Sacred fire closes and unites a community

SIX NATIONS – Following an intensive two-day period of sharing and support, the Rekindling Our Fires group extinguished the sacred fire that burned throughout the weekend on Sunday November 22. The response to the lodge and sacred fire ignited a flame in the hearts of organizers and community members, who hope to continue to offer support to those affected by suicide.

At the closing, a string and individual beads of wampum were passed around the group to hold as participants shared words of gratitude before the Thanksgiving Address was recited to close the fire. The lodge had been visited by many members of the community over the course of the weekend including Rick Hill, Chief Ava Hill, and Derek Miller.

As the wampum made its way around the group, ashes lifted from the fire. Organizer Brooke Johnson shared that she was reminded of the stirring of the ashes ceremony, with the symbolism that each person was being cleansed to heal.

“It was good,” said Johnson, explaining that the weekend exceeded expectations. “Friday was really good. It was kind of weird because I was telling my mom — she asked me if we got snow on Saturday morning — and I said ‘No, it didn’t’. She said that she heard it had snowed, but there was nothing here. Creator was looking out for us I think,” she said.

In regards to any negativity surrounding the event, Johnson explained that sometimes people unaffected by suicide don’t understand, or know how to express compassion.

“I was happy people showed up. My biggest thing was at the beginning on Friday, there was somebody that hasn’t been affected by suicide trying to judge what we were doing here, and it kind of illustrated to me that this needed to happen. It needed to happen because I used to be that same way, where I hadn’t lost anybody to suicide and I was like ‘I’m not affected by it,’” she said. “So I would just kinda push it off to the side, whereas you have to get in the community more in the sense that everybody can be affected by suicide regardless of if you have a direct loss in your family,” she said, adding that the cousins in her family that were lost to suicide didn’t feel they could talk to someone. “We need to be more aware as a community, we think we’re untouched by that but we’re not,” she said.

Johnson explained that learning safe talk and offering support is something everyone should participate in.

“It’s not just kids anymore, we’re losing a lot of adults,” she said. “Even with this group, the whole point of the group was to create a place where somebody could talk; there was a girl that was saying she needed to be here and she didn’t know why, but that’s something important. Knowing that you’re not by yourself,” she said.

After the Thanksgiving Address, visitors were offered a feast of warm soups, scones, mashed potatoes and much more, to bring them together once again before leaving the circle.

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