Monday May 12

Almost exactly two years ago, I had the privilege of being an assistant to the Firekeeper at The Hiawatha First Nation Pow Wow. It was a very powerful weekend. For all of us who shared those experiences (and you know who you are) there were moments of great community, friendship and compassion

After some reflection, I wrote a note to my friends, brothers, who were in truth, the actual Firekeeper and Assistant that weekend and who taught me the ways of the Oshkaabewis and enlightened me to the Sanctity of Fire. Chi-Miigwetch Brian and Caleb

The other day, I promised a friend that I would share the note on the blog. I do so with great humility and with the reminder that I don’t know anything. Any errors are entirely mine


From: Steve

To: Brian & Caleb

Subject: Oshkaabewis

Date: Sat, 26 May 2012 21:26:48

Hi guys

I’d like to thank both of you for allowing me to share in the Firekeeper’s duties last weekend. It was truly a great honour.

I’ve been pondering things since Pow Wow concluded and I thought I might share my musings with you both. I’m writing it to help me get a deeper understanding and so that you guys might afterwards guide me with your many insights….and that is what makes you both my brothers. Here goes…

The life of the universe and of the first stars, that created all galaxies, is within our sun. The fire of our sun gives life to all forms in the solar system and is within all forms. It is within us and it is our link to Grandfather Universe.

When man was a very new species, he learned to use this fire for cooking, for heat, for light, for protection, for ceremony, for community. Without the fire, the people would die.

As our Ancestors lacked the technology to create fire, the first Firekeepers would have ensured that the flames were maintained at all times (as we did) because to allow the sacred fire to go out was to jeopardize the people’s very existence. It is quite possible (because any thing is possible) that some fires were maintained, by generations of Oshkaabewis (I looked that one up…is that correct?) over millennia. Were that so, then each fire was truly an unbroken link to the first fire…to the beginning. The Ancestors literally ‘lived’ within the sacred fire.

Over Pow Wow, the Midewinini made several references to the sacred fire as the home of the Ancestors. The importance of that teaching goes far beyond simply maintaining the flames…it is to be one with the fire of all life and one with the Ancestors.

I was wrong, this is no mere campfire.

As he maintains the sacred fire without, so too does the Firekeeper maintain the fire within himself. All ways. His eyes remain clear and centered on the life, happening now, within the flames and all around him. His ears remain clear and listening for the teachings of Grandfather Universe. His mind remains clear, resting in the now, receptive to the teachings of universal mind and unsullied by the garbage that we normally throw carelessly into our fires. His heart remains open to the moment and to the emotions that the moment manifests from without and from within. His senses are clear and his awareness is fully in the now.

People approach the fire circle distracted by their life situation. Their eyes, ears, minds, hearts and body are closed and there is much suffering. Before they commune with the Ancestors, they cleanse (smudge) themselves so that they might have clear eyes to see, clear ears to hear, a clear mind to receive, a clear heart to feel and a clear body to sense. After they have prayed they often seek some solace, communion or wisdom from the Firekeeper.

Because he has remained vigilant of his fire (without and within) Oshkaabewis shares the people’s suffering and transforms it. He does this ceremonially by smudging, mentally through his teachings, emotionally by sharing compassion, companionship and laughter and wholly by maintaining and sharing the peace he maintains within himself. In this act, two become one. One with the Ancestors and one with the universe. Communion.

The sunrise ceremony is a time to commune with the Ancestors. To awaken them, to feed them, to give them drink, to share our life experiences with them, in story and in prayer.

It is also a time for the Elder to transform suffering through a shared teaching. The Midewinini should understand (as does the Firekeeper) the importance of maintaining vigilance of their own fire. Without clarity, compassion and peace of mind, heart and spirit, there can be no wisdom. As a wise young Jewish dude once said; “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.”

It may be too much to expect either the Elders or the Firekeeper to maintain constant vigilance…it is after all our shared human condition to be distracted by the ramblings of our confused human mind. Having great knowledge exempts no one from also being temporarily crazy. Someone once said that we are 99% animal and 1% human…and it’s the human part that causes all the problems. Compassion is forgiving our self and others for being, at least in some moments, stark-raving-human.

I experienced much suffering over the weekend. I cried quite a few times behind my sunglasses. I’m unsure whether I offered any wisdom but I did share the experience and a lot of love with all who came into the fire circle and that was very transformational. I’m still filtering all of it so I’m unable to put much into coherent sentences. It was awesome though and I look forward to helping either and both of you whenever the opportunity arises.

I love you both very much and Chi-Miigwetch-Very-Much for your many gifts.

Your assistant


Sent from my shoephone


Our woodstove is our source of heat and until Sunday, the weather had been really cold and rainy

It’s been fantastic


Goodnight all

Moose and Wendle


This…is a shoephone





4 thoughts on “Flametender

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