Friday, October 10, 2014

Keepers of the Fire


Sorry this has taken a while, but the last few weeks at Robbins Crossing have been a bit overwhelming!

As we welcome all kinds of visitors to the village on campus, I find myself answering the question (as I have for the past 30+ years) "what is an Interpreter?"

While I have the usual short, concise answer, it is helpful occasionally to step back and look at the bigger picture.  Not only does it focus attention on the task at hand (creating signage, planning programs, engaging visitors) but it also helps to recharge the batteries.  To realize that we are part of a tradition that pre-dates the terminology and professional designations, and that grows ever more necessary as we wade into the future.

The Potawatomi People of the Great Lakes region were known as the "Keepers of the Fire" among the Council of Three Peoples (which also included the Ottowa and Ojibway Nations).  While I may be unclear as to the literal meaning, to me the "fire" is an eternally burning reminder of our shared experiences as humans, and of the lives and stories that have come before.  As a storyteller, I once kept a small pouch with ashes from every campfire I told stories at, and placed ashes from the pouch into every fire I stood in front of.  This was my way of maintaining the chain of tradition that was important to me.

Interpreters are the "Keepers of the Fire" within our culture, as we strive to connect people with natural and cultural heritage.  We have inherited the privilege of carrying the flame forward.  In the words of Enos Mills- "May the tribe increase", (from Adventures of a Nature Guide, 1920)

Check out the NAI video of Interpreters from around the world illuminating their vision of the profession, click here.

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