Photography by Jacquelyn Sparks
Size: 16" x 24"
Tribal Affiliation: Cherokee
The title “All Our Fires Ahead” is a reference to Chief John Ross’ statement in his address to the 1843 intertribal council that included representatives from twenty-three recently relocated tribes: “Brothers, our fires are all behind. They were first kindled in the East; but now we have been driven to the West, and have renewed our fires.” This statement invokes a powerful collective unity, referencing both traditional village fires and the essential needs of continued survival. The smoke from the fires that were ignited in those days immediately following removal touched the same sky that we now find ourselves under. We are experiencing that unity again in a time when tribal sovereignty finds itself tested and proven in federal court cases, but those victories mean nothing without keeping the songs and fires alive that our ancestors carried for us.
The first photographs taken west of the Mississippi river were at the 1843 intertribal council meeting and those daguerreotypes have since been lost to time. Those images are largely thought to be reference photographs taken of leaders for portraits later painted by John Mix Stanley and did not document the cultural exchange and peace being built between those twenty-three tribes. This piece imagines what prayers might have been sent up during that month of meetings, dances, and renewed fires.
Process: Dye-sublimation print on metal