Indigenous-Led Uses of Fire on the Land

Ché Highway Illustration

Uses of fire on the land

Each summer me and my family go to our cabin up north, a half-hour Beaver plane ride up the river from Pelican Narrows, Saskatchewan. This is where our home is: Iskwatam Lake.

This drawing is a demonstration of the inevitable cycle of mother nature.

Fire is often associated with chaos and destruction, strewn through media and conversation.

In my eyes, fire is a part of everyday life. It grows and spreads like any city on earth.

Fire is a creation of a small spark, needing nutrition and resources like each and every organism in existence.

The animals don’t necessarily pose as “saviours,” rather they pose as members of an ecosystem, attempting to bring their own homes at ease with the tools they are given—similar to how we scare off dangers from our families.

Ché made this artwork with IbisPaint, a digital drawing program.

Illustration courtesy Ché Highway.

Indigenous Peoples tend to focus on cultural revitalization, habitat restoration, FireSmart principles and wildfire resilience when using fire on the land. Some of these areas of focus are

  • cultural and language revitalization, for example, use of Indigenous Ecological Knowledge;
  • invasive plant species removal;
  • food and medicinal plant access and gathering;
  • forest product access, for example, firewood collection, log home building, wood art production;
  • fuel and fuel hazard reduction;
  • habitat enhancement, for example, harvesting, hunting, traditional art production and trapping;
  • pest reduction, for example, reducing wood ticks;
  • increasing forage for wildlife;
  • regrowth of plant species that are healthy for wildlife; and
  • trail clearing and access.

For more information about Indigenous-led uses of fire on the land, check out the following 2022 article: Centering Indigenous voices: The role of fire in the boreal forest of North America.

For many Indigenous Peoples and communities, using fire is viewed as a spiritual responsibility to the land that fulfils land stewardship responsibilities and promotes renewal.

We all need to be more respectful of the land, and that includes using fire. We need to be reminded that it is a blessing all the things we get from the land. Giving back is being respectful.

kakinow kaki kistēnitamāk askīy, ēkwa ka itapatāk iskotēw. ka kiskisōmikayak ē-sawēnītākosiwāk kakinow kāmēnikōsāk askīk ōci. ka wīcitak ēkosi anima kisēwatisiwin.
Listen to Cree

-Donald Fiddler (Cree)