Cherokee Fire Dancers a different breed
Cherokee Fire Dancers work on a small brush fire in July in West Virginia. COURTESY PHOTO
Cherokee Nation Fire Dancer Danny Marrit, front right, awaits instruction in on a July assignment in Tennessee. COURTESY PHOTO
BY KEVIN SCRAPPER
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Along with being capable of carrying 45 pounds for miles at a time, Cherokee Fire Dancers must possess mental toughness to face dangerous conditions as well as selflessness to help people they don’t know.
Besides those attributes, Oklahoma Native American Fire Program Manager Teresa Williamson said there are other characteristics a successful Fire Dancer must possess.
“Personal qualifications should include a willingness to work hard, be responsible and dependable, be courteous and professional, always try to be the best you can be and do things to make the people at home proud,” she said.
And it’s those characteristics that have helped Fire Dancers suppress wildfires across the United States since 1988, including two wildfires in 2012.
Fire Dancers must subsist in remote areas for up to two weeks and perform for 10 to 16 hours per day under hot, dusty and smoky conditions. But for Fire Dancer Lee Wolf, the rewards outweigh the risks.
“You want to see what you can do to help put it (fire) out,” he said.
And thought he enjoys being a Fire Dancer now, in the beginning he was hesitant.
“My cousins and my little brother talked me into it. They probably did it a couple of years before I decided to get into it,” Wolf said. “You have somebody with you or someone that you know. We just help each other out.”
Williamson said Fire Dancers work in two-week stints when other federal and state firefighting resources are exhausted, and there is no limit to the number of times a team or individual can be called to duty.
She added that Fire Dancers take more away from the program than just paychecks. They learn skills, travel to different states, gain experiences and receive advancement opportunities.
“Training is provided all year throughout the nation, if they choose to enhance their current qualifications and increase their hourly wage,” Williamson said. “They can receive up to 80 hours of pay to attend training each year.”
Increased skills and training are bonuses in the Fire Dancers program because the job is considered seasonal employment. Williamson said Fire Dancers use their learned skills and earned certifications to pursue employment with other fire agencies.
“They gain a lot of skills by being a wild land firefighter,” she said. “This enables them to apply for permanent and seasonal positions with any federal or state agency as a fire hire. They can also use their experience and education to be on the local volunteer fire departments and provide assistance to their communities.”
Unfortunately, Fire Dancers often have to decide between keeping a steady job and reporting for firefighting duty. But Wolf said the choice is easy.
“Some jobs won’t let you go out,” he said. “You just tell your boss that you’re going out anyway. Sometimes they say you won’t have a job when you get back, but you tell them you need that money.”
Wolf said the money he receives for the average two-week Fire Dancer assignment is definitely worth his time and effort, but it’s the thrill and excitement that draw him to the job.
“It gives you some adrenaline and you want to be out there every day,” he said.
For more information about the Fire Dancers, call 918-453-5334 or visit www.cherokeetero.com
918-453-5000 ext. 5903
ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ. – ᎡᎵᏃ ᎬᏫᏓ ᏱᎩ ᏅᎩᏍᎪ ᎯᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏓᎨᏓ ᎢᎸᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏟᎶᏓ, ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏥᎳ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᎩᎡᎯ ᎠᏎ ᎤᏍᎪᏍᏗ ᎠᏓᏅᏖᏗ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᏗᎦᎾᏱᎦ ᏂᏚᏍᏗᏓᏅ ᎠᎣᏙᎰ ᎠᎴ ᏓᏂᏍᏕᎵᏍᎪ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎾᏍᏊ ᏗᏃᎵᎦ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ.
ᏝᏃ ᎣᏍᎩᏊ ᎢᎦ ᏱᎩ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ ᎠᏁᎯᏯ ᎠᎹᎵᎧ ᎠᏥᎳ ᏗᏅᏝᏗᏍᎩ ᎠᏓᏅᏖᎵᏙ Teresa Williamson ᎤᏛᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏅᎩ ᎢᏳᏓᎴ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎧᎵ ᎤᏛᏅᎢᏍᏔᏃᏅ ᎠᏥᎳ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᎩᎡᎯ.
“ᎤᏩᏌ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎯᎠ ᎾᏍᎦᎢᎲᎾ ᏍᏓᏯ ᏧᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ, ᎤᏛᏅᎢᏍᏗ ᎦᎾᎵ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ, ᎠᏏᎾᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏓᏅᏔ, ᏂᎪᎯᎸ ᎤᏛᏅᎢᏍᏗ ᏄᏩᏤ ᎢᎦ ᎢᏳᏛᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎠᏂᎾ ᎤᎾᏂᎩᏒ ᏧᏂᎸᏉᏓ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗᎢ,” ᎤᏛᏅᎢ.
ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏄᎾᏍᏛ ᎤᎾᎵᏍᏕᎸᏙᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎾᎾᏛᏁᎲ ᎠᏥᎳ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᎩᎡᎯ ᏚᏅᏝᏛ ᎢᎾᎨ ᏕᎦᎵᎬᎢ ᏔᎬᏩᎾᏗᏫᏍᏓ ᎠᎹᏱᏟ ᏂᏓᎬᏩᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᏐᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᏧᏁᎳ, ᎠᏠᏯᏍᏗ ᏔᎵ ᏕᎦᎵᎬ ᎾᎿ ᏔᎵ ᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᏔᎳᏚ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒᎢ.
ᎠᏥᎳ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᎩᎡᎯ ᎠᏎ ᎤᎵᏏᎾᎲᏍᏙᏗ ᎢᎾ ᎢᎸᏢ ᎬᏩᏛᏗ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᏄᏍᏗᏓᏅᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏔᎵ ᎢᏳᎾᏙᏴᏆᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏂᏏᎾᎲᏍᏙᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏍᎪᎯ ᎠᎴ ᏓᎳᏚ ᎢᏳᏟᎶᏓ ᏩᏥ ᎤᏪᏅᏍᏓ ᎤᏗᏢᎩ, ᎪᏍᏚ, ᏧᎦᏒᏍᏗ ᏄᏍᏗᏓᏅᎢ. ᎠᏎᏃ ᎠᏥᎳ ᎠᎵᏍᎩᎡᎯ Lee Wolf, ᎠᎦᎵᎡᎵᏍᏗᏍᎬ ᎣᎪᏙ ᎾᏃ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎤᎦᏛᎴᏒᎢ.
“ᏣᏚᎵᏍᎪ ᏣᎪᏛᏗ ᏳᏍᏗ ᎢᎦᏣᏛᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎦᎯᏍᏕᎸᏗ ᏣᏝᏗᏍᏗ ᎠᏓᏪᎵᎩᏍᎩ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
ᎠᎴ ᎭᏓᏅᏖᏍᎬ ᎠᎵᎮᎵᎪ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏥᎳ ᎠᎵᏍᎩᎡᎯ ᎨᏒ ᏃᏊ, ᏗᏓᎴᏂᏍᎬ ᎤᏓᏅᏖᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
“ᎠᏆᏤᎵ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎠᏮᎾ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏍᏘᎧᏂ ᏦᏍᏓᏓᏅᏟ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎬ ᎬᎩᏠᏒᎢ. ᏔᎵᎭ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎢᎪᎯᏓ ᏄᎾᏛᏁᎸ ᏓᏊᎪᏔᏅ ᎠᏆᏖᎳᏗᏍᏗᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᏩᎭᏱ. “ ᎩᎶ ᏍᏓᎵᎪᏐ ᎠᎴ ᎩᎶ ᎯᏲᎵᎦ.
Willianson ᎤᏛᏅ ᎠᏥᎳ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᎩᎡᎯ ᏚᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎰ ᏔᎵ ᏳᎾᏙᏓᏆᏍᏗ ᎠᏂᏐᎢᏃ ᏩᏥᎾ ᎠᎴ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᏧᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎯ ᎠᏥᎳ ᏗᏅᏠᏗᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᏯᏪᏦᏅ ᎨᏐ, ᎠᎴ Ꮭ ᎠᏎᎸᏊ ᎢᏳᏩᎪᏗ ᎨᏥᏯᏅᏗᎢ.
ᎤᏁᏉᎥ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏥᎳ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᎩᎡᎯ ᎤᎪᏙ ᎠᏂᎩᏍᎪ ᎾᏃ ᎨᎦᏈᏴᎡᎲᎢ. ᎠᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎪ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗ, ᏓᏁᏙᎰ ᏧᏣᏘᎾ ᏗᏍᎦᏚᎩ, ᎧᏁᏉᎪ ᎠᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎪᏗ ᎠᏂᎩᏍᎪ ᏩᏂᎦᏘᏘᏒ ᎤᏝᏅᏓᏗᏍᏗ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎢᎬᏛᏗ.
“ᎤᎾᎵᏏᎾᎲᏍᏙᏗ ᎤᏠᏅᏙ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵᎢ, ᎢᏳᏃ ᏳᎾᏚᎵ ᎤᏂᏁᏉᏍᏗ ᎠᏂᎦᏔᎲ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏂᏁᏉᏍᏗ ᎨᎦᏈᏴᎡᎲᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Williamson.”ᎡᎵᏊ ᏁᎵᏍᎪ ᎢᏧᏟᎶᏓ ᎨᎦᏈᏴᎡᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎤᎾᎵᏏᎾᎲᏍᏙᏗ ᏂᏓᏕᏘᏴᎯᏒᎢ..”
ᎤᏁᏉᏨ ᎠᎾᎦᏔᎲ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎾᎵᏏᎾᎲᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᏂᎩᏍᎪ ᎤᏓᏤᏟᏓ ᎨᎦᏈᏴᎡᎰ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎦᎳ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᎩᎡᎯ ᎤᎾᏙᏢᏒᎢ ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏩᏙᏗ Ꮭ ᎧᎵ ᏑᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏗᎦᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᏱᎩ. Williamson ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᏥᎳ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᎩᎡᎯ ᎠᏅᏗᏍᎪ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᏆᎥ ᎠᎴ ᎡᎵᏊ ᎬᏩᏂᏁᏍᏗ ᎤᎾᎵᏍᎪᎸᏓᏁᎯ ᎡᎵᏊ ᎢᎸᏢ ᏫᏂᏗᎦᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᏗᏐᎢ ᏚᏙᏢᏒᎢ.
“ᎤᎪᏓ ᎠᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎪ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏕᎦᎵᎬ ᏓᏅᏝᏗᏍᎬ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᎯᎠ ᎤᏂᏍᏕᎵᏍᎪ ᏂᎪᎯᎸ ᏗᎬᏩᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᎤᏂᏩᏛᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏝᎦᏊ ᏳᎾᏚᎵᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏈᏴᏙᏗ ᏩᏥᏂ ᎠᎴ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᎠᎾᎩ ᏗᏅᏠᏗᏍᎩ. ᎡᎵᏊ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏅᏙᏗ ᎠᏂᎦᏔᎲ ᏧᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎾᎥ ᏕᎪᏢᏒ ᏗᏅᏝᏗᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏂᏍᏕᎸᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎾᏓᎵᏍᎪᎸᏙᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᏚᏙᏢᏒᎢ.”
ᏙᎯᏳᏃ, ᎠᎦᎳ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᎩᎡᎯ ᎤᎪᏛ ᏧᏄᎪᏙᏗ ᎨᏐ ᏧᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᎤᏂᎲ ᏧᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎬᏂᎨᏒ ᏫᏒᎾᏛᏗ ᎠᏥᎳ ᏧᎾᎵᏍᏗ ᎨᏒᎢ. ᎠᏎᏃ ᏩᎭᏯ ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᎯᏓ ᎨᏐ ᎠᏑᏱᏍᏗᎢ.
“ᎢᎦᏓ ᏗᎦᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ Ꮭ ᏱᎬᎾᎵᏍᎪᎸᏓ ᏤᏅᏍᏗ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ. “ ᎠᏎᏃ ᎯᏃᏎᏗᏊ ᏧᎧᏍᏟ ᎮᎬᎢ. ᏴᏓᎭ ᎯᎠ ᏱᎾᏂᏫ Ꮉ ᏗᏣᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᏱᏣᎮᏍᏗ ᎢᎯᎷᏨᎢ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᎯᏃᏎᏗ ᎠᏕᎳ ᏣᏂᎬᎬᎢ.”
ᏩᎭᏯ ᎤᏛᏅ ᎠᏕᎳ ᎠᎩᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᏔᎵ ᏳᎾᏙᏓᏆᏍᏗ ᎠᏥᎳ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᎩᎡᎯ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎢᎦ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎤᏰᎸᏓ ᎨᏐᎢ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎾᏛᏁᎲ ᎤᏘᏁᎦ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲᎢ.
“ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᏆᏓᏅᏓᏗᏍᏗᏍᎪ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏚᎵᏛ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᏍᎪ ᏧᏙᏓᏮᏓ ᎠᏇᏓᏍᏗ ᎠᏆᏚᎵᏍᎪ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
ᎤᎪᏛ ᎠᏕᎶᎰᎯᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏥᎳ ᎠᏂᎵᏍᎩᎡᎯ, ᎯᎠ ᎯᎵᏃᎮᏙᏗ 918-453-5334 ᎠᎴ ᏫᏤᏓᏍᏗ www.cherokeetero.com.