purpose in life.
The Seventh Prophet told that in the time of the Seventh Fire a new people will emerge. Their steps will take them to the elders who they will ask to guide them on their journey. The task of the New People will not be easy.
It is this time that the light-skinned race will be given a choice between two roads. If they choose the right road, then the Seventh Fire will light the Eighth and final Fire, an eternal fire of peace, love brotherhood and sisterhood. If the light-skinned race makes the wrong choice of the roads, then the destruction which they brought with them in coming to this country will come back at them and cause much suffering and death to all the Earth’s people.
Erma Vizenor spoke about how we are in the time of the Seventh Fire.
Traditional Mide people of Ojibway and people from other nations have interpreted the “two roads” that face the light-skinned race as the road to technology and the other road to spiritualism. They feel that the road to technology represents a continuation of headlong rush to technological development. This is the road that has led to a damaged Earth. The road to spirituality represents the slower path that traditional native people have traveled and are now seeking again. This Earth is not scorched on this trail. The grass is still growing.
Obviously, there is much more to the Seven Fires than what I wrote. If you wish to learn more, do a websearch for “Seven Fires Prophecy.”
As you read about each fire, you can begin to interpret the meaning and how it led to where the Ojibwe people and all people are today.
Regarding the Seventh Fire, I think we all realize that we are at a crossroads in many areas. The complexity of which road to take is not so great. Most of Earth’s people would choose brotherhood but can we work together as brothers to solve the problems of our sacred Earth? As the people of the Seventh Fire, what are we going to do about it? What will I do? What will you do?
(The source for some of this column is taken from: “The Mishomis, the voice of the Ojibway” by Edward Benton-Banai. Published by Indian Country Press.)
JOHN R. EGGERS of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.