The following shared understandings inform the We Are Fire Toolkit:
Indigenous Peoples and Communities across Canada are Rightsholders not Stakeholders
Indigenous Peoples and communities across Canada are not “stakeholders”; we are rightsholders.
From a social justice and human rights perspective, rightsholders are individuals and groups that can make legitimate claim to their treaty rights.
In the spirit of self-determination, Indigenous Peoples have inherent rights, and there is a duty to consult Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
This duty to consult means governments must recognize Indigenous leadership in decision-making on uses of fire. It is a legal obligation to consult with Indigenous communities when there is potential for government departments and government mandated organizations’ actions or decisions to affect an Indigenous person’s Aboriginal title and inherent rights. The duty to consult has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada.
We must create processes to empower our Peoples and communities to engage our partners across various orders of government (regional, provincial/territorial and federal levels) in Indigenous-led uses of fire.
For our partners, this means working in a mutually respectful way to explore effective Indigenous-led fire practices and related decision-making models.
The act of “braiding” is not simply about integrating Indigenous approaches into existing colonial structures and systems. Rather, this metaphor is about the transformation of those structures and systems, and it describes how Indigenous and non-Indigenous (or Western) ways of knowing can be used in a mutually respectful and reciprocal way.
In the We Are Fire Toolkit, strands of a braid are woven together: (1) Indigenous Science (Indigenous-led fire practices), (2) Western Science (Settler and State-led fire management) and (3) expressive arts (the role of art in depicting uses of fire on the land and fire stewardship through graphic design, infographics and youth artwork).
Excerpt from Knowing Home: Braiding Indigenous Science with Western Science
“Braiding Indigenous Science and Western Science” is a metaphor used to establish a particular relationship, an obligation of sorts to give, to receive, and to reciprocate. We braid cedar bark to make beautiful baskets, bracelets and blankets. When braiding hair, kindness and love can flow between the braids. Linked by braiding, there is a certain reciprocity amongst strands, all the strands hold together. Each strand remains a separate entity, a certain tension is required, but all strands come together to form the whole. When we braid Indigenous Science with Western Science, we acknowledge that both ways of knowing are legitimate forms of knowledge. For Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Knowledge (Indigenous Science) is a gift. It cannot be simply bought and sold. Certain obligations are attached. The more something is shared, the greater becomes its value (p. 3).
For more information, click on Knowing Home: Braiding Indigenous Science with Western Science.
Indigenous-led fire stewardship
Indigenous-led fire stewardship is a way of life and is not a one-time only fire event.
It is a strengths-based and rights-based pathway to recognize Indigenous self-determination in uses of fire on the land.
Indigenous-led fire stewardship requires local leadership, engagement and consultation with Indigenous communities when developing, implementing and monitoring fire stewardship activities.
This process includes the recognition of similar yet different definitions of “Indigenous-led fire practices/cultural burning/uses of fire” and “Settler and State-led fire management/prescribed burning.”
Self-determination is fundamental to all Indigenous Peoples. This right was taken away during colonization but is now being regained through cultural revitalization. We recognize Aboriginal title and inherent rights in the diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis lands across what is now called Canada. Legal decisions on Aboriginal title and inherent rights are creating ways for some Indigenous communities in Canada to advance self-determination through leading, developing and implementing land-based programs. This process of advancing self-determination includes the journey of Indigenous-led uses of fire on the land.
This approach recognizes the unique rights, interests and contexts for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples across Canada.
It is important to acknowledge that there is great diversity among Indigenous Peoples and communities in terms of languages, ways of life, histories, values and practices. Therefore, if and where possible, a distinctions-based approach was used in co-developing the We Are Fire Toolkit.
You are invited to apply a distinctions-based approach in your understanding of key topics covered on this website and any actions taken in using Indigenous-led fire practices and Settler and State-led fire management on the land—in this case, the Saskatchewan River Delta in Saskatchewan (Canada).
Therefore, representation and adaptability of all of the resources, supports and wise practices presented on this website may vary based on geography, customs, languages, practices and protocols relative to community connections and family lineages.
It is also important to note that literature, wise practices and resources in Indigenous-led fire stewardship are focused on perspectives, ways of knowing and experiences of First Nations and Métis Peoples and their communities in Canada.
Learning modes and expressive arts
Communities and cultures learn in many different ways.
The Muskrats to Moose Project Team uses a combination of visual, written and auditory learning modes to share knowledge about uses of fire on the land and habitat restoration practices.
Expressive arts are just as important as written and oral forms of knowledge sharing. So, we included art, graphic design images, infographics, photography and videography in the Toolkit.
Life stories and lived experiences
Throughout the Toolkit, we share stories and lived experiences based on interview sessions in 2021 co-led by Solomon and Renée Carrière (Muskrats to Moose Project Team Members).
We share highlights from interview participants’ life stories and experiences about Indigenous-led uses of fire in the Saskatchewan River Delta.
These highlights explore holistic values such as land values, wildlife values, livelihood values, cultural values, spiritual values, emotional values and mental values associated with Indigenous-led fire practices and settler and state-led fire management.
Living history, truth and reconciliation
While exploring Indigenous-led uses of fire and their holistic values on the land, it is important to acknowledge the living history and truth about the effects and implications of colonial structures and systems of laws and policies on Indigenous Peoples, their families and their communities. Those structures and systems as well as the politics of fire have impacted their relationships with their lands, livelihoods, cultural identity and ways of life, as well as their land, resource and wildlife habitat planning and management.
Learning and listening to ways of knowing across the generations
In understanding Indigenous-led uses of fire on the land, it is important to recognize ways of knowing across the generations (from Youth to Elders) in terms of shaping, influencing and advocating for the revitalization of Indigenous-led fire practices alongside settler and state-led fire management in the Saskatchewan River Delta.
In the Toolkit, voices of Elders, Indigenous fire practitioners and non-Indigenous allies are reflected in wise practices, resources and interview highlights.
Youth in northern Saskatchewan (Canada) also contributed to the Toolkit by using expressive arts as a way of sharing knowledge about uses of fire and fire stewardship in the Saskatchewan River Delta.
The journey of Indigenous-led uses of fire on the land means identifying ways for Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups and communities to work in a mutually respectful and reciprocal manner within and across lands, particularly relating to Indigenous-led fire stewardship in and around the Saskatchewan River Delta. This involves the practice of allyship.
Click on the Key Terms to find out more about key words and phrases associated with Indigenous-led fire practices and settler and state-led fire management in the Saskatchewan River Delta.