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2021: Solomon Carrière describes why Indigenous fire practices must be honoured in the Saskatchewan River Delta.

When you treated the land with fire, you had all kinds of wildlife. Now, not even sunlight can get into the lakes as there are too many weeds and roots in the way.

kapamitak askīy iskotēw ōci, mistī pisisiwak itawāk. anōc, apo pīsim mwāc kī-cākāsikēw atamēk sakahikānēk ōsam mistī macipakwa ēkwa astākanaskwa kīpastēwa.
Listen to Cree

-Durwin McKenzie (Cree)

Indigenous Peoples have used fire on the land as a lifestyle and as a form of regenerative land management since time immemorial.

Regenerative land management involves communities, organizations and practitioners applying fire to the land to achieve certain objectives. These objectives may be 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.

Settler and state-led fire management, particularly the use of prescribed fire, have roots in both Indigenous-led fire practices and Western Science. Burn operations used in wildfire suppression also have roots in Indigenous-led fire practices, for example, the use of fire to stop, steer, direct and manage fire by applying natural landscape features to “anchor” the operations.

However, since our ancestors used Indigenous-led fire practices, there have been many changes on the land caused by wildfire suppression, climate change and its growing impacts, contemporary forest management,[1] population growth and invasive species. As a result, the fuel load is very high, and it will be difficult to re-introduce any Indigenous-led fire practices without complex community planning and guidance from our Elders and Indigenous fire practitioners in Indigenous communities and surrounding areas.

You are invited to explore ways to apply Indigenous-led fire practices and settler and state-led fire management by using the strengths of these ways of knowing to support community protection, ecosystem stewardship, habitat restoration, climate change adaptation planning and regenerative land management.

[1]Timber industry prescribes planting to yield a 2-3 species mix and replicate the species composition of the pre-existing stand.