For thousands of years, Indigenous Californians used fire as a tool for managing natural resources. Throughout the state, Native peoples conducted cultural burns on a wide range of plants and it was their fire regimes that created diverse habitat mosaics that sustained meadows, coastal prairies, and grasslands. The careful application of fire brought back water, increased fruit and seed production, caused new growth that was better suited for making baskets, and reduced the fuel load that could be burned by naturally occurring wildfires.
Starting with the Spanish conquest and continuing today in the form of Forest Service and Cal Fire policies, fire suppression has drastically limited cultural burning. As a result, the forest has become incredibly dense and we are facing a situation in California where drought and climate de-stabilization is causing many trees to die, amongst many other factors. This massive tree mortality has brought the forest to a tipping point where large scale wildfires threaten to alter California permanently.
This video explores how cultural burning is being practiced today and what lessons it holds for the future of the forest. We visit the area just south of Yosemite National Park where two tribes are working to bring fire back to the land, the North Fork Mono and the Cold Springs Rancheria of Mono Indians.
Fire Ecology as practiced by Aboriginal Australians click here
watch video here
This poster was created by Micah Bazant
Article By Carla Pérez
Humans often fear what they don't know and disrespect what they don't appreciate. The role of fire in California's ecology isn't respected, and much less, reflected in our economy (the way we manage home).
Historically, Indigenous people like the Karuk, Yurok, and Hupa understood intimately the role of fire in the bioregion of what we now call Northern California. They acted accordingly by tending the forest, thinning the brush, and burning fires in a regenerative way that enriches soil and brings dormant seeds to life. Thereby, increasing the diverse plants & ecology that make California the home we know and love today.
Fire is known as the ancient transformer. But now it's gone from transforming seeds and soil, to transforming speculation and security.
Today, developers clear cut forests to build subdivisions and CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations). Utility companies, like PG&E, install power lines through the canopy of lush redwoods and sequoias, spreading precarity and danger along the way. This is how capitalists have constructed modern life and it keeps most people in fear of fire rather than in reverence and gratitude for its important role in our ecosystem.
Often, when people are afraid of something they work hard to stay away from it, make sure it's far away from them, and gather forces to keep it away. The forces of ecological dynamic balance (and climate change) are strong. We will not stop fires from coming.
But we are able to stop shaping our mindset & our environment as if fires won't or shouldn't come.
Let's listen to the ancestors' wisdom and let native communities teach us to remember how to be in relationship to fire so, as Pyro Bill says, we can get back to "burn[ing] fires the way we burn joints, man. Nice, slow...contained"
Connect the dots: Check out these links to learn more about the issues
Native Tribes Are Taking Fire Control Into Their Own Hands