Erasing Native fires

You might remember a couple of entries in a Brainfood from back in February.

I only vaguely did, but enough to ring a bell when I happened across a full-throated take-down of that first article a few days ago. The question is to what extent Indigenous Peoples used fire to manage landscapes before European colonization of what is now New England.

If the answer is “not much” — as that first paper suggests, but the second denies — then conservation interventions involving “chainsaws, cattle and sheep grazing, and hay production, rather than fire” might be justified. So it’s not just an argument about the past, but also about what’s best today. The recent rebuttal suggests that the methods used to arrive at that “not much” conclusion were deeply flawed, and resulted in what amounts to “erasure” of Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous Peoples.

Most problematically, they ignore Indigenous sources that describe modifications of the environment, including but not limited to burning, in and near Native settlements and agricultural fields and along the interlaced trails and travel corridors where people sustained economic relationships and kinship networks.

I imagine the fiery debate will continue.

One Reply to “Erasing Native fires”

  1. I got the boot into conservationists’ approaches to tropical forest management in 1995.

    Wood, D. (1995). Conserved to death: Are tropical forests being over- protected from people? Land Use Policy, 12(2), 115–135.

    It seems nothing has changed: conservationists fighting for more cash to stop traditional forest management.

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