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Tribal Theory - 3 Fires

July 20, 2004 | 2 Minute Read

When I was younger I was fortunate enough to learn some Ojibwe lessons. I was taken under the wing of a native woman who thought that everyone should learn these lessons, and so she decided to teach some of us wasitchu’s. It was a great experience to learn about cultural beliefs and ways. Since then we have parted ways but the lessons are always close to my heart, and embedded themselves in my beliefs. Where is this going? Let’s fast forward.

Everyone who has taken Organization behaviour has been introduced to needs theories: Maslow, Herzberg, Alderfer and McClellan. Now I’m sure there are other theories out there, but here are the introduction staples. Let’s take a closer look at Alderfer. His theory was a simple 3 tier needs theory: Existence, Relatedness and Growth.

Existence - The basic needs to survive.
Relatedness - The desire for relationships
Growth - A desire to improve

Now lets rewind. There is a native lesson I learned called the 3 Sacred Fires: Blue, Red, Yellow. The analogy goes, like this, like a fire there are many colours. But to truly have a fire that lasts there must be a blue flame in the center, your center. As you meet that the red and then the yellow flame will follow

Blue Fire - The will to be, the will to know.
Red Fire - The fire of equanimity, generosity, and compassionate wisdom
Yellow Fire - The fire of creative mind. The wisdom to succeed

All through these fires, if you have successfully solidified your blue flame, you can choose to help others with their fires, by lending your fire to help ignite theirs.

Sound like a needs theory to me. It also has a nice twist of community to help others with their needs. Tribes are high performing collective work groups. I’m sure I’m not coming up with a new theory here, but I’m thinking if there is a parallel between needs theory and the 3 fires, what other leadership or organizational lessons could be learned. The Native tribes like the Ojibwa survived through organizational behaviour. They were the masters of it and had to be to survive. So, what I’;’m going to do is take a look around and look for some other lessons or folklore from some or the native stories I know and some I don’t to see what else there might be out their. Who knows a little spark could go off and we could see an interesting old new theory emerge.