Traditional Ecological Knowledge
In this article, we highlight strategies that Indigenous communities and scholars are employing to approach wildfire management. We start by introducing the reader to the colonial ecological violence that has resulted from the exclusion of fire and the ways that communities resist the settler colonial paradigm of fire suppression. We then analyze the role of militarism and incarceration within the “fire industrial complex.” Militarism and incarceration have been a part of settler colonial fire suppression in California since the beginning even as they emerge in novel forms in the twenty-first century, and they pose a challenge to regenerative and sovereign Indigenous fire futures. Next, we guide the reader through debates on Indigenous “traditional ecological knowledge” (TEK) and the ways that fire science variously erases, homogenizes, or romanticizes the epistemologically and politically complex practices of Indigenous burners. We advocate that scholars avoid participating in an extractive “TEK rush” and instead enter into direct relationships of accountability and collaboration with Indigenous fire practitioners. We conclude by discussing the ways Indigenous communities build anticolonial movements to assert sovereignty—fire and otherwise—based on reciprocal and relational systems for people and ecosystems. By reframing the current wildfire crisis through the lens of settler colonialism, we bypass unilateral, settler-driven solutions and emphasize that respect for Indigenous fire sovereignty—not only Indigenous fire knowledge—is essential for actualizing just fire futures in California and beyond.
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The National CASC hosted a webinar series on how to integrate Indigenous Knowledges (IK) into Federal research and resource management programs. It ran bi-weekly from April 6 to June 1, 2023 and centers Indigenous voices to explore ethical, legal, and scientific considerations for working within different knowledge systems and provides guidance reflecting best practices.
This study expands on a 2011 tribal research needs assessment with a survey to identify tribal natural resource professionals’ research needs, access to research findings, and interest in participating in research. Information needs identified in our survey includes forest health, water quality, culturally significant species, workforce and tribal youth development, cultural importance of water, and invasive species. Additionally, postfire response and valuation, resilience and long-term forestry, protecting and curating tribal data, and Indigenous burning were more important research needs for tribal members than for nontribal members. This study can inform forestry research planning efforts and establish research priorities and collaborations that are aligned with needs identified by tribal natural resource managers.
Drawing on lessons from Indigenous knowledge systems in what is now called British Columbia, Canada, we demonstrate how place-based values directed the stewardship of historical oak-meadow and clam gardens, which created diverse and productive ecosystems that sustained for millennia. Drawing on examples of contemporary restoration projects (crabapple orchards and clam gardens) that utilize place-based values to inform the recovery of ecocultural landscapes, we propose a framework to help initiate a place-based values approach in contemporary restoration design congruent with ethics of inclusion.
Researchers carried out a systematic literature review involving both a global and a case study approach (Portugal) to investigate the configuration of the social dimensions of wildfires in academic literature. We advance two interlocking claims: (i) human dimensions of wildfires are often simplified into shallow indicators of anthropogenic activities lacking social and historical grounding, and (ii) fire knowledge of Indigenous peoples and/or other forest and fire users and professionals remains overlooked. These arguments were manifest from the global-scale review and were confirmed by the case study of Portugal. The individual perceptions, memories and cultural practices of forest and fire users and professionals and the historical co-developments of fires, people and forests have been missing from wildfire research. Including and highlighting those perspectives will both add to existing knowledge and inform policies related to fire management by making them socially meaningful.
View video (7:05).
For thousands of years, the vast majority of fires on the land were intentionally set by Indigenous Peoples of this region for a variety of reasons. Today, on the Flathead Reservation in Western Montana, the Division of Fire of the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes’ Forestry Department is reclaiming a traditional relationship with fire on the landscape. Hear from the team about this work and how these fire dependent landscapes benefit from this holistic approach.
As an action-oriented framework articulated by Secwépemc Elder Ronald E. Ignace, “walking on two legs” seeks to bring Indigenous knowledges into balance with western scientific knowledge in service of upholding an Indigenous stewardship ethic that is embedded in Indigenous ways of relating to land and embodies principles of respect, reciprocity, and responsibility. Grounding this discussion in the context of fire-adapted ecosystems of western Canada and unceded and traditional Secwépemc territory, Secwepemcúl̓ecw, we argue that walking on two legs, along with principles of reconciliation, offers a pathway to uphold respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples, knowledges, and territories through Indigenous-led restoration.
Description: This presentation discusses a partnership between the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (PLPT) in northern Nevada and a team of university-based scientists. The research team engaged PLPT stakeholder groups through workshops, interviews, and focus groups to understand how climate change and upstream pressures threaten PLPT ecosystems, lands, and resources. Stakeholders emphasized that climate change planning must be grounded in and informed by Indigenous knowledge practices and protocols, in conjunction with decolonizing approaches to climate adaptation research that returns agency to the PLPT.
Presenters: Schuyler Chew is Mohawk Wolf clan from Six Nations Grand River and grew up on the Tuscarora Nation. As an environmental scientist, he is committed to partnering with Indigenous communities on climate adaptation research. His dissertation research on the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s resilience to climate change was funded in part by the Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center.
Karletta Chief (Diné) is an Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Arizona, and is also the Director of the Indigenous Resilience Center (IRC). As an Extension Specialist, she works to bring relevant water science to Native American communities in a culturally sensitive manner, and at the IRC she aims to facilitate efforts of UArizona climate/environment researchers, faculty, staff, and students working with Native Nations to build resiliency to climate impacts and environmental challenges.
In this article, we introduce the concept of “walking on two legs” to guide restoration scientists and practitioners in advancing the interconnected processes of Indigenous-led restoration and reconciliation in Indigenous territories. As an action-oriented framework articulated by Secwépemc Elder Ronald E. Ignace, “walking on two legs” seeks to bring Indigenous knowledges into balance with western scientific knowledge in service of upholding an Indigenous stewardship ethic that is embedded in Indigenous ways of relating to land and embodies principles of respect, reciprocity, and responsibility. Grounding this discussion in the context of fire-adapted ecosystems of western Canada and unceded and traditional Secwépemc territory, Secwepemcúl̓ecw, we argue that walking on two legs, along with principles of reconciliation, offers a pathway to uphold respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples, knowledges, and territories through Indigenous-led restoration.
Webinar join links and recordings.
11-week lecture series Lookout: Envisioning Futures with Wildfire, we’ll scan the horizon for the ideas and stories that can guide us through this critical and disorienting time. We’ve invited speakers who offer perspectives from across the arts, humanities, and environmental sciences to think about questions like: What can we learn about transformation from fire’s destructive and creative force? How should we live differently, both with each other and on the planet, in this era of wildfires? How can we honor fire as an ancient, rejuvenating element while also honoring all that has been lost to wildfire?
This series is hosted by the Spring Creek Project and the Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative at Oregon State University and co-sponsored by OSU’s Center for the Humanities, OSU’s Sustainability Office, OSU’s Arts and Education Complex, and Terrain.org. Additional co-sponsors for individual talks are noted in the schedule below.
The talks in the series will be broadcast live on Zoom Tuesdays at 6 p.m. PST / 8 p.m. CST / 9 p.m. EST from January 4 to March 15. Free and open to everyone.