Key Terms

The following are key terms used in the We Are Fire Toolkit that are consistent and accurate in their definitions and descriptions as of March 2023.

We recognize that knowledge evolves and as such, terms used in this Toolkit may change over time.

If and where appropriate, Cree translation in the local Swampy Cree dialect is provided in written and audio formats as accurately as possible.

To hear the Cree translation of select words, click on the specific key term.


Abduction is a type of reasoning where an observation (or set of observations) are made, and then one seeks the simplest and most likely conclusion from the observation.

Aboriginal People

Defined in the 1982 Constitution Act of Canada, Aboriginal refers to all Peoples of Indian (Status and Non-Status Indians), Inuit and Métis heritage. Aboriginal Peoples are Indigenous Peoples who have lived in Canada since time immemorial.

Aboriginal rights

These are fundamental collective and communal rights, for example, practices, traditions and customs, which flow from Aboriginal Peoples’ continued use and occupation of certain areas. Aboriginal Peoples have practiced and enjoyed these fact- and site-specific rights since before European contact.[1]

Aboriginal title (also known as inherent rights)

This phrase refers to the fundamental Aboriginal right to the use and occupation of land or a territory.[2]


An agreement is any written contract between an Indigenous community or organization and another party or parties, including the federal government, the provincial government, local government or a third party.


Allies seek to understand and have empathy for individuals and groups who experience discrimination and oppression through active listening and acknowledgement of their lived experiences. Allies seek to promote and empower but not to speak for marginalized individuals and groups. Allies are committed to action to correct injustices and promote balance through respect, cultural humility and inclusion.[3]


Allyship means a person in a position of privilege and power seeks to operate in solidarity with marginalized groups. It is an active, consistent and challenging practice of unlearning and re-evaluating beliefs and assumptions.[4]


Based on the 2016 work of Drs. Gloria Snively and Wanosts’a7 Lorna Williams in the book Knowing Home: Braiding Indigenous Science with Western Science, this metaphor describes how Indigenous and non-Indigenous, for example, Western ways of knowing can be used in a mutually respectful and reciprocal manner. The act of “braiding” is not simply about integrating Indigenous approaches into existing colonial structures and systems. Instead, it is about the transformation of structures and systems. 

Capacity building

Capacity building is the process of developing knowledge, skills and abilities to empower Indigenous Peoples to participate in any or all aspects of decision-making in their communities, regions, provinces, territories and country.  

Climate change

Changes in the Earth’s physical systems occur over an extended period of time; climate change refers to changes resulting from warming caused by increased greenhouse gas emissions.


Colonization is the deliberate attempt by Canadian governments to destroy Indigenous institutions of family, spiritual belief systems, customs and cultural ways of life through enacted and enforced legal sanctions. Examples of colonization include the residential school system, the Indian Act and removal of Indigenous communities from their traditional territories.

Community of practice

A community of practice is a group of people who share a common concern or interest for a given issue or topic and collectively learn how to address the issue or topic in an effective manner. The group interacts regularly and is often made up of individuals who share a common profession. The community of practice model reflects the importance of the social dimensions of human learning and interpersonal communications.


The Crown is made up of all provincial and federal government departments, ministries and agencies, including all government employees who carry out work on behalf of government. 

Cultural safety

Based on the work of Elaine Papps, Irihapeti Ramsden and Māori experiences in the health-care system, cultural safety is a way of being created by a trusting and respectful environment. It involves the transformation of relationships by exploring and challenging power dynamics in institutions, policies and practices.[5]

Cultural values - Holistic values

The sharing of Indigenous burning practices may lead to individuals, groups and organizations becoming allies of change.


Decolonization is the process of undoing colonizing practices. It means confronting and challenging colonizing practices that have influenced natural resource management, land management and uses of fire on the land in the past and which are still present today. This process often involves the return of Indigenous lands and to Indigenous ways of life.[6]


Deduction is a type of reasoning where you make assumptions by starting with a general idea and then make specific conclusions.

Ecosystem stewardship

Land use planning and management decision-making that is culturally relevant to Indigenous communities reflects their unique connection with land and resources and is congruent with their inherent responsibility to care for the land, water, air, people, animals and fish in a manner consistent with their holistic values. Ecosystem stewardship ensures the protection, maintenance and restoration of biological diversity, at all spatial and temporal scales. It recognizes the relationships between ecosystems, cultures and economies.


Elders are First Nations, Inuit or Métis individuals who make a life commitment to the well-being of their community and Peoples.

Emergency management

Emergency management is planning that ensures a community’s capacity to deal with emergencies and structural and wildland fires.

Emotional values - Holistic values

The practice of using fire can transform sadness and stress into a strong, generous place and thriving people.

Etuaptmumk/Two-Eyed Seeing

Introduced by Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall circa 2004, Etuaptmumk/Two-Eyed Seeing refers to “learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledges and ways of knowing ... and learning to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all.”[7] Elder Marshall indicates that Etuaptmumk/Two-Eyed Seeing is the gift of multiple perspectives treasured by many Indigenous Peoples. It is a foundational principle of collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples and worldviews.[8], [9]



[9]Rowett, J. (2018). Two-eyed seeing: A research approach and a way of living. Antistasis, 8(1).


Fauna are the animals of a particular region, habitat or geological period.

Fire-dependent communities or culture

This group or society of people has a high degree of dependence on fire to promote and create lands that support their economies and livelihoods and contribute to the creation and maintenance of ecosystem stewardship planning.

Fire effects monitoring

Fire effects monitoring are observations and data collection procedures that aid managers to evaluate whether fire is meeting management objectives and to adjust treatment prescriptions. It proves cause and effect and helps managers assess long-term change in managed areas.[10] Overall, fire effects monitoring supports continuous improvement in Indigenous-led fire practices and settler state-led fire management programs.

First Nations People

First Nations People are the First Peoples of Canada, both Status and Non-Status. Status or registered Indians are registered according to the Indian Act and members of a band, also known as a First Nations community. Status Indians have a treaty right to supports and related services (for example, housing assistance and financial assistance for post-secondary education) from Indigenous Services Canada. Non-Status Indians are not recognized as Indians under the Indian Act. Over 600 First Nations communities in Canada represent more than 50 Nations and language groups.


Flora is the collective plants of a particular region, habitat or geological period.

Fur blocks

These blocks are designated areas for licensed trappers to selectively harvest wild animals. Fur blocks support trappers to coordinate their harvesting activities and reduce any conflicts with third parties such as non-Indigenous commercial entities.[11]


For the purpose of an Indigenous-led fire prescription, goals are generally long-term outcomes for what Indigenous groups or communities want to achieve with their fire prescriptions and broader Indigenous-led fire stewardship programs.


Governance is the act of governing or controlling something, for example an organization, a society or a country. Governance includes how decisions are made and who is accountable for those decisions. Principles of governance can be applied to any group—from communities and not-for-profit organizations to the United Nations. So, the scope of governance can vary widely from local to global collectives. Governance involves making and acting upon decisions on behalf of a group, community or organization.

Habitat restoration

Habitat restoration ensures the protection, maintenance and renewal of biological diversity across space and time. It involves returning species, interactions among them and their food, nutrients, water, shelter and space to sustainable and often historical levels. Habitat restoration recognizes the relationships between ecosystems, cultures and economies—ensuring the co-existence of healthy, fully functioning ecosystems and human communities.

Holistic values

Holistic values describe an individual, group or community’s main beliefs, basic assumptions and standards of behaviour. In relation to Indigenous-led fire stewardship, holistic values include cultural values, land values, livelihood values, mental values, spiritual values and wildlife values. They are based on the following principles: one only takes what one needs from the environment to live, and everyone and everything is equal and not to be left out.

Human factors

These environmental, organizational and human characteristics influence behaviour in society and the natural environment, for example, technology, population density, cultures, customs and traditions.  


“The term ‘Indigenous’ is a self-declared term and is not government imposed. It is widely accepted around the world and is used in international human rights instruments such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). This term also has positive associations with self-determination and encompasses a wide variety of Indigenous groups.” [12]

[12]Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. (2023). Indigenous Peoples: A guide to terminology - usage tips and definitions. Author.

Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK)

Also known as Traditional Knowledge or Traditional Ecological Knowledge, IEK is local and culturally specific knowledge that Indigenous Peoples gain through generations of social, physical and spiritual understanding of the world and associated lived experiences. IEK is unique to a given culture, location or society. As it relates to fire, IEK focuses on fire-related knowledge, beliefs and practices that Elders and Indigenous fire practitioners have developed and applied on lands for specific purposes. The Convention on Biological Diversity has a full definition of IEK on their website. [13]

Indigenous fire practitioners

Indigenous fire practitioners know about fire stewardship and have related culturally significant knowledge. For example, an Indigenous fire practitioner may be an Indigenous person who has extensive historical memory of the uses of fire such as what, when and where to burn using slash and burn preparation for planting or forest and plant revitalization.

Note: We recognize that there are hundreds of Indigenous communities in Canada, and each has diverse ways to integrate fire into their respective communities. Therefore, we further acknowledge terms (including titles and accompanying roles) that are used to identify important community roles around fire may vary across Indigenous communities and geographic regions in Canada. There may be cases where there are no formal community role(s) in relation to fire.

Indigenous-led fire practices

Indigenous-led fire practices involve the use of fire on the land to achieve specific cultural objectives, for example, sustaining diverse animal life and plants that serve as food or medicine. These practices are holistic and typically lead to low-intensity, small-scale burns that meet community objectives. Indigenous-led fire practices are community-driven and involve comprehensive engagement and guidance from Elders or Indigenous fire practitioners, often in partnership with interagency collaborators such as wildfire management agencies and local structural fire departments. 

Indigenous-led fire prescription

An Indigenous-led fire prescription is the plan to implement Indigenous fire practices either exclusively or in harmony with settler and state-led fire management to support holistic values on a specific site, for example, the Saskatchewan River Delta. An Indigenous-led fire prescription centers on cultural objectives which include community protection, ecosystem stewardship, habitat restoration, climate change adaptation planning and management. The prescription is family centered and driven by Indigenous knowledge about the time to burn and techniques for burning. Also, it reflects Indigenous Peoples’ unique connections with people, identity, land, resources and place which are in harmony with inherent responsibilities to care for the land, water, air, people, animals and fish in a manner consistent with holistic values.

Indigenous-led fire stewardship

Indigenous-led fire stewardship is a strengths-based, rights-based and complementary pathway to recognize Indigenous self-determination in uses of fire on the land. It “enhances ecosystem diversity, assists with the management of complex resources and reduces wildfire risk by lessening fuel loads.”[14] Indigenous-led fire stewardship needs local leadership, engagement and consultation with Indigenous communities when developing, implementing and monitoring activities. It is for, by and about Indigenous Peoples and communities. 

[14]The right to burn: Barriers and opportunities for Indigenous-led fire stewardship in Canada, p. 464. The right to burn: Barriers and opportunities for Indigenous-led fire stewardship in Canada.

Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous Peoples are recognized through a process of self-identification, historical continuity, strong links to ancestral territories and surrounding natural resources, and distinct cultural, social, economic and political systems.[15] Indigenous Peoples have diverse histories, languages, beliefs and traditional practices.

[15]United Nations (n.d.). Who are Indigenous Peoples? United Nations.

Indigenous Science

Indigenous Science is a philosophical process by which Indigenous Peoples build their experiential knowledge of the natural environment/land in relation to the larger social and human context (such as communities and well-being); apply theories of knowledge about the nature of the world; and employ metaphor for a wide range of Indigenous-based processes of perceiving, thinking and acting that have evolved through human experience with the natural world.[16] ,[17]

[16]Cajete, G. (1999). Igniting the sparkle: An Indigenous Science education model. Kivaki Press.

[17]Cajete, G. (2000). Native Science: Natural laws of interdependence. Clear Light. p. ix.


Induction is a type of reasoning in which a general idea is derived making broad generalizations based on specific observations. 


The Inuit are Indigenous Peoples from Arctic Canada, particularly though not exclusively residing in Inuit Nunangat: Inuvialuit (Northwest Territories), Nunatsiavut (northern coastal Labrador), Nunavik (northern Quebec) and Nunavut. These geographic areas comprise approximately 40% of Canada’s total land mass.


Pronounced IS-KŌ-TĒW, Iskotêw it is a Cree word (Swampy Cree dialect) for fire. 


A jurisdiction is a law-making authority.


Pronounced [KI-NI-SI-TO-TEN], kinisitotēn it is a Cree term (Swampy Cree dialect) meaning the information and knowledge passed on about a specific topic, for example, Indigenous-led uses of fire on the land. It also asks the question, Do you understand the topic to the point that you can carry out this activity on your own and can you now teach others? Kinistoten is a learning journey that can happen quickly or over a person’s lifetime.

Knowledge Carriers

Knowledge Carriers are First Nations, Inuit or Métis individuals who are recognized by their respective communities for the sharing of their culturally significant knowledge and Indigenous worldviews.

Knowledge product

A knowledge product is something that facilitates effective action(s) by rightsholders, stakeholders and decision-makers.

Land-based learning (Land-based education)

Land-based learning emphasizes local heritage, cultures, land and experiences as foundations to a given curriculum. Learning takes place onsite in the community and on the land; focuses on local area themes, systems and context; is personally relevant to the learners; contributes to the community’s resiliency based on the given curriculum topics being explored; is supported by partnerships, for example, local organizations, agencies, orders of government and businesses; is interdisciplinary; is tailored to the local learners and communities; and recognizes the importance of linking land, people, place and identity throughout the learning journey. 

Land values - Holistic values

A place of ethics, knowledge and skills is where plants, animals and people call marshes, lakes and rivers home.


English Common law focuses on rules of behaviour established by courts and legislation. Enforced by government, those rules define the minimum standards of individual and community conduct and behaviour that society will tolerate. English Common law is created by legislature and courts; governs citizens (local, provincial, federal); represents minimum standards; and enacts penalties in the form of fines and jail. In contrast, Indigenous law is often comprised of sacred law (for example, origin stories); natural law (relationships to place, land and broader natural world); deliberative law (for example, talking circles, council meetings, gatherings); positivistic law (for example, teachings, protocols); and customary laws (for example, family relationships, land claim agreements). [18]

Livelihood values - Holistic values

Fire is a means of securing and sharing the necessities of life ranging from muskrats to moose, fur to fin and root to flower.

Living history

Living history means that we are collectively rewriting history by speaking truth to colonization.

Management objectives

These objectives are concise time-specific statements that outline holistic values about uses of fire on a specific site. The holistic values are determined by an Indigenous group or community and aid in deciding what an Indigenous-led fire prescription is to achieve to be considered successful.

Meaningful engagement

Meaningful engagement is a willingness and ability to provide opportunities for Indigenous Peoples or communities to actively take part in policy and decision-making processes that are balanced in terms of sharing power and influence.[19] At times, definitions of terms such as “meaningfulness” and “meaningful engagement” and putting these terms into practice have been confused with similar forms of participation in policy development and decision-making such as “information sharing” and “consultation.”[20]

Mental values - Holistic values

The ability to balance and practice the good life in reciprocity with the land creates new knowledge.

Métis People

Métis People are individuals of historic Métis ancestry—specifically, individuals who have historical lineage rooted in west central North America. Métis People were important players in shaping Canada, particularly western Canada. The languages spoken by Métis People include Michif and Cree.

Migration staging area (or stopover)

This area is a specific place where migratory birds stop to rest, drink and eat. 

Ownership, control, access, possession (OCAP) principles

OCAP principles are First Nations standards in the collection, protection, utilization and sharing of data when conducting research with First Nations.[21]

[21]For more information about OCAP principles, visit


A partnership is the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations. Partnerships can be used to influence the control of capital as well as to forge connections and share expertise that lead to common goals and opportunities.[22]

[22]Blackman J. (2017). Research Indigenous partnerships: An assessment of corporate Indigenous relations. Indigenous Works.


A policy is a set of ideas or a plan of action used as a basis for making decisions. A policy describes how legislation may be achieved; a course of action, for example, benchmarks or discussion of activities, to achieve a given legislated outcome; a principle or protocol used to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes; or a statement of intent. A policy is implemented as a procedure or protocol.

Prescribed burning

Prescribed burning or fire is agency-driven with its main objectives focused on reducing and managing forest fuels; maintaining a certain forest state; improving the health of native grassland and regenerating decadent aspen stands in parks; maintaining grazing meadows for elk and deer; supporting fuel management; and reducing wildfire risks. Prescribed burning is the knowledgeable application and practice of lighting fires to a specific unit of land to meet predetermined management objectives. These fires are managed to minimize the emission of smoke and maximize the benefits to the site.

Prescribed burning often has different objectives from Indigenous-led fire practices which involve multiple resource management values. For example, Indigenous-led fire practices might be used to clear brush away and get rid of pests while protecting homes from wildfires. Prescribed burning is often applied with greater intensity, occurs during different times and is set up differently in the planning process from Indigenous-led fire practices.


Priorities are specific themes that represent major components of a policy or program.


A program is an organized action plan aimed at achieving a set of clear objectives. It details what type of activities and actions are to be carried out, by whom, when and how human, technical and financial resources will be used.


A project is a time-limited endeavour carried out to develop a unique service or result. The start and end date are defined in terms of scope and resources. As projects are often not part of the daily operations of an organization, project teams can be made up of people who do not typically work together, and they may be from other organizations, sectors and jurisdictions.


Protocol is an agreed upon written or unwritten rule specific to an organization. Everyone in the organization must observe protocol in the conduct of their business and related organizational activities. 

Regenerative land management

This is a form of managing lands that focuses on the renewal for all life (flora and fauna) to thrive in a given site or area. In relation to fire, it involves communities, organizations and practitioners applying fire to the land to achieve certain objectives, such as subsistence, ceremonies, biodiversity or other socio-cultural and ecological benefits while safeguarding communities from wildland fire hazards. Two of these benefits are the protection of culturally special sites and habitat restoration.


Resilience is the ability of a natural or human system to flourish and adapt to situations or environments with minimal negative effects during and after the change, hardship or crisis. Resilience emphasizes the individual, group or natural system’s ability to effectively draw on positive attributes and capabilities rather than focus on weaknesses or pathologies. 


From a social justice and human rights perspective, rightsholders are individuals and groups that can make legitimate claims to rights. Indigenous Peoples and communities across Canada are rightsholders. In the spirit of self-determination, Indigenous Peoples have inherent rights, and there is a duty to consult Indigenous Peoples in Canada. This duty means recognizing Indigenous leadership in decision-making on uses of fire and creating processes to empower our Peoples and communities to engage our partners across various orders of government 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.  

River delta

A delta is a wetland area that extends a river's mouth into a body of water into which it empties. A river delta looks like a triangle.[23]

Saskatchewan River Delta

The Saskatchewan River Delta is called kisiskāciwani-sīpiy maskēko askīy in Cree (Swampy Cree dialect). It is the seventh largest inland delta in the world. The Delta is the largest freshwater river inland delta in North America[24] at around 10,000 square kilometres. It is fed mainly by the Saskatchewan River, which gains its water from the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers—80–90% of the flow comes from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. It is home to Cumberland Lake, the largest water body in the Saskatchewan River Delta.

The Delta is a crucial habitat for a diverse range of wildlife from muskrats, fish and birds to moose. It provides a critical habitat during breeding, recording high bird numbers for a relatively small area of land. The Delta houses peatland, marshes, peat bogs, levees and sloughs. It is part of the Western boreal forest.

The Delta is home to Cree and Métis families from the Northern Village of Cumberland House and Cumberland House Cree Nation in Saskatchewan to Cedar Lake in Manitoba.

It is where Cumberland House is located—the oldest European settlement in Western Canada founded by the Hudson Bay Company circa 1774 as a fur-trading post.

The Delta is important to local residents and is part of their everyday livelihood and cultural traditions.

[24]Smith, N.D., Slingerland, R.L., Pérez-Arlucea, M., & Morozova, G.S. (1998). The 1870s avulsion of the Saskatchewan River. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 35(4). 453–466.


One who observes, measures and communicates about the environment.

Settler and State-led fire management

Settler fire management is when settlers (non-Indigenous Peoples) such as private land owners use fire. State-led fire management is a set of fire management practices led by provincial/territorial and federal agencies with the aim to manage both people and resources for the purposes and goals identified by the state. 

Spiritual values - Holistic values

Fire is used to reclaim health, as medicine for the land, through the cleansing of the body, mind, soul and land; if the land is healthy, the people will be healthy.


The Government of Saskatchewan views protection of human life and safety as the highest priority, followed by communities and major public infrastructure, commercial forest and then “other values.” When fire protection resources are stretched, decisions about which other values to protect may need to be made.

Strategic partners

Strategic partners are groups, communities or organizations that form an agreement to share resources with the mission of mutual respect, reciprocity apacītowin and success.

Strengths-based practice

Strengths-based practice respects people’s rights to self-determination and empowers people through a focus on their inherent rights to be resilient in the face of adversity.


Systems are built, natural and human networks that provide important goods and services in a community, region or jurisdiction. 


Trappers are a group of people who trap wild animals. 

Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada Calls to Action

From 2008 to 2014, the TRC documented the living history and effects of the residential school system in Canada. The TRC provided former residential school survivors with an opportunity to share their experiences during public and private meetings held across Canada. In June 2015, the Commission released a report based on these hearings, resulting in 94 calls to action. The TRC calls to action address the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP)

UNDRIP was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 13, 2007 and by Canada in 2016. This declaration establishes a comprehensive international framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the Indigenous Peoples of the world. UNDRIP elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of Indigenous Peoples.

Values at risk

The Government of Saskatchewan views protection of human life and safety as the highest priority, followed by communities and major public infrastructure, commercial forest and then “other values.” When fire protection resources are stretched, decisions between which other values to protect may need to be made. 

Vegetation management

It is the practice of removing, thinning or modifying live and dead vegetation in an area or areas, for example, managing weeds, bushes, branches and trees. The purpose of vegetation management is to reduce (i) the fuels available for fire ignitions and (ii) potential fire behaviour in areas around structures or communities, thus helping to increase the chances of protection from wildfires. 

Vulnerability (or vulnerabilities)

Vulnerability is the degree to which a system is unable to cope with adverse effects to environmental change, including climate change, climate variability and weather extremes. It is a function of both the sensitivity of the system and its adaptive capacity. A system that is sensitive to climate and has low adaptive capacity is considered vulnerable to climate change effects such as drought, wildfires and flooding. 

Whole-of-society approach

This approach means partnering with leaders and groups in a society—families, businesses, schools—to come together and understand their collective needs and determine wise practices to organize and strengthen resources and capacity in using fire on the land. 

Wildfire mitigation and risk reduction

This process includes prescribed burning and vegetation management to reduce and manage forest fuels, maintain a certain land state and reduce wildfire risks.

Wildfire prevention

Wildfire prevention involves preventing unwanted human-caused wildfires. 

Wildfire resilience

Wildfire resilience is the capability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to and recover from threats such as wildfires and drought. It is the ability to live with (co-exist) and adapt to fire on the land while reducing the negative effects of wildfires.

Wildfire suppression

This process involves putting out fires to protect lives, communities and high-value infrastructure on the land. 


Wildfires are unplanned or unwanted, natural or human-caused fires. 

Wildlife values - Holistic values

Fire is appreciated for enhancing the senses (taste, touch, smell, sound) of plants, animals and people.

Wise practices

Based on group or community strengths, wise practices are grounded in ways of knowing and experiences in Indigenous-led fire practices or Settler and State-led fire management. They may vary from one group, community or jurisdiction to the next.


A worldview is a set of principles, values and beliefs that organize a way of knowing, being and interacting in the world. Every person and society has a worldview. Worldviews influence how we locate or see ourselves in our environment.