Author of the Month

Henry Hudson in a Time of Prophecy (cont.)
By Evan Pritchard

Appendix IV (From Henry Hudson and the Algonquins of New York; published by Council Oak Books, 2009) The Best Kept Secret

Although the reader may not believe it possible for anyone to foretell the future, nonetheless, prophecies play a large part in human history, especially Native American history. Native American prophecies (unlike those of the Old Testament) tend to be interactive rather than fatalistic, an attempt to guide the decisions of the people along more productive lines. The Seven Fires prophecies were handed down from generation to generation in secrecy by the Medicine Chiefs of the Midewiwin Societies and by the leaders of other related lineages. For this reason, there was almost nothing published about them until recently.

The Munsee letter to Zachary Taylor, which states that the Munsees knew when Hudson was coming, was written in 1849 and sent to the White House, but not published until 2002 when I included it in my book Native New Yorkers. Joseph White Norwood referred indirectly to the Seven Fires prophecies in his book The Tammany Legend, published in 1938. In the late 1960s, knowledge of these prophecies started to spread by word of mouth. Key words were “rainbow race,” “earth changes,” and “purification.” When I recently asked a Canadian audience of adult aged Metis or mixed-blood Native Americans if they had heard about the Seven Fires prophecies while growing up, every person without exception decisively raised his or her hand. This surprised even me, since so little has been written about them.

William Commanda, already Supreme Chief of the North American Indian Nation Government since 1945, received the Seven Fires wampum belt in the 1960s and began to talk openly about the prophecies, but the mass media was not very interested. He taught that the reckless cutting of trees was going to lead to a global disaster of monumental proportions. People scoffed. In 1973, an up-and-coming Francophone journalist, Michel Merleau, now remembered for his groundbreaking pieces in Le Droit, interviewed William Commanda for a local publication in Quebec. It was one of the first publications of any kind to report on the Seven Fires prophecies wampum belt or to mention what we now know of as “global warming.” It is surprisingly similar in language to scientist James Lovelock’s book Revenge of Gaia, which was considered shocking in 2006, thirty-three years later. Here is an excerpt from Merleau’s article:

Chief Commanda is the oldest member of the lodge of the wampum belt. This belt has been a legacy from generation to generation, and Chief Commanda has learned to listen to the wampum belt, which is the medium between him and his ancestors.

“While we’re in the process of doing those ceremonies, the belt is giving warnings of our ancestors and of nature,” says Chief Commanda, for whom nature is the mother of everyone, adding that we shall not try to dominate her or abuse her but that we shall live in harmony with her.

“It is nature herself who leads the world. She is feeding her children and providing for them from her breast and is also giving reprimands to her children when they are abusing her.”

The moon is also of great importance in the eyes of William Commanda. “The moon is our grandmother and even if some people refuse to recognize the influence she has on the earth, she has, for example, sway over the plants, the fish, and the fertility cycle of the human being.”

The wampum had also given messages to William, “When the white people will have destroyed everything, and when the Indians will not be able to find signs of Nature like the bark of the birch, the skin of the deer or the moose to display in their houses, sixty percent of the Indian race will have been destroyed and it will be the same for a greater part of the white people.”

The epidemics which the inhabitants of the globe are already acquainted with, may be in a great part the reprisal of Mother Nature who is fighting against the abuse of her children. The chief gave the example of a tree blight which may be a way for the mother to tell her children to stop the irrational cutting of trees. (Excerpted from a published interview, “Pourquoi aurais-je besoin d’un permis?” [“Why Do I Need a Permit?”] by Michel Merleau, well-known Quebec-based journalist, 1973. )

Three years later, in 1976, Eddie Benton Banaise published his landmark Mishomis Book, describing the predictions concerning each of the seven fires, but giving no details about the exact lengths of the time cycles involved. In fact, although he agrees that the length of a fire might be “somewhere around 112 years” he reminds us that it is not an exact number. I have since come to understand that the sun and moon cycles dance together to an irregular rhythm as judged by European calendars. The truth is much more interesting. That book is still in print, considered a classic text by Native Americans of all tribal affiliations.

When mixed-blood Chippewa Vernon LaDuke (“Sun Bear”) self-published his book Black Dawn, Bright Day, in 1990, he decided not to mention the Seven Fires prophecies by name, but it is certain that he knew of them and was referring to them in part when he wrote of the bizarre and chaotic irregularities in weather patterns that were beginning to appear all over the globe. The book was a grim warning, but even after it was picked up by Simon and Schuster in 1992, few listened. Al Gore’s book, Earth In the Balance, Ecology and the Human Spirit, published that same year, brought news of these climate changes to the attention of the mainstream. The Cry of the Earth conference at the United Nations, where many predictions about climate change were shared for the first time, occurred later that year. Nonetheless, global warming has been slow to be accepted in the United States. This important aspect of the Seven Fires prophecies has finally been revealed. Perhaps there is still time.

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