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Issue # 1

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Editorial

Indians in Cyberspace
by Mike MacDonald

Who is artinjun.ca?
by Cheryl L'Hirondelle

First Nations in Cyberspace
by Mike Patterson

Image Credit: NASA JPL-Caltech E. Churchwell University of Wisconsin

Feature:

First Nations in Cyberspace: Two Worlds and Tricksters - Where the Forest meets the Highway

by Mike Patterson

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3.1 The Seventh Fire Prophecy

In the Seventh Fire prophecy of the Anishnabek, each of the seven fires represent an era in human history. We are now in the time of the Seventh Fire. The task of the people of this age, including the Anishnabek and other red people, the yellow people, the black and the white, is to come together through choosing the road of cooperation. Without this, there will be no Eighth Fire, or future for Natives and others.

The following is from the Ojibway Cultural Centre on Manitoulin Island:

THE LAW OF THE SEVEN FIRES

In a time long, long ago, seven prophecies came to the Anishnawbe.

Each prophecy or fire came from a different prophet who foretold of events that would shape the future of the Anishnawbe. Each of these fires referred to a particular period of time.

The first fire tells us that the Anishnawbe would rise and follow the ways of the sacred shell or Midewiwin. The Midewin religion, to the Anishnawbe, would be the focal point for clean living and a source of strength for all Anishnawbe.

The second fire tells that the nation would be camped by a large body of water. In this time, the direction of the sacred shell would be lost and the ways of the Midewiwin would become weak. It was prophesized that a small boy would return and point the way back to the traditional ways. The boy pointed to the sacred island of Manitoulin as the way to revitalize the ways of the Midewiwin.

The third fire tells that the Anishnawbe would find the path to the chosen land of Manitoulin. This was the place where the Anishnawbe must move their families.

The fourth fire tells of the coming of the light skinned race.

The fifth fire tells of a great struggle to come.

The sixth fire prophesized that during the time of the great struggle grandsons and granddaughters would turn against their elders and that the spiritual ways of the Midewiwin would almost disappear.

The seventh fire tells of the emergence of a new people, a people who would retrace their history to find the sacred ways that had been left behind. The waterdrum would once again sound, its voice signalling the rebirth of the Anishnawbe and a rekindling of life's fire.

During the time of the seventh fire, the light skinned race would be given a choice. If they chose the right road, then the seventh fire would light the eighth and final fire...a fire of peace, love and brotherhood.

If the light skinned race made the wrong choice, then the destruction which they brought with them to this great turtle island would come back to them, causing much suffering, death and destruction.

And that is how the story is told.

The Seventh Fire prophecy is recognized as a "...migration legend, a story which recounts the seven 'fires' or stopping places of the people in their journey from the East coast toward the West..." (Kallmann and Potvin 1992: 929). This prophecy also relates to the present-day struggle to strengthen traditional teachings and bring the Anishnabek message of cooperation and understanding to others (Deleary 1990). The Midewiwin society of the Anishnabek teaches the Seventh Fire Prophecy today and "among the Ojibwe of northwestern Ontario, the Midewiwin is a fundamental religious institution... Traditional Anishnabek in adulthood in the 1980s saw themselves as the generation of the seventh fire, and accept a role in bringing back many of their traditions..." (Kallmann and Potvin 1992: 929).

Nick Deleary, an Ojibwe and member of the Midewiwin, says the following in his 1990 Carleton MA thesis:

About one thousand years before the coming of the European, our lives were full and complete. We had known at least five hundred years of peace and prosperity. The alteration that would come with the warring European nations was known throughout our land. Long before the invaders stepped ashore we had fore‑knowledge of what to expect. This fore-knowledge came to us in the form of seven prophets, or prophecies. Each foretold of a time in the future and symbols to look for. One such prophet (Fire) spoke of how the Midewiwin would be the source for our lives, we would see great health. Another spoke of a time when we would follow the sacred Megis shell, towards the West "to the place where food grows upon the water," Minnesota. The reason for this move was foretold by another prophet or fire. His words were of the coming of the light‑skinned brother. We were told to beware as the stranger would come wearing two faces, one of peace and true brotherhood, the other face would be that of death and destruction. We were told to exercise great caution in accepting this stranger. As time would prove, the face the "newcomer" came with was one of destruction. We know the words of the next prophets to speak of the truth; the face our white brother has come wearing has been the face of destruction and death......

One prophet said you will know the words of the other prophets are true when you see the "waters turn foul and the fish turn belly up with disease." Another prophet spoke of a time when families will be broken up, children will turn their backs on their elders and grandparents. Those who know the Life ways will go silent out of fear for freedom of religion, and when that day comes, those who come looking will find emptiness and dissolution....

The last prophet had a different outlook. It is said that he spoke of a new generation who would retrace their grandfathers' and grandmothers' foot steps along the trail of the migration, reclaiming what has always been theirs. The water drum would once again sound its voice across the land... The above story is a fraction of the full story. The main ideas are nevertheless present (Deleary 1990: 57‑59).

One person who talks about the Seventh Fire is Grandfather William Commanda of Maniwaki.[9] An Algonquin elder, he holds three wampum belts, one of which is the Seventh Fire Prophecy belt which was made in the 1400s. His understanding of the prophecy was received from Ojibwe people in Minnesota, Michigan and northern Ontario, and through his own family, which has held the belts for over 100 years.

He speaks of the fact that the white race was welcomed by the Anishnabek, and it was hoped in the time of the Fourth Fire that the white race would come wearing a face of brotherhood, and that the Anishnabek and whites together would form one mighty nation. This did not happen and the white race chose the course of destruction and death.

Today, in the age of the Seventh Fire, the races are again faced with a choice. The two roads are the black road of technology and overdevelopment leading to environmental catastrophe, the other is the red road of spirituality and respect for the earth. Together, people of the world have to choose the right road, be of one mind, or the earth cannot survive. Cyberspace will play a big role in this movement, as will be examined in further sections.

In April 1994, William visited the United Nations with Hopi elders and elders from other nations, including the Migmag and Mohawk. The message from the Hopi was that desecration of their sacred lands must stop, or else there will be a purification of the earth which will destroy life. Their prophecies are in line with those of the Seventh Fire: "Mankind must return to Peaceful ways, and halt the destruction of Mother Earth, or we are going to destroy ourselves. All the stages of Hopi prophecy have come to pass, except for the last, the purification. The intensity of the purification will depend on how humanity collaborates with Creation."[10] The Hopi gave a deadline to the industrial nations: Four years from the date of their presentation in April 1994. This corroborates the fact that we are indeed in the time of the Seventh Fire, and also at the culmination of other Native prophecies.

In Spring 1995 Six Nations hosted the Cry of the Eagle Conference, which was attended by many of the same delegates to the 1994 UN presentation, as well as other leaders and elders from Tibet, New Zealand, Malaysia, Mexico and South America. Hopi elder Thomas Banyacya stated that "the Hopi is looking for a white brother... We will create a spiritual circle where we join the material and the spiritual together and we will take care of the whole world in a spiritual way as well as with the fabulous inventions" (in Hill and Monture 1995: 102). William Commanda has said that "Native people must put aside their differences and speak for Mother Earth and the Great Spirit that is in all people, all races and colours" (LeBlanc 1995: 9).

William teaches that now is the time for Native people to forgive colonizers for their ignorant and destructive actions. Without this forgiveness, Native people will not be able to think clearly and they need to be strong and healthy in order to be able to teach the road of cooperation and spiritual understanding to the industrial nations before it is too late. This is part of a movement toward decolonization a time when Native concerns and identity are finding a voice.

The Seventh Fire is not just a time of reclaiming spiritual teachings; it is the time to use those teachings to help correct the imbalance felt in the circle that is the world. [11] It is more than a revitalization movement, it is more like an arrival. Many Natives today are listening to teachings like the Seventh Fire prophecy, the Seven Generations teachings of the Iroquois and the prophecies of nations like the Hopi, and they are making these concerns felt on the Web.


Next: 3.2 The Seven Generations Prophecy

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Notes

[9] These comments about William Commanda are derived from a talk he gave when showing the belts at the Gathering of Aboriginal People in June 1993; from his visit to the KUMIK in July 1994; from discussions we had at his home in the summer and fall of 1994; from informal meetings we have had from 1994 to 2002 at Powwows and other gatherings. and from the chapter "Seven Prophets, Seven Fires: Grandfather William Commanda" in McFadden 1991: 35-47.

[10] From a statement presented to the United Nations (UN) April 21-23 1994. The Winter 1994 (2/1) issue of Aboriginal VOICES features these prophecies.

[11] One last word from William on this imbalance: "Traditional people of Indian nations have interpreted the two roads that face the light-skinned race as the road to technology and the road to spirituality. We feel that the road to technology.... has led modern society to a damaged and seared earth. Could it be that the road to technology represents a rush to destruction, and that the road to spirituality represents the slower path that the traditional native people have traveled and are now seeking again? The earth is not scorched on this trail. The grass is still growing there." William Commanda, Mamiwinini, Canada, 1991, at http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/.

 
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