The story of Potawatomi and other Nishnabe peoples stretches back centuries. The Potawatomi, along with the Odawa and Ojibwe, were once living in the northeastern corner of the United States as one people known collectively as Nishnabe. Seven prophets came to the Nishnabe, and each spoke of a fire, foretelling specific eras the people would endure.
Before written word, the Potawatomi passed history down through storytelling. As an ode to one of the earliest oral traditions, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center begins its 11 galleries with the Seven Fires gallery.
The gallery features watercolor-inspired artwork panels and teachings that accompany each prophecy. Many of the animals depicted are very revered by the Potawatomi people and help provide a visual representation for each prophecy in the Tribe's history.
Each prophet spoke of key eras that the Potawatomi have endured including the Nishnabe migration to the Great Lakes Region, European arrival, loss of culture and eventual rekindling in the seventh and final fire.
Many believe the Potawatomi are in the seventh fire, walking along the path of Potawatomi ancestors, picking up pieces of the culture and traditions left behind to build a strong, healthy future for the next seven generations.
Throughout the CHC's 11 galleries, visitors experience references back to the Seven Fires oral tradition. The Seven Fires gallery serves as a reminder that the Potawatomi knew challenges, like forced removal and other trying eras, were inevitable, but the Tribe's teachings and cultural traditions carry the Potawatomi through, and in the end, the Potawatomi people will see a better day.