Posts tagged ‘8th Fire’

We are not the children of the 8th Fire… Far from it.

“We have to learn today what it takes to be better tomorrow.”


I don’t like to write anything pessimistic. When you start off your column with “I don’t like” you know it’s going to be one of those days.

Nanaia Mahuta.  Photo by  Radio New Zealand.

Nanaia Mahuta. Photo by Radio New Zealand.

This morning I was trolling through Facebook, eating my veggie omelette and drinking my decaf coffee. I offered congratulations to my friend Nanaia Mahuta, MP from the Waikato River region of New Zealand. Nanaia became the first Maori MP to wear the moko mauae, the traditional Maori chin tattoo. She said: “I wear my kauae tehe (moko) proudly… to bring the most positive aspects of what we have as a Māori culture, our mātauranga (knowledge) Māori, our world view, into New Zealand.”

It’s so good to see that Indigenous people from around the world, including many Anishinaabe, who are taking steps to make our language and culture a priority.

A good day, so far.

I scroll further down my Facebook feed only to get a punch in the gut. I put my omelette down.


According to Keith Montreuil:

“In 1996: 36000 people identified as first language speakers (mother tongue) half of which were using the language everyday in the home. 65% of those speakers are over the age of 60 (in 1996). Fast forward ten years and we see the amount of first language speakers has dropped to 19000 (a drop of nearly half) and this is ten years later.. So that group of 60 year olds are now a group of 70 year olds. It’s predicted that the amount of first language speakers (mother tongue) will drop to less than 10000 by this year, 2016. “

These are stark and troubling statistics.  It makes me so sad, almost hopeless.

I scroll down a little further and up pops an ignorant photo posted by Janet Gretzky, the wife of my hockey hero.

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 9.46.10 AM

Fuming, I started to share and write a call to action. But it occurred to me that this isn’t supposed to happen this way. We were to be the children of the 8th Fire.

The Anishinaabe, through our 8th Fire Prophecy, were predicted to thrive. We were to become equals, to come together with our other brothers and sisters in our territory and contribute towards becoming one great nation. Our language and culture would be sought after. The colonizers would realize the folly of assimilation, value our ways of life, and seek out our advice and traditional knowledge for the betterment of society and Mother Earth.

We are not the children of 8th fire. We are far from it. That’s as pessimistic as it gets.

It’s time to turn it around.

We have to realize that a prophecy isn’t just going to magically happen on it’s own. It isn’t karma, destiny, fate or the will of God. The Midewiwin certainly can’t influence midichlorians, as the Jedi do, to impose our goodwill over the Earth. There will be missteps and setbacks along the way.

We must learn from our Anishinaabe prophecies. We must act to avoid those missteps within the prophecies. For example: The prophecies tell us that “the rivers will run with poison and the fish will become unfit to eat”. That’s precisely why Anishinaabeg women are standing up for the water. We must learn and adapt in order to take ourselves, our families, our nation in the right direction to ensure we lead the Anishinaabeg into that eighth and final fire of glory.

We must continue to take action. This action must be personal action.

  • Only I (only you), can work towards learning Anishinaabemowin.
  • Only I (only you), can take political action that makes our language a governmental priority for our First Nations governments, political leaders and our federal and provincial government by demanding programs, funding and support to our priorities.
  • Only I (only you), can stand up to those who act inappropriately by furthering negative stereotypes and trivializing our culture and it’s sacredness.
  • Only I (only you), can say something when you see an act of racism or someone who is treated disrespectfully.
  • Only I (only you), can contribute personally towards the goals of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

The 8th Fire is coming. We all need to be ready for it whether it’s this generation or the next. We have to learn today what it takes to be better tomorrow.

Never give up. Never succumb to statistics and social media pessimism (even if it is mine).

CBC’s 8th Fire Has It Right

Wab Kinew has it right.  In turn, I guess, so does CBC.  But is anyone (other than Aboriginal people) watching 8th Fire (CBC, Thursday at 9 p.m.)?

In my lifetime, I don’t recall seeing any other TV special that comes close.  This four-part documentary series explores first-hand First Nation, Métis and Inuit perspectives, all the while providing excellent public education on contemporary Aboriginal issues.

I recall back in the 90s, the much-heralded historical documentary series called 500 Nations.  But it was aimed at being a historical and anthropological anthology rather than taking on the “how’s” and “why’s” of contemporary Aboriginal issues.

I think what’s most compelling about Wab Kinew’s storytelling is that he’s speaking directly to the non-native viewer.

In episode three of the series, the Anishinaabe hip-hop artist and story-teller from the Ojibways of Onigaming paddles up in his canoe, slightly winded and speaks, not to me, but specifically to non-native Canadians.  He often speaks of the interactions between “your people” and “my people”.  Although he’s being honest, he is also quite disarming through his kind and respectful approach to the telling of our story.  His approach and personality really sells it and makes him quite believable for these messages that are so often taken quite sceptically.

While he is telling his story, I find myself nodding away to him, wiping the occasional tear away like I’m right beside him while he’s affirming my story.  As we watch the occasional friend and colleague on the screen, I know my partner and I have Wab’s back while he educates my neighbours about the truth of our people.

This type of documentary filmmaking is also quite consistent with our time-honoured traditional approach to storytelling.

Not so long ago, our people would gather in our Anishinaabe lodges for ceremonies and discussions among Chiefs, Clan leaders, Elders and teachers.  Following our ceremonies, there would be long talks led by our teachers about our history and many seasons gone by.  Those talks would be filled with references to the Spirit and to Gchi-Anishinaabeg (the old ones).  They would also be filled with emotion and rife with our core values of honesty and respect.  The many people gathered around the fire could be seen nodding, wiping away their own tears as they all hear their collective story.

Wab does this eloquently, using video, new media, music and a host of contributors, experts and guests.  The simple storyline makes the point well-organized and easy to understand.  It’s difficult to find to many holes in his narrative.

Personally, I feel Canadians need to see more of that.  Honesty and truth in the telling of our story, rather than hard-line, one-sided positions, “he-said, she-said” perspectives.  It certainly beats the tired political rhetoric we are accustomed to.  We also need to see much more public education targeting all Canadians.

I challenge you to take a look at any news story about Aboriginal issues on the web.  Whether it be about Attawapiskat, the Crown-First Nations Gathering, Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women, or Tobacco issues. Check out any number of news sources: CBC, CTV, Globe and Mail, National Post, Sun Media, or even your local paper.  Turn your attention, please, to the interactive comments at the bottom of the page.

This is the place that “Mr. and Ms. Anonymous Canadian” can write to their heart’s content about their true feelings on Aboriginal issues.  These comments can be down right nasty.

But what strikes me most is how they are often simply ignorant, uninformed, and downright incorrect.

“When are First Nations going to start contributing to society instead of ripping off Canadian tax payers? It is obvious they can’t handle money as they have wasted all the tax dollars they were given and have nothing to show for it!”

“You know, that thing that First Nations are sorely lacking. Personal responsibility to pay taxes and become a contributor to society instead of a burden on society.”

“Get rid of the Indian Act, reserves and the chief system. Time they fended for themselves.”

“Does this mean they are prepared to work and pay taxes just like the non-aboriginal people?  I’m all for equality.”

Reminds me of this classic diddy from 1920:

“Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department.” – Duncan Campbell-Scott, Superintendent of Indian Affairs.

All of these messages are rooted in prejudice and hatred.  However, the source of these messages can be traced back to certain special interest groups.  Many have such noble names like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality.  But it doesn’t change the fact that they regularly disseminate anti-Aboriginal propaganda and are regularly quoted in the media.  After years of unchallenged propaganda, Canadians now take these messages and corresponding media reports as fact.

It will take a lot of focussed effort, such as that presented in the 8th Fire, to change how Canadians feel about First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.  I feel the root of that change lies with public education.  As journalists, broadcasters, communicators and storytellers, our goal should be to slowly, patiently and systematically begin to change the public perception of First Nations people.  We need to replace our negative messages with positive ones.  We need to correct inaccuracies and challenge stereotypes.

We also need for all people to challenge racism and stand up for their fellow Canadians.  If it is unacceptable to say these comments aloud, it should be just as unacceptable to write them anonymously hiding behind the guise of free speech and freedom of expression.  Yes, you can say and write anything you want (within reason), but it doesn’t change the fact that it is wrong and hurtful.

It’s my hope that Mr. and Ms. Anonymous Canadian are watching the 8th Fire.  That they hear Wab Kinew’s brilliant storytelling and that a light goes off in their head.  We all need to challenge our own misconceptions and prejudices.  That change happens one person at a time.

G’chi-Miigwetch Wab and CBC for starting this conversation.  It’s up to all of us to carry on it’s message.

The Eighth Fire

Wab Kinew host of CBC's 8th Fire.

The Anishinaabe were guided in history by stories and teachings known as the Seven Fire prophecies.  Long ago, certain individuals (prophets) had visions of the future which came in the form of chapters or “Fires”.

In these seven prophecies, which came long before the first arrival of European settlers, the Anishinaabe were told of the coming of the “light-skinned race”.  The prophecies also stated that the Anishinaabe ways would be lost.  One eerie line from the prophecy states: “The rivers shall run with poison and the fish would become unfit to eat.”  The prophecies speak about a great migration of the Anishinaabe, how their original spiritual way, the Midewiwin, would be depleted, and how they would find their homeland in the Great Lakes region.  It also speaks about the struggles the First Nations would have stating: “The cup of life will almost become the cup of grief.”

In the last prophecy, the Seventh Fire, the story speaks of the renewal of the Anishinaabe people.  Many contend that the current generation are the people of the Seventh Fire.  It speaks of a great peace and reconciliation between the First Nations and the settlers.  It speaks directly of a re-kindling of old flames.  If these good choices are made, this will light the Eighth and final Fire, an eternal fire of peace, love brotherhood and sisterhood.

Beginning tomorrow at 9 p.m. on CBC, Manitoba Anishinaabe Wab Kinew will present a four-part mini-series entitled “8th Fire”. The documentary will examine the ongoing relationship, current issues, stereotypes and Aboriginal history.  As a First Nations rapper and filmmaker, he will be sure to present these subjects in an interesting and humorous way.  As the Anishnaabe prophecy goes, this Seventh Generation now has the opportunity to reconcile with the “settler” community and together build the “8th Fire” of peace, justice and harmony.

8th FIRE
A Four Part Mini-series
Beginning this Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 9 p.m.
on CBC