The prophecy of the Seventh Fire as related by Edward Benton-Banai in The Mishomis Book:
The seventh prophet that came to the people long ago was said to be different from the other prophets. He was young and had a strange light in his eyes. He said, “In the time of the Seventh Fire a Osh-ki-bi-ma-di-zeeg (New People) will emerge. They will retrace their steps to find what was left by the trail. Their steps will take them to the elders who they will ask to guide them on their journey. But many of the elders will have fallen asleep. They will awaken to this new time with nothing to offer. Some of the elders will be silent out of fear. Some of the elders will be silent because no one will ask anything of them. The New People will have to be careful in how they approach the elders. The task of the New People will not be easy.
If the New People will remain strong in their quest, the Waterdrum of the Midewiwin Lodge will again sound its voice. There will be a rebirth of the Anishinabe nation and a rekindling of old flames. The Sacred Fire will again be lit.
It is at this time that the Light-skinned race will be given a choice between two roads. If they choose the right road, then the Seventh Fire will light the Eighth and Final Fire – an eternal Fire of peace, love, brotherhood and sisterhood. If the Light-skinned race makes the wrong choice of roads, then the destruction which they brought with them in coming to this country will come back to them and cause much suffering and death to all the Earth’s people.
Our Mother Earth has become very ill. Her river veins and her sky lungs are polluted, and her children, the many living ones that nourish at her breasts are becoming ill and dying into extinction. Instead of uniting together and uniting in a spirit of global cooperation, so that we might collectively reverse the damage done to our Mother, the peoples of the earth are choosing to continue to wage destructive wars against one another. We have not recovered from the atrocities of the Twentieth Century, which claimed over one hundred million lives to war and genocide, and yet we still appear eager to wage war and commit crimes against creation in the new millennium.
The Age of the Seventh Fire has arrived. The human race finds itself at a Great Crossroads. The two roads spoken of by the Prophet of the Seventh Fire represent two divergent trends in dominant society, and a choice must be made upon which path humanity will choose. One path is described as a hard-surfaced highway – a proverbial fast lane. Elders have warned us that the Earth is experiencing a quickening; that everything today is moving faster and faster headlong toward annihilation. Our lives, for all the technological conveniences we boast, are more stressful and chaotic now than in any prior age. Throughout the Twentieth Century, the human race has embraced rampant technological development, which has led to increasingly destructive wars as we develop new and more effective methods to destroy each other, and the planet as well. We have used our technology to increase the speed at which goods are produced. The factory system has churned out more and more consumer goods until we have, at last, become a throwaway society. This road will lead to the assured destruction of Mother Earth and all her children.
There is an alternative…the Prophet of the Seventh Fire told of two roads: the other road is described as a natural earthen path, with forests and grasses, and flowers by the way. This is the natural path, and it will ultimately lead all orders of creation toward global peace and unity. The natural path seeks to embrace the sacred relationship between humanity and all other beings in creation. All orders of the creation, whether mineral, plant, animal, or human are relatives deserving of our respect and care. Imagine the face of the world if all people embraced such a paradigm. Imagine what our world would be like if all people embraced the Good Heart. The Prophet foretold that should the Light-skinned race choose the natural path, then humanity will proceed on toward the Eighth and Final Fire – a perpetual era of global peace and unity.
The Prophet foretold that during this Age of the Seventh Fire, a “New People” would arise. They will retrace the footsteps of their ancestors and recover that which was left by the trail. Elders teach that what the New People are finding and recovering is the sacred ancient knowledge and earth wisdom that was lost because of the false promise; and with this recovered knowledge, the New People are instructed to use their voice to speak for those who are not given a voice, i.e. all orders of creation that are persecuted, oppressed, and exploited. Our society needs a new worldview to heal itself, and to heal the wounds that it has inflicted on all life. As a society, we must experience a paradigm shift that will alter our values system before we destroy Mother Earth. The New People must steer the human race down the natural path toward the Eighth Fire, but, as the prophet warned, the task would not be easy.
The New People need a common vision, a source of inspiration providing guidance and reassurance that their quest was true. One would expect such a powerful vision to come to an aged prophet or a great leader, and yet, the vision that would ultimately inspire and guide the New People was given to a young boy. In the Age of the Sixth Fire, as the U.S. Army marched westward to conquer and dominate all of North America, and the struggle of the Fifth Fire gripped all Native Americans, a small Lakota child received a profound vision that would change the world. The child, who would become the Holy Man Black Elk, lay comatose in a teepee, dying of an unknown illness. As he succumbed to the fever and lay dying, the Grandfathers, powerful spirits from each quarter of the universe, took him and showed him a great vision of the Sacred Hoop and the great flowering Tree of Life. He later told this vision to an anthropologist named John G. Neihardt who printed it as the book Black Elk Speaks:
Black Elk’s vision encompassed the entire world. He saw that all nations were but one great hoop that encircled the source of all life – the great flowering Tree of Life. Black Elk survived his illness and was sent back to tell his vision and inspire those who would listen to heal the Sacred Hoop of Life and bring life back to the great flowering Tree. Although Black Elk believed that he had failed his quest, the journey of renewal was only just beginning, for Black Elk Speaks has reached millions, Native and non-Native alike, and has inspired a sort of Native American renaissance.
During the sixties and seventies, a growing number of people throughout the world began searching for a deeper connection to Mother Earth. There was also a genuine renewal of interest in traditional indigenous cultures. That which was left by the trail was being recovered and renewed by people of every race and ethnicity! Natural spirituality was reincarnated in many parts of the world, known by such names as Mother Earth Spirituality and Eco-Spirituality. The feminine principle was rediscovered and millions rediscovered the Goddess and the divine feminine. The balance between masculine and feminine energies was at last being restored.
Black Elk’s vision had the greatest effect upon Native Americans, who began feeling a sense of pride that they had never felt in their lives. Native children and teens started to recover their sense of identity. Young people desperately sought out their teachings, traditions, and ceremonies. They sought out the elders to teach them the ways of their people, but as the Prophet of the Seventh Fire had predicted, many of the elders had fallen asleep and woke up to the great renewal of their people with nothing to offer. Nevertheless, many Natives found their way back to their ancestors. Recovering a sense of cultural pride, they were appalled at the atrocities still being committed against their people. The American Indian Movement (AIM) was created as a warrior society to defend Native people from industrial and governmental exploitation, and from enemies within such as alcoholism and depression. AIM was founded on spiritual ideals, and its members often embraced sobriety and participated in healing ceremonies such as the sweat lodge and sun dance. On several occasions, AIM was forced to take up a militant stand to protect the rights of Native Americans, and several tense standoffs with federal agents brought international attention to the injustices against Native peoples. Issues affecting Native people throughout the world attracted sympathetic media attention, and as a consequence, support for Native American issues grew.
Industry poses the greatest threat to indigenous sovereignty. Whenever minerals or other resources coveted by corporate interests were discovered on reservations, the companies would find ways, usually with federal cooperation, to extract the resources despite the consequences to the people living on the reservations. Native people began to look to the federal treaties for protection. If pollution from industry posed a threat to the people’s ability to provide for their own subsistence, then they have a legitimate claim to fight that industry. For example, if the runoff from a mine was polluting the waters of a river where Natives fished, and the fish failed to reproduce or began dying off from the pollution, then the Natives can claim that their treaty-protected right to subsistence is threatened. After all, where there are no fish, you can’t go fishing.
As scientists learned increasingly more about the interconnectedness of ecosystems, and it became apparent that pollution occurring outside a reservation could damage connected ecosystems within a reservation, treaty rights became an effective tool for environmental protection. Nevertheless, while treaties provided the legal machinery to fight industrial pollution, courts and hearing boards needed to see masses of people speaking out before they would take any action. Governmental institutions could not ignore an alliance of citizens from differing racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds rallying in support of Native Treaty Rights and demanding clean air, clean water, and an ecologically healthy environment.
Having participated in a number of rallies that occurred in northern Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota from 1996 – 2004, in which hundreds of people gathered from different races, cultures, and beliefs, I will personally testify to the spiritual power and good heart that presided over these gatherings. There was always a feeling of family among the participants, and everyone was concerned with one another‘s well being. I have never participated in anything that compares with the power and presence of Spirit at these gatherings, nor have I ever met people more dedicated to positive social change. This was the beginning of the alliance of peoples that ultimately became the New People of the Seventh Fire. Born of the womb of Mother Earth, they would grow into a global phenomenon intent on changing the world and restoring the natural balance.
Throughout the world, the New People are coming into realization of their own identity. People of all races, nationalities, and ethnicities are searching for the ancient earth wisdom of their ancestors. They are retracing their footsteps and finding what their ancestors left on the trail. The New People are using their voice to speak for those who have not been given a voice. They are speaking out against injustice and exploitation, and they are struggling for a new social order based upon equality and justice. They are taking a stand against international corporations and governmental institutions that would harm Mother Earth; The New People see and recognize the unity in all creation and honor and respect all the minerals, plants & trees, animals, fish, insects, birds, and human beings in the four sacred colors and all the variations of human sexuality. In the spirit of unity, the New People are seeking out like-minded individuals around the world in the hopes that a one-world unity movement might take shape. We are children of one mother. To be a New Living One is to be a deeply caring, involved, and spiritually alive person who is willing to walk with others down the natural path. It is critical that in all that we do, we strive to help those who may be taking their first steps on the natural path. In this way, one person at a time, the New People are becoming stronger. Together, we might yet steer humanity down the natural path that leads to the Eighth Fire, a time of peace, unity, and justice, and an ecologically healthy Mother Earth.
The New People, those who follow the natural path, must lead humanity down the natural road. We might yet form the greatest nation the world has ever seen and bring humanity into the light and warmth of the Eighth Fire. We are the New People, and it is our task. We must come together in knowledge and friendship to restore harmony and balance to the world. Now is the time and ours is the generation.