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Fighting Fire With Fire: Using Cultural Burning Practices


We’re burning to restore the land restore the resources restore water. Today we’re burning the Redbud and
Sourberry which is a three-leaf sumac. Both of them are dying and they need new
growth and in order to get that we burn it. Cultural burning is a traditional land stewardship tool, employed by indigenous people all over the world. And it has a very strong history and
contemporary practice in California. For the students to not only observe him
as a land steward, and to listen to his knowledge and the way he approached the
work, but also to then be involved alongside him and to be guided by him in those methods really went even beyond what I had planned for the class. Bringing you folks in The class from UC Davis gives us an opportunity to share
with you our traditional ecological knowledge and practice, and see it firsthand. I keep telling everybody that for centuries when the Indians burned all the time then they could, they could come through and do a broadcast burn underneath burn all these sourberries without burning these trees. There’s no doubt that fire suppression is one of the leading causes for the fires that we’re seeing today in California, that are so damaging to communities. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that starting in the mid-nineteenth century, but really in the early 1900s Native people were prevented from burning across their traditional homelands and now we’re just seeing the result of that policy. We started this morning with a blessing. We started this morning by asking all our relatives out here permission to come out here. I’m not out here to destroy them. I’m out here to restore, and make new life. The thing is that, fires are going to burn whether we want them to or not. What we learned from cultural burning practices is that Native American communities have learnt to use fire to their advantage. We need to also learn
how to use fire to benefit society. I see a lot of hope in collaborative
partnerships where we find state and private funding in which people can work
together to prepare the land for a burn. So do that thinning, take out the
overgrowth and the underbrush do that raking and piling and burning before you can implement a burn. I think that’s key. I think people need to be educated about what the land looked like for many years.

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