- Rekindling the Sacred Fire: Métis Ancestry and Anishinaabe Spirituality by Chantal Fiola
By Chantal Fiola. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2015, viii + 250 pp. Glossary, notes, bibliography, index. $31.95, paper.
Chantal Fiola explores Métis identity and relationships with Anishinaabe (Chippewa) spirituality, with the ultimate purpose of encouraging Métis to reconnect with Anishinaabe spirituality. She has in mind people who, for reasons attendant upon colonization (inter alia adoption of Christianity, non-Indian status, urban upbringing, loss of language), became alienated from the spiritual beliefs and ceremonies of their ancestors. The volume is based on eighteen interviews with participants who self-identify as Métis with Red River ancestry, and who follow "traditional Aboriginal spirituality" (84). Through examining their spiritual journeys, Fiola aims to rekindle the sacred fire, in turn ensuring the continuation of minobimaadiziwin (good, balanced life) in accordance with the Seven Fires Prophecy handed down to the Anishinaabeg "many years ago."
Fiola's study is firmly founded on her own life journey, starting with her self-identification as a Métis Anishinaabe-kwe (woman). She became a Midewiwin initiate, and a First-Degree Midewiwin, a term that applies to those who follow the "Way of the heart" (216). It begins with an examination of the colonial context that informs the experiences of the Métis Anishinaabe from Manitoba; however, the participants bring forth connections far and wide, not least the spiritual guidance the author herself received from Métis in the United States (213).
The strength of this volume resides in Fiola's ability to tap into a wealth of reconnection experiences by Métis who, at some point, felt unworthy of participating in ceremony. The author examines ways in which Métis identities have always been contested within and without Métis communities, with self-identification as Métis requiring constant renegotiation. Fiola is able to illustrate the complexity of the processes the participants underwent in order to reclaim identities that honor all their ancestors, whether Anishinaabe, European, or Euro-Canadian.
The study blends indigenous and nonindigenous theories and research methodologies. Indeed, Fiola's methodology offers practical possibilities for those contemplating ethical research projects. It is unusual in a study of such a sensitive topic to find that most participants have not only agreed to be identified by their real names but also share small biographies that narrow the distance between them and the reader. This strategy results in a "relational accountability" such as that which takes place in the transmission of knowledge in oral cultures (88).
This book is exemplary in its approach to the creation of knowledge and will be a valuable resource for scholars with an interest in the Great Plains. For instance, I found the glossary (215–16) most useful. [End Page 146]
University of Sydney