In Pursuit of Logic: Part I of IV
The call by non-Indigenous people to incorporate a romanticized, stereotyped version of Native American fire use is a thinly veiled attempt to appropriate Native culture for the same reason colonial powers have done so in the past — for self-interest or financial gain.
In this case, to increase habitat clearance projects and logging operations under the guise of controlling wildfires.
The false “cultural burning was able to prevent large wildfires” narrative, promoted by U.S. Forest Service scientists and others who profit from government wildfire grants, has also had the effect of demonizing nature. Rich, dense vegetation is no longer habitat but, rather, “fuel” that must be removed.
This is not just contrary to logic and science but is a threat to wilderness.
The reality, based on multiple studies, is that Indigenous fire was used on a local basis. Most of those places are now under concrete, not miles away in the wildlands that Indigenous people knew so well — wildlands that have yet to be destroyed by us.
The above is our letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times that was published today in response to an op-ed this past Sunday (7/31/2022)* that promoted prescribed fire in the name of Native Americans. Below is the email we sent directly to the authors of the op-ed, expanding our points further.
Dear Drs. Don Hankins, Scott Stephens, and Ms. Sara A. Clark,
As you are aware, Indigenous fire use is being promoted far in excess and extent to what ever occurred historically. In the name of Native Americans, fire is being applied in plant communities that are already threatened by too much fire, such as chaparral and coastal sage scrub (Scott, this is an issue you have addressed in your own research). And Indigenous Peoples of California, who historically created one of the greatest diversity of cultures on earth, are being lumped together as a simplistic, homogeneous mass that used fire in the same way, everywhere.
We urge you to make mention of these points when you promote Indigenous fire use – points you failed to make in your op-ed on Sunday. Otherwise, California’s native habitats will continue to be compromised and Native Californian culture will be dishonored as has occurred so many times in the past by our species’ greatest liability – hubris.
The Endangered Habitats League and we also addressed these issues in our letters to the editor today in response to your op-ed.
The California Chaparral Institute
Further discussion of Indigenous fire use, with linked research, can be found on our website here: https://californiachaparral.org/fire/native-americans/
*If you can not access the LA Times op-ed we are addressing, please send us a private email to nature(at)californiachaparral.org and we’ll send you a copy.
Next week’s topic in pursuit of logic: Part II – Invasion of the Alien Brush!