As we move through the winter and holiday season it is important to continue to address our home fires. Home fires could literally mean your wood stove or fireplace, and for some folks it could just mean the place you go to send your deepest thoughts and prayers.
Our fireplaces remind all of us -- and in particular Indigenous people -- to continue our sacred fire with family and close friends. This can be done with a little creativity so that the social distancing protocols are honored. In the bigger picture this allows you to unite with other nations that are doing the same thing in their homes and communities.
In addition, regarding the ongoing awareness of COVID-19, we need to respect tribal law of all nations and allow them to protect their people in the best way they know how. Especially in the midst of the holiday season. Such as closed or restricted borders, social distancing enforcement, curfews, medical service limitations, among other needs that are unique to their specific region as virus cases spike. At the heart of this message from the spiritual leaders is their requests for the people to stand together at the sacred fire.
Our Indigenous spiritual leaders have a message intended to help eliminate our fears as we patiently wait for the virus to finish its purpose. As you may or may not know, many Indigenous spiritual leaders see the virus as a spirit. If you continue with your sacred fire avoiding the virus’ dangers this will allow some reassurance of safety and lifting off of some of the fears of unknowing what comes next.
Now how this translates to all family members is challenging, especially when there is imbalance, uncertainty, asymptomatic virus carriers and unexpected deaths in the home. To imply these and other complications is to walk a spiritual and simple path free from drugs, alcohol, and other abuses, this message is meant for all people Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike. Remember that most ceremonies take four days, and that prayer takes a lifetime.
This is what some Indigenous women are doing across the country to help relieve some of the stress related conditions during the winter and holiday season (the list is not exhaustive): they model generosity, they continue to help care for the community and their family circles, they lend a hand for errands, they lend an ear for validating concerns, they organize and deal with mistreatment in the home, they make masks to give away, and they keep the fires going literally and metaphysically.
This is what some of the Indigenous men are doing across the country (the list is not exhaustive): they model generosity, they walk the balance between men and women, stay humble, protect the women and children, and support the family and community with words, work and positive thoughts. They remain cognizant that the women are the protectors of the water and what that means at this time with the virus at everyone’s doorstep, they know and share the basic teachings that without the women there is no life.
We do not know what the colder weather will bring, we do not know if our lives will become more simple or complicated, we don’t know in some cases how to help bring our lives back to balance. What we do know is “our walk” is a sacred circle and at the center of this circle is our sacred fires. We all have our responsibilities to each other, so let us do this, and in our simple and humble ways make this a meaningful season and holiday whose source which is in everyone comes from love and compassion.
Vivian Delgado is a professor of Native American studies at Bemidji State University.