Three Fires Confederacy Gathering celebrates historic alliance

Pat Madahbee speaks at the Three Fires Confederacy Gathering on the history of the alliance. photo by Michael Erskine

M’CHIGEENG— The historic Anishinaabek alliance known as the Three Fires Confederacy may have been formed at the end of the original migration from the Atlantic coast by the people who founded the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomie nations, and which later formed the basis of a mutual defence system that successfully repelled enemies such as the Iroquois and Sioux, as well as encompassing the largest territory of any First Nations, the alliance remains as important to the interests of the Anishinaabe today as it did in antiquity. So it is that the gathering of the Three Fires Confederacy was organized at M’Chigeeng August 7, 8 and 9.

Across the three days, a series of workshops, lectures, traditional and cultural ceremonies sought to strengthen and reinvigorate the historic bonds of the confederacy and to sharpen its relevance as a tool for meeting the challenges of the modern day.

“The main purpose of this gathering is to relight the fires within our communities,” said organizer Peggy Simon, in particular the plan was to take steps to strengthen the culture and language that help to build the ties that bound the confederacy together. To that end the three day event was packed with workshops, seminars and teachings.

“We crammed in everything we could imagine,” said Ms. Simon. “Things that it would take weeks, months and even years to learn.”

Each day began with a sunrise ceremony conducted by elder Gordon Waindubence.

On day one following introductory remarks and welcome by host community M’Chigeeng First Nation Chief Joe Hare, the agenda included the history and teachings of the Three Fires Confederacy delivered by elder Gordon Waindubence, the re-launching of 88.9 FM radio, an Anishinaabe radio station by Kenjegewin Teg’s Stephanie Roy and founder Anong Beam, recreational activities, the Memory Blanket game, an animal guessing game conducted in Anishinaabemowin, musical chairs and sandbags, the medicine bag teachings, sweat lodge teachings and ceremonies, Ojibwe constellations and hand drum songs.

The second day started out with the teachings of the sacred fire and the Three Fires Confederacy trees teaching, planting and preparation by Gerry Kaboni of Wikwemikong, wampum belts presented by Maurice Switzer, a series of concurrent sessions that incuded activities in the language, indigenous games, drum teachings, youth teachings, Anishinaabe bingo, men’s and women’s roles, honouring the water walkers, the sweat lodge teachings and hand drum songs and sharing.

The final day’s agenda began with a circle discussion with Anishinaabek Nation Grand Chief Pat Madahbee on the history of the Three Fires Confederacy up to the present day followed by a seminar on the 1836 Treaty presented by historian Alan Corbiere before a giveaway and a travelling song by Nomkii Tribal Drum.