Ambience: rattles, shouts, voices chanting
We’ve all heard the expression, keep the home fires burning. For the Natchez Indians, it was a ceremonial duty and a way of life. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Mark Six:We’re standing up on the temple mound, where our sacred fire used to be kept for thousands of years. It was an eternal burning fire that never went out.
Mark Six is a Natchez chief, speaking to us at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians in Natchez, Mississippi.
Back behind me toward the west is where the fire used to sit, and up in front is where the people who tended the fire would stay.
Hutke Fields is the Principal Chief of the Natchez.
Hutke Fields: We had eight fire tenders that were responsible for keeping the fire. Our fires went on night and day, night and day, night and day forever. They never went out. It was considered bad medicine to let the fire go out. There were strong consequences if you let the fire go out. The story is that one of our fire keepers at least one was irresponsible and let the fire go out, and because of the consequences, he did not inform the authorities.
The Natchez chiefs were traditionally known as Suns, that’s S-U-N-S.
HF (01:58): Everybody started dying, and they wondered why. Finally, when the particular offender was on his deathbed, he told the Great Sun that what he’d done. And they had to gather fire from the Great Sun’s fire to rekindle the temple fire.
When the Natchez were defeated by the French in the 1700’s, the Suns were sent into slavery and the sacred fires extinguished, but the tradition did not die.
Mark Six: : There’s still a sacred fire, but as of right now it does not burn.
I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.