Implementing Phase: Reporting on an Indigenous-led Fire Prescription

How do you know if your group or community’s Indigenous-led fire prescription was successful?

Well, let’s explore this topic further.

It’s best if your group or community monitors, evaluates and reports on the Indigenous-led fire prescription right from the beginning and during the early stages of development.

Evaluation is a continuous improvement process that provides regular input on how well the Indigenous-led fire prescription met or is meeting its goals and management objectives.

There are many other benefits of monitoring, evaluating and reporting. When you or your group engage in the evaluation process, you may

  • identify and assess unmet needs in returning, continuing, expanding or supporting uses of fire on the land. This step may include community development and a call for action; and
  • assist in promoting program sustainability, for example, program legacy, relationship building and capacity over the generations.

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Activity:

How Will You Know That Your Indigenous-Led Fire Prescription Is Successful? 

Think about, discuss and write down in this box how you will know if your Indigenous-led fire prescription was a success.

Think of metrics you will track such as

What flora are coming back? Do they look healthy? Are they the flora you wanted to see? Any surprises?

Do you see any fauna or insects when you are at the burn site(s)?

Do you see any negative effects of the burn? These effects may include increased erosion or absence of flora and fauna you expected to come back.

Was the burn difficult to complete? For example, were fuels too patchy to carry fire effectively and meet the intended burning needs or vice versa?

Are there concerns about aspects of the burn that should be addressed now or before a future burn?

Was there good support and participation in the burn? Did the burn provide an opportunity to co-learn and share knowledge?

© 2023 Muskrats to Moose Project Team

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 Checklist: Reporting on an Indigenous-Led Fire Prescription 

Confirm that you complete the following activities when reporting on your Indigenous-led fire prescription:

checkboxMeasure progress and update the Indigenous-led fire prescription.

checkboxTrack progress in implementing the Indigenous-led fire prescription in applying uses of fire on the land and attaining goals and management objectives, includes fire effects monitoring.

checkboxEvaluate effectiveness of the Indigenous-led fire prescription on a regularly scheduled basis, for example, an annual review.

checkboxContinue monitoring climate change and its growing impact, including regularly reviewing basic assumptions for cultural and ecological monitoring, for example, an annual review.

checkboxUpdate the Indigenous-led fire prescription as circumstances change, holistic values shift and new information becomes available, for example, every five years.

© 2023 Muskrats to Moose Project Team

2022: Modern tools to safely support a cultural burn in the Saskatchewan River Delta.

2022: Modern tools to safely support a cultural burn in the Saskatchewan River Delta.

Reflections: Cumberland Delta Resource Management Fires Burn Plan

The Cumberland Delta Resource Management Fires Burn Plan is an example of an Indigenous-led fire prescription for the Cumberland Delta wetlands in northern Saskatchewan. This completed and approved Indigenous-led fire prescription supports the rejuvenation of flora and fauna in these wetlands.

So, how did the Cumberland Delta Resource Management Fires Burn Plan come about?

Well, the fire reconciliation journey in the Saskatchewan River Delta started when Solomon and Renée Carrière attended the 2016 Wildland Fire Conference in Kelowna, British Columbia. During the conference, opportunities for wildfire exchange (knowledge sharing) occurred which resulted in the Carrières meeting Larry Fremont (a wildfire education and prevention coordinator with the Government of Saskatchewan). Renée commented to Larry that there was an educational gap in high school-level skills development and training in wildland fire response, particularly in northern Saskatchewan. Larry acknowledged Renée’s observations and from there, he provided the Carrières with connections to the University of Saskatchewan to further explore this educational gap. These relationships transformed into building partnerships in 2017 between the Carrières and the University of Saskatchewan which commenced the “Muskrats Project”—conducting research in the use of fire as an Indigenous-led land management tool and exploring the corresponding outcomes of using fire on the land. The study assisted researchers, orders of government, curriculum developers and science teachers in bridging the gap between Indigenous Science and Western Science. Findings from the “Muskrats Project” identified that a long-term local Indigenous-led fire prescription needed to be developed to revitalize Indigenous-led land management and habitat restoration in the Saskatchewan River Delta.

In 2019, the Carrières met Chris Dallyn (fire science specialist, Government of Saskatchewan) while requesting an Indigenous-led fire prescription for the Saskatchewan River Delta. The fire prescription process evolved from burning Ben Lake, Hill Island Lake to Cook Lake and Stump Lake in the Saskatchewan River Delta. To support the fire prescription being Indigenous-led and informed, a Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) team was formed that same year. The TEK team is comprised of local Indigenous Elders and fire practitioners who aid in ongoing discussions, prioritizing and monitoring of the Saskatchewan River Delta Indigenous-led fire prescription. From 2019 to present, the Carrières, Chris Dallyn (on behalf of the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency) and fur trappers from N-28 and N-90 fur blocks in the Saskatchewan River Delta have been working together on a six-year local Indigenous-led fire prescription (includes digital map design and preparation): burning off phragmites in over 10,000 hectares of the Saskatchewan River Delta to increase a variety of vegetation (for example, sweet flag, swamp horsetail, mare’s tail, common scouring rush, small-fruited bulrush, cattail, awned sedge, cow’s parsnip, wild mint and red willow) for wildlife habitat restoration—from muskrats to moose. Through the braiding of Indigenous-led fire practices and settler and state-led fire management, positive and ongoing partnerships are continuing in the Saskatchewan River Delta to revitalize and strengthen uses of fire on the land.

In addition to the Cumberland Delta Resource Management Fires Burn Plan, a post-burn reporting template (Resource Management Fire Post-Burn Report) was created for current and future Indigenous-led fire prescriptions supporting evaluation and fire effects monitoring for an Indigenous-led burn.

The story of the Cumberland Delta Resource Management Fires Burn Plan highlights the importance of the themes explored in the We are Fire Toolkit—from recognizing rightsholders in their uses of fire on the land to working with allies and braiding of Indigenous Science and Western Science together in fire stewardship and management in the Saskatchewan River Delta.

Other areas for consideration when reporting on your Indigenous-led fire prescription …

  • Work with the “host” communities who are coordinating and conducting the Indigenous-led fire prescription to document other burns taking place in and around the burn area during the events.

Celebration

Let’s not overlook celebration as part of the journey of Indigenous-led uses of fire on the land.

Indigenous-led fire stewardship involves the demonstration of cultural revitalization, resurgence and self-determination on the land. Take time to celebrate Indigenous Peoples, their communities and relationship-building with allies.

Sharing, reflecting, learning and documenting ways of knowing and lived experiences in returning, continuing, expanding or supporting Indigenous-led fire practices on the land is a journey rather than a final destination.

So, creating a safer place to celebrate cultural practices, ways of life, language and, ultimately, the identities and resilience of Indigenous Peoples and communities is an important dimension of reporting on an Indigenous-led fire prescription.

Here are some ways you may wish to celebrate implementing an Indigenous-led fire prescription on a specific site or multiple sites:

  • Encourage your group or community leadership to attend the Indigenous-led fire prescription event(s).
  • Display artwork about the Indigenous-led fire prescription event(s) in your group or community’s gathering space(s).