Sunday, July 28, 2013
Seven Fires Prophecy The 7 Fires Prophecy is an oral story/history that has been told over millennia. It describes a turbulent time when the Neshnabek [Potawatomi, Odawa and Ojibwe] were visited by 7 prophets. Each prophet spoke of a Fire, prophecy or era that the Neshnabek would have to face and ultimately endure, forever changing their way of life. The prophecies have been interpreted and shaped over the years to help Neshnabek people know who they were in the past, are in the present and will be in the future. In the time of the 1st Fire, the Neshnabek must leave their home on the East Coast and follow the sacred Megis shell of the Midewewin Lodge. The sacred Megis will lead them on a journey to the chosen ground and their new home. The Neshnabek are to look for a turtle shaped island and they will find such an island at the beginning and end of their journey. The journey will consist of seven stopping places along the way. They will know their journey has ended when they come to a land where food grows on water. If they do not make this journey they will be destroyed by a powerful force coming over the water. Interpretation: In hearing and understanding the prophecy, the Neshnabek began their mass migration inland, away from the Atlantic Coast. The 1st stop was known as Moniyak [Montreal, Quebec]. Led by the sacred megis shell of the Midewewin Lodge, the people found a turtle-shaped island. Settling at or around the island, the Neshnabek population grew. Outgrowing their current location, the Neshnabek continued their journey, again following the megis to the 2nd stop known as Kche Nisajewen [Niagara Falls]. It was here that the people segmented into three groups. Confederated through their spirituality, each group established duties to serve the Neshnabek as a whole. The first group [Ojibwe] migrated north and around Lake Superior. They were the Keepers of the Medicine, providing spiritual guidance and protection for the Neshnabek. The second group [Odawa] also migrated north, yet established villages north of Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron. They were the Keepers of the Trade, providing goods and supplies for the Neshnabek. The third group [Potawatomi] migrated south to the Coasts of Lake Michigan. They were the Keepers of the Fire, providing protection for the sacred fire and its coals along the trek. In the time of the 2nd Fire, the Neshnabek will be camped by a large body of water. In this time the direction of the sacred Megis will be lost and the Midewewin will diminish in strength. To regain this strength a boy will be born to point the way back to the traditional ways. Interpretation: Oral tradition states that the Second Fire was realized at the 3rd turtle-shaped island [Detroit River]. As the group continued and camped near a large body of water [Lake Michigan], the direction of the megis was lost. Struggling to locate the correct path, the Neshnabek again settled and grew in population. As numbers grew, spiritualism and the teachings of the Midewewin became secondary to survival. As it was prophesized, a boy was born who led the Neshnabek to the spiritual and physical stepping stones to the future. Continuing north on their migration along the eastern coast of Michigan, the Neshnabek discovered a chain of islands. The largest of these was the fourth stop and turtle-shaped island [Manitoulin Island]. Here the Midewewin Lodge grew and resumed its strength. In the time of the 3rd Fire, the Neshnabek will find the path to their chosen ground. This is a land to the west, where they must move to find the food that grows on water. Interpretation: Energized from their cultural and spiritual revival, the Neshnabek where again led by the sacred megis to their 5th stop known as Senajewen [Sault St. Marie]. Here the people flourished. Kshamnedo (The Great Spirit) provided an abundance of food, motivating the Neshnabek to settle and continue the regeneration of their ceremonies and songs. From Senajewen, the Neshnabek continued moving west in search of the presaged land where food grows on the water. In their pursuit, the people again split at a large body of water [Lake Superior]. One group went north around the water and the other south. After many years, the two groups converged at the western end of the lake. Here the sacred shell rose from the waters revealing the 6th turtle-shaped island [Spirit Island]. They had found the food that grows on water, Menomen [wild rice]. Realizing that their migration was concluding, the Neshnabek sought out the prophesized 7th and final turtle-shaped island. Remembering such a place on their long journey, the people returned to an island [Madeline Island] off the coast of Wisconsin. Placing tobacco on its shores, the megis again rose from the water proclaiming the peoples’ coveted destination. In the time of the 4th Fire, the Neshnabek were addressed by two prophets who spoke of the coming of a light-skinned race. The first prophet said, “You will know the future of our people by the 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 that can be combined with the knowledge and traditions of this country. By doing this, two nations will join to make one mighty people. This new nation will be joined by two more so that four will form the mightiest nation of all. You will know the face of brotherhood if the light-skinned race comes carrying no weapons, bearing only their knowledge and a hand shake.” The second prophet said, “Beware if the light-skinned race comes wearing the face of death. You must be careful because the face of brotherhood and the face of death look very much alike. If they come in suffering or carrying a weapon, beware. Their hearts may be filled with greed for the riches of this land. If they are indeed your brothers, let them prove it. Do not accept them in total trust. You shall know that the face they wear is one of death if the rivers run with poison and the fish become unfit to eat. You shall know them by these many things.” Interpretation: It is said that while the Neshnabek settled at Senajewen contact with the light-skinned race [French] was established. With the lucrative trade of fur and goods, and enhanced military force cemented through both a corporate and kindred bond the French were deemed allies of the Neshnabek, the implicit nation of brotherhood. However, as North American dominance fell to Britain and subsequently the Americans the 4th Fire came to light. The Neshnabek and other Native nations were being displaced by white settlements, creating tension and means for war. Terrestrial disputes ultimately ushered in the American treaty era, initiating the acculturation of North America and igniting the 5th Fire. In the time of the 5th Fire, the Neshnabek were told of a time of great struggle that would grip the lives of all Native people. Within the 5th Fire, they are told of one who holds a promise of great joy and salvation. If the people accept this promise and abandon the old teachings, then the struggle of the 5th Fire will scorch the people for many generations. The promise that comes will prove to be a false promise. All those who accept this promise will cause the near destruction of the people. Interpretation: The 5th Fire is interpreted as the introduction of Christianity to the Neshnabek and other native peoples of Turtle Island [North America]. Jesuit missionaries, among numerous encroaching denominations, convinced the people to abandon their spiritual convictions and ceremonies, and profess that biblical scriptures and teachings were the true path to a peaceful future for the warring native and European nations. In the time of the 6th Fire, the Neshnabek will know that the promise of the 5th Fire was false. Those deceived by this promise will take their children away from the traditional teachings of the elders, turning the children against their elders. The elders will lose their reason for living and their purpose in life. Within this Fire, a sickness will plague the people, disturbing their natural balance and nearly destroying their way of life. Interpretation: Introduced as a means to alleviate the pressures of assimilation, religious and government leaders enticed native people to warrant Anglo-centric manual labor and boarding schools. Whether enrolled by discretion or duress, children were stripped of their native identities critically affecting native languages, cultures and spirituality for future generations. The prophet who delivered the message of the 7th Fire was said to be different than all others. He was younger than the rest and described as having a strange light in his eyes. He revealed a time when a new people would emerge; who would retrace the path of their elders collecting what had been left behind. Staying strong and using what had been bestowed upon them, the new people would rekindle old embers and ignite the sacred fire of the Neshnabek. Today we are in the 7th Fire, a revival of traditional culture, language and teachings. To fulfill this prophecy, we must embrace the knowledge, experience and mutual past of our Neshnabek brothers. It is through us that our heritage lives on.