FIRST FIRES


The story of Potawatomi and other Neshnabe peoples stretches back to times lost to history, beginning on the East Coast of what is now North America. By the time Europeans arrived, the Great Migration of prophecy was complete and the tribes were living around the Great Lakes, with a social structure that included a strong communal lifestyle. The people were bound together through ties of kinship, custom and mutual necessity.

Communities built their villages around clan systems and extended families. Traditionally, individual communities were led by village approved councils and headmen whose power stemmed from their relationship with, and influence over, the people. Leaders who wielded authority enjoyed the privilege because people respected their opinions enough to heed their advice; they used this authority and power for influence to create alliances and build relationships with councils and headmen of neighboring tribes.

Creation Flood Story


Over several millennia, we Neshnabek/Bodewadmi have told the story of our creation and eventual destruction. Believing that the earth and our existence have been manifested in a succession of four worlds, each end is met with great devastation, humility and sacrifice. The story of the Great Flood embodies the compelling and humbling beginning of our fourth and current existence.

 
 

Spirituality/Clans


Protecting the Neshnabek from their destructive pasts, Kshamnedo [Creator] bestowed two gifts to the people. First was spiritual strength in the form of our ancient Midewewin Lodge, providing balance amid the spiritual and physical elements of life. Second was our traditional clan system, preserving and maintaining spiritual and social order among our people.

Seven Fires Prophecy


The Seven 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 seven prophets. Each prophet spoke of a Fire (e.g., prophecy or era) that the Neshnabek would face and endure, forever changing their way of life. The prophecies help Neshnabek people know who they were in the past, are in the present and will be in the future.

 
First 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 will find such an island through their journey. The journey will consist of seven stopping places along the way. They will know their journey has concluded 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.
Second Fire
The Neshnabek will camp 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.
Third Fire
The Neshnabek will find the path to their chosen ground. This is the western land where food grows on water.
Fourth Fire
The Neshnabek will be confronted by a light-skinned race. The face (or intention) of this race remains uncertain, wearing either the face of brotherhood or death.
Fifth 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.
Sixth 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. Within this Fire, a sickness will plague the people, disturbing their natural balance and nearly destroying their way of life.
Seventh Fire
The prophet providing the 7th was younger than the others 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.

 
 

Migration


Heeding the first prophecy that they must leave their home on the East Coast of North America, the Neshnabek begin a mass migration inland from the Atlantic Coast to the Great Lakes Region. Led by the sacred Megis shell of our Midewewin Lodge, the journey consisted of seven stops, the beginning and end signified by a turtle-shaped island. Today these locations are known as Montreal, Niagara Falls, the Detroit River, Manitoulin Island, Sault St. Marie, Spirit and Madeline Islands.

Three Fires


It was at Niagara Falls that the Neshnabek disbanded into three distinct tribes. Confederated through spirituality, each group established duties to serve the Neshnabek as a whole. First were the Ojibwe, migrating to the north and west of Lake Superior. They are our Keepers of the Medicine, providing spiritual guidance and protection. Next were the Odawa, establishing villages to the north of Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron. They are our Keepers of the Trade, establishing and protecting the vast trade network controlled by the Neshnabek. Last to build a fire as one people were the Bodewadmi, migrating south to the coasts of Lake Michigan. We are known as Keepers of the Fire, providing protection for the sacred cultural and spiritual fire of our people.