Indigenous Fire Stewardship and Co-existing with Wildfire 

Apr 10, 2024

burnt tree after a cultural fire


Creating a space for dialogue around cultural burning practices, the Tier 1 Gathering for Indigenous Fire Stewardship emphasized the urgent need for Indigenous-led approaches to land stewardship and wildfire mitigation.

Hosted by Hlimoo Sustainable Solutions, First Nations’ Emergency Services Society (FNESS), BC First Nations Forestry Council (BCFNFC), and Simon Fraser University (SFU), with the gracious hospitality of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, this gathering was more than just a meeting—it was a rekindling of ancestral bonds and a call to action for the stewardship of our lands.

Cultural Fire vs Prescribed Fire

At the heart of our discussions was the distinction between cultural fire and prescribed fire. Cultural fire, rooted in spirituality and community, serves as a beacon of hope for restoring harmony to the land. It is a ceremony, a holistic practice that honours our ancestors and sustains future generations. In contrast, prescribed fire, lacks the spiritual connection and cultural focus.

Indigenous-led Initiatives Igniting Hope

Our ancestors, guided by traditional knowledge and a deep appreciation for the land, practiced intentional fire stewardship for generations. These cultural fires, born from ceremony and respect, nurtured biodiversity, shaped ecosystems, and sustained our communities. Yet, the flames of Indigenous fire stewardship were dimmed by colonization and government policies, leading to a devastating loss of land and culture. The suppression of cultural burns disrupted the delicate balance of our ecosystems, fuelling the devastation of modern wildfires. But amidst the ashes of destruction, a resurgence of Indigenous-led initiatives are lighting the way forward.

Our gathering echoed with stories of resilience and resistance, of Indigenous communities reclaiming their right to care for the land. From the courageous efforts of ?aq’am to protect their homes from wildfire to the innovative approaches of Boothroyd in building fire-resilient communities, Indigenous Peoples are reclaiming their role as guardians of the earth.

Yet, challenges remain. The legacy of intergenerational trauma weighs heavy on our hearts, a reminder of the wounds inflicted by colonization. But within these wounds lies the seed of resilience, the ancestral DNA of warriors and protectors. As we navigate the complexities of governance, health, and collaboration, we are guided by the wisdom of our ancestors and the spirit of reciprocity. By reclaiming our cultural practices, nurturing our youth, and fostering partnerships grounded in respect, we can find healing. In fire, we find not only destruction but also renewal, not only devastation but also hope.

Stewardship, Respect, and Reciprocity

The gathering ended reminding us of the resilience and wisdom embedded within our Indigenous cultures. By embracing Indigenous fire stewardship, we embark on a journey of healing, restoration, and coexistence with the land—a journey guided by the principles of stewardship, respect, and reciprocity. As we continue our collective efforts, let us heed the wisdom of our ancestors and walk in harmony with the land, for in healing the land, we heal ourselves.

Kukwstéc-kucw (on behalf of us all, thank you) to all who shared their stories, their wisdom, and their spirit at the tier 1 gathering.