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Tribes call on spirits to give firefighters strength to fight Carr fire

Samoan and Hawaiian firefighters

Redding, CALIFORNIA — Twenty-one firefighters from American Samoa and Hawai’i were welcomed with prayer, food, drumming, dancing and singing by North State Native Americans in a historic gathering on Tuesday night in Redding.

“When we first heard they were coming” to help fight the Carr Fire, “we wanted to reach out to them,” said Jack Potter Jr., Redding Rancheria tribal chairman. “It’s traditional protocol when you have guests in your land.”

Seventeen firefighters from American Samoa and four from Hawai’i joined 168 North State residents at Redding Rancheria’s cultural arbor in spiritual songs and dance. 

“It’s the first time the Winnemem dancers came out of Winnemem territory,” Potter said. “The Pit River Feather Dancers did a dance for the animals, and prayer dances for the water. Then the Winnemem dancers did a fire and water dance; they did the war dance to give strength to the firefighters for this war — the war against fire.”

Firefighters came straight from the fire lines when they got off duty at 7 p.m. Samoan firefighters stood and sang to the crowd.

“They sang a very special song they hardly sing outside of their area,” said Potter, who mentioned the meaning was very personal. Redding resident Dove Jude sang 'America the Beautiful' in her native language, Mono/Paiute.”

The Rancheria also threw a dinner for the firefighters, catered in part by Lim’s Café in Redding.

“Lim’s was the only restaurant that let our people in — back in the days when signs (on restaurants) said, ‘No dogs or Indians allowed,’” Potter said. “We never forgot that.”

Those gathered prayed to water, wind and fire spirits to restore balance in the North State.

Read more at Record Searchlight