I’m back in the North and will be camping under the midnight sun for all of July and I’m so glad that the fire ban is lifted because it just doesn’t feel like camping without a good campfire.
I cooked a goose that I recently plucked and gutted over the fire and am able to enjoy a strong campfire coffee. A tin foil wrapped fish steamed with capers and onions with fried bannock is next on the menu, there’s just something about cooking over an open flame that makes food taste so much better.
Fire is central to nearly everything we do here in the North. It is essential to our livelihood. The flame keeps us warm in winter in our wood stoves and our furnaces. It keeps us fed from the heat of our stoves. Fire is probably the most overlooked element that we need to live here in the North next to water.
When the Dene used to go out into the tundra, they had to ration their firewood. Whereas the Inuit used whale blubber or seal oil to make stone lamps called qulliq and still do, it’s a beautiful custom.
The best stories are often told around a good campfire. Stories like those of Yamoria, which makes mention of a mythical fire. His fire can be seen burning after he brought down the beavers that he killed up the Dehcho River. Legend has it that he cooked the beavers and the grease that drizzled onto the flames started to burn creating smoke that continues to burn to this day.
The Tlicho believe that the reason why fox’s tail has bits of black on it is from the time he had to use his tail to set fire to raven’s teepee to free the caribou because raven was hoarding them all to himself.
In the times when medicine was stronger than it is today, entire camps of thousands of people would disappear in a manner of seconds if they knew their camps were about to be bombarded, the only thing left behind would be their smoldering fires.
Fire is a very sacred element to Indigenous peoples. The feeding of the fire is a traditional ceremony that honors our ancestors and loved ones passed on. The feeding of the fire is a way to create a portal to communicate with our ancestors and through them have a direct link to the Creator. In feeding the fire we are giving thanks and honoring all of life’s creatures and the Creator of all things. The feeding of the fire also helps to keep negative spirits away. The fire is all-consuming, it is never full no matter how much it is fed.
The internal fire within ourselves is also sacred and we must remember to feed the fire within us. Each of us has a flicker of a flame in our hearts that is kindled with an energy that can empower us. An internal strength is ignited inside us the day we are born and that spiritual flame can never be put out, but we must remember to always feed it good energy.