Braiding Fire Knowledge and Practices

2022: Indigenous fire practitioners using a drip torch and fire torch.

2022: Indigenous fire practitioners using a drip torch and fire torch.

When scientists engage in culturally responsive studies and experiments, the public and politicians develop strong feelings of engagement and investment in the learning of new knowledge.

Scientists must embrace other ways of understanding the world and respect those differences for science to succeed.

-Solomon and Renée Carrière

(Muskrats to Moose Project Team Members; allies of change)

In the We Are Fire Toolkit, strands of a braid are woven together about uses of fire on the land, particularly in the Saskatchewan River Delta. These strands are Indigenous Science (Indigenous-led fire practices), Western Science (settler and state-led fire management) and expressive arts (the role of art in depicting uses of fire on the land and fire stewardship through graphic design, infographics and Youth artwork).

...

While differences exist between the Indigenous Science and Western Science paradigms, it is important to highlight the complementing strengths of sharing and acknowledging each framework.

For example, the following are principles shared between Indigenous Science and Western Science:

  • Basic relationships, patterns and cycles in the world can be properly understood by a mathematical approach;
  • Curiosity about the natural world is an essential motivation, and careful observation is an essential discipline for acquiring scientific knowledge;
  • Imagination and creativity are essential for the advancement of science, although these processes are understated in Western Science; and
  • Scientific knowledge, once gained by individuals, is contributed to the community, and appropriate technologies must be developed to meet societal needs while simultaneously protecting the environment.[1], [2]

To see the braiding of Indigenous Science and Western Science, check out this video (in Cree) about the harmonizing of Indigenous wetland management practices and ways of knowing with Western Science methods in the Saskatchewan River Delta.

Ethical Practices in Braiding Indigenous Science and Western Science

Individuals, groups and organizations who are interested in braiding Indigenous Science and Western Science in uses of fire on the land need to ensure that they are using ethical practices and values to avoid cultural appropriation.

2022: Braiding Indigenous Science and Western Science in uses of fire on the land.

2022: Braiding Indigenous Science and Western Science in uses of fire on the land.

Here are some ways to engage in ethical braiding of Indigenous Science and Western Science in uses of fire on the land:

  • Introduce governance processes that treat Indigenous Ecological Knowledge systems as equal to Western Science to correct power imbalances, which will hopefully make “tokenism” less common and provide a meaningful role for true collaboration rather than the tendency to acquire knowledge without true, meaningful engagement.[3]
  • Acknowledge that we need each other and must engage in a co-learning journey.
  • View “science” in an inclusive way.
  • Take action (rather than “just talk”) in a creative, grow forward way.
  • Become able to put our values, actions and ways of knowing in front of us, like an object, for examination and discussion.
  • Use visuals and hands-on practical experiences.
  • Weave back and forth between Indigenous Science and Western Science worldviews.
  • Develop an advisory council of willing, knowledgeable rightsholders and stakeholders, drawing upon individuals both from within Indigenous communities and non-Indigenous settings.[4]

What is Etuaptmumk/Two-Eyed Seeing?

Mi’kmaw Nation Elder Albert Marshall specifies that Etuaptmumk/Two-Eyed Seeing is the gift of multiple perspectives treasured by many Indigenous Peoples.

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.[5], [6]

Etuaptmumk/Two-Eyed Seeing supports an important shift in dialogue and reconciliation about integrative, cross-cultural and collaborative work between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.[7]

Therefore, Etuaptmumk/Two-Eyed Seeing can be applied to uses of fire on the land where the strengths and braiding of Indigenous Science and Western Science (as two ways of knowing) can help us gain a better, more holistic and stronger understanding of uses of fire on the land.

Overall, ethical practices in braiding Indigenous Science and Western Science in a good way is about what goes into true, meaningful engagement—coming to the table to co-develop something (from start to finish), with respect, collaboration and an open mind free of preconceived notions, ideas or workplans for a burn project or program.[8], [9], [10]

Braiding Indigenous Science and Western Science in a good way also means shifting power (authority) so Indigenous Peoples and communities have a larger, stronger role in collaborative projects on uses of fire on the land. This braiding makes the power dynamic more or less equal (rather than an order of government or agency holding all of the power).[11], [12]

Call to Action: Braiding Indigenous Science and Western Science

Our school children of today need to be engaged in local, national, and global water and land issues that include other ways of seeing the world, if they are to create new knowledge and new policy for all water and land stakeholders.

Our children both Indigenous and non-Indigenous will be the lawyers, hydrologists, geologists, historians, and policy makers of the future; thus, traditional resource users' knowledge must be included in the dialogue.

-Solomon and Renée Carrière

(Muskrats to Moose Project Team Members; allies of change)

[1]Bartlett, C. M., Marshall, M., & Marshall, A. (2007). Integrative science: Enabling concepts within a journey guided by trees holding hands and two-eyed Seeing. Two-Eyed Seeing Knowledge Sharing Series, Manuscript No. 1, Institute for Integrative Science & Health (www.integrativescience.ca).

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

[3]Hoffman, K. M., Christianson, A. C., Dickson-Hoyle, S., Copes-Gerbitz, K., Nikolakis, W., Diabo, D. A., McLeod, R., Michell, H. J., Mamun, A., Zahara, A., Mauro, N., Gilchrist, J., Myers Ross, R. & Daniels, L. D. (2022). The right to burn: Barriers and opportunities for Indigenous-led fire stewardship in Canada. FACETS, 7, 464–481.

[4]Marks-Block, T., & Tripp, W. (2021). Facilitating prescribed fire in northern California through Indigenous Governance and interagency partnerships. Fire4(3), 37. MDPI AG. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/fire4030037

[5]http://www.integrativescience.ca/Principles/TwoEyedSeeing/

[6]Rowett, J. (2018). Two-eyed seeing: A research approach and a way of living. Antistasis, 8(1). https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/antistasis/article/view/25740

[7]Bartlett, C., Marshall, M., & Marshall, A. (2012). Two-eyed seeing and other lessons learned within a co-learning journey of bringing together Indigenous and mainstream knowledges and ways of knowing. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences2(4). 331–340.

[8]Hoffman et al. (2022).

[9]Marks-Block, T., & Tripp, W. (2021).

[10]Bartlett et al. (2012).

[11]Hoffman et al. (2022).

[12]Marks-Block, T., & Tripp, W. (2021).