Week 11: People of the Seventh Fire

This week one of the assigned readings was a chapter from Robin Kimmerer’s (2013) book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdoms, scientific knowledge, and the teaching of plants. The chapter was Shkitagen: People of the Seventh Fire. As I read the chapter, I reflected on my experience with fire. The manner that Kimmerer expresses respect for the animate and inanimate beings around her is inspiring.  The quote, “with the right materials carefully assembled and respect for the ways of air and wood, you could always have a fire” (p. 361). I reflect on this quote as someone who loves the outdoors and camping.  The struggles that I have gone through to start campfires made me reflect on the art of building and respecting the materials needed for the fire.

Kimmerer shares the worldview of fire of having two sides. This includes fire as a force of creation and a force of destruction.  As humans, we need to show respect for both of these sides.  I think about my trip to Lac La Ronge last summer, witnessing portions of the forest affected by forest fires in the past decade.  I remember watching the forests burn on the news and the media showing the aftermath.   Often we do not realize that this is how many of our forests renew themselves.  Kimmerer (2013) shared how Indigenous peoples used to set fires that were small and purposeful to take care of the land. She shared that blueberries and birch trees would grow up after a fire. Indigenous peoples used fire to be stewards of the land. 

Kimmerer shared the Anishinaabe Seventh Fire Prophecy. This prophecy refers to the places we have lived and the events and teachings around them (p. 365). 

  • The First Fire – Anishinaabe people were living in the dawn lands of the Atlantic.  Spiritual teachings told them to move west.
  • The Second Fire – When the Anishinaabe made camp on the shores of Lake Huron. 
  • The Third Fire – “Where the food grows on water,” established their homeland harvesting wild rice.
  • The Fourth Fire – The history of when the setters can to the land.
  • The Fifth Fire – The destruction and assimilation of Indigenous people and culture.
  • The Sixth Fire – “The cup of life would almost become the cup of grief.” However, the spiritual lives would keep Indigenous peoples strong.
  • The Seventh Fire – The people are to turn around and retrace the steps of those who brought us here.

The seventh fire emphasizes our responsibility to recover the languages and sacred teachings and rekindle the sacred fire’s flames.  As Kimmerer states, fire can be used to ignite growth and rebirth. The seventh fire is the beginning of the rebirth of a nation. 

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