Meaning of the Camp Fire Symbol
Native American Indians were a deeply spiritual people and they communicated their history, thoughts, ideas and dreams from generation to generation through Symbols and Signs such as the Camp Fire symbol. Native American symbols are geometric portrayals of celestial bodies, natural phenomena and animal designs, for additional information refer to the Fire Symbol.
The Camp Fire symbol is a Pictogram
The Camp Fire symbol is in a fact a pictogram. A pictogram, also called a pictograph, conveys a story and meaning through pictures that signify and resemble the shapes of physical objects or people. An Ideagram is another form of pictogram which conveys complex ideas, feelings and emotions. A pictogram, such as the one recognised as a Camp Fire symbol, is a therefore a form of writing which uses representational, pictorial drawings to tell a story.
The Meaning of the Camp Fire symbol
The meaning of the Camp Fire symbol was to signify an over night stop had been made requiring the need to set up a camp fire. The following picture shows a drawing made in 1875 by two Indian guides on a piece of birch bark which clearly shows the camp fire symbol. The drawing was placed upon an upright pole, for the purpose of informing their comrades that a party of 14 white men and 2 Indians had encamped at that place. The slant of the Birch-bark pole showed the direction of the proposed march, and three notches in the wood of the pole showed that it was to be a three-day expedition.
|Native American Indian Birch Bark drawing showing the camp fire symbol|
The meanings of the other symbols are as follows:
- The eight men in the upper row, with hats on, and with muskets beside them, represent the eight white soldiers
- Number 1 (end of second row) represents the officer in command, with a sword
- Number 2, with a book, the secretary
- Number 3, with a hammer, the geologist
- Numbers 4, 5 and 6 are attendants, one of these being the interpreter
- Numbers 7 and 8 represent the two Indian guides, who are distinguished as Indians by being without hats
- Number 11 represents a prairie-hen which had been eaten by the party
- Number 12 represents a tortoise, which might also have been eaten or might represent a totem, or armorial badge
- Numbers 13, 14, 15, mean that there were three separate camp fires. A camp fire for the solders, a camp fire for the officers and a camp fire for the Indians
For additional interesting facts and information about Native Americans refer to Making Fire.
The Camp Fire Symbol - Meaning
There were so many tribes of Native American Indians it is only possible to generalise the most common meaning of the Camp Fire symbol or pattern. Native Indian symbols are still used as Tattoos and were used for a variety of reasons and depicted on numerous objects such as tepees, totem poles, musical instruments, clothes and War Paint. Indian Tribes also used their own Colors for Symbols and designs depending on the natural resources available to make Native American paint.