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Backstory

Backstory, Permissions and Giveback

I met Ojigkwanong (William Commanda), an Algonquin Chief from the Kitigan Zibi Reserve in Quebec, Canada in 1996 and several times thereafter. He was a guest speaker at an educational center in New York State about the Anishinabe Seven Fires Prophecy. He was also the keeper of the Seven Fires Prophecy wampum belt, which he used while sharing the prophecy.

As I listened to William recount the Seven Fires Prophecy, I noticed there were no children present to hear this important teaching. It was then that the idea came to me about writing a children's book about it. It seemed an important story to share with children, because the prophecy not only foretold what would happen to the Anishinabe people after the European colonists arrived, but it also shared a warning to all people about the future. The warning stated simply that humans needed to return to living with respect for each other and the Earth, or they would be the architects of their demise and the destruction of Earth.

I approached Ojigkwanong over several years with an ever-evolving manuscript and he finally gave his permission after reading the third one. However, his permission to publish was contingent upon also receiving permission from Ojibwe Bawdwaywidun Banaise (Edward Benton-Banai), whose translation (from Ojibwemowin to English) Ojigkwanong had been using. Bawdwaywidun was instrumental in the formation of the American Indian Movement, founded the Red School House in Minneapolis /Saint Paul, and was as well, the founding academic and spiritual advisor at Shingwauk University. He held the position of Grand Chief of the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge for many years and authored The Mishomis Book, which is now considered a classic in Ojibwe literature.)

I sent a draft to Bawdwaywidun through a mutual acquaintance in 2005 and was surprised when he instantly gave his approval. I flew to Wisconsin three weeks later and we began working together on refining the story, which needed more detail and his input.

We worked closely together on the book over the next 7 years. I drove out from New York State to Midewiwin ceremonies in Wisconsin and Ontario twice a year, to meet with him about the book and help at the ceremonies. During the rest of the year, when we were separated by 1,200 miles, I would email him each draft to read and make suggestions, which he did. When he gave his final approval on the last draft, he began writing the Foreword to the book, in which he stated his full and unconditional support of Children of the Seventh Fire.

A Teacher's Activity and Skills Guidebook for Children of the Seventh Fire is also available. It's standards-based, so it can be used in curriculum and is sold separately.

Giving back to the Anishinabe community:

I told Bawdwaywidun I wanted to give a portion of the sales back to the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge. He agreed and left the amount up to me. So far, my yearly losses have always outweighed my gain, but I gave the Midewiwin Lodge a substantial donation in 2017 as an "in faith payment", when I sold my house. They were unaware that I had not broken even yet and was far from it. I was recovering from cancer for several years and my publisher wasn't marketing it properly, so sales were slim. I was lucky if my book royalty income was $200.00 a year. They did not know either, that I was (and still am) about $30,000 in debt from expenses incurred over all the years I had been working on the book and traveling out to meet with Eddie. Plus, I frequently gave books away and still do.

However, now that I'm publishing the book myself (began in 2021), I have committed to a royalty payment to Midewiwin Lodges and/or other Anishinabe cultural programs. The first one was issued for fiscal year 2021, in March of 2022 to the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge.

This book has been a labor of love, as you can see. Bawdwaywidun, Ojigkwanong and I shared the same vision for bringing this prophecy to all children; it did not matter that I was non-Native. They embraced my commitment to bringing Indigenous wisdom to the greater public, through Children of the Seventh Fire. I am forever grateful for their contributions and support.

I hope you find Children of the Seventh Fire useful and inspiring to your students or customers!

Chi miigwech, Thank you,