Cultural Burning

Indigenous Peoples are the stewards of the land, fire is a cleanser of Mother Earth and cultural burning is a tool of the Fire Keeper. A new call to bring back the balance in the forest and the need to enhance the fire safety of communities is a much needed breath of fresh air. Revive cultural burning practices, bring back burn cycles, and restore the land so all can thrive.

Joe Gilchrist and Harry Spahan (members of the Interior Salish Fire Keepers Society)

What is Cultural Burning?

Cultural Burning is a practice that has existed since time immemorial, with traditional knowledge passed down from generation to generation. It holds different meanings for different Indigenous communities, but is often defined as the controlled application of fire on the landscape to achieve specific cultural objectives.

These burns are typically implemented at low intensity, with guidance from an Elder or Fire Knowledge Keeper, often in collaboration with inter-ministry partners. Common objectives for cultural burning include but are not limited to cultural and language preservation, fuel mitigation, food and medicinal plant revitalization, and habitat enhancement.

In many Indigenous cultures in Canada, fire is a sacred and powerful element that can help on landscapes and in ceremony.

Indigenous communities have in many ways been leading wildland fire mitigation and prevention in Canada since time immemorial, relying on local Indigenous knowledge systems. Indigenous communities have various current and emerging fire stewardship practices in support of cultural revitalization, resilience and pride, and (emergency) preparedness.

A Conversation with Fire Keepers

Filmed in Merritt BC, Rory Colwell, Fuel Management Superintendent, BC Wildfire Service, discusses the practice of cultural burning with two members of the Interior Salish Fire Keepers Society, Harry Spahan (Nlaka’pamux Nation) and Joe Gilchrist (Skeetchestn Indian Band).

Watch:
A Conversation with Fire Keepers

Learn more about Indigenous fire use:

Blazing the Trail: Celebrating Indigenous Fire Stewardship

Case Study

Owl Creek Cultural Burn

Filmed in July 2022, the Owl Creek Cultural Burn was implemented by Lil’wat Nation with support from BC Wildfire Service in Mount Currie on Lil’wat Nation Traditional Territory just outside of Pemberton, BC. The objective of the project was to introduce fire back to the landscape to try and revitalize the berry population for the benefit of the community and the grizzly bear habitat. This case study showcases the value of traditional ecological knowledge with fire stewardship and land management.

Watch:
Owl Creek Cultural Burn
Watch:
Traditional Ecological Knowledge Video Series

Traditional Ecological Knowledge Video Series

For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples have used fire to manage our landscapes. In this video series, we learn about cultural burning and the important role that fire plays in our ecosystems from different Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge experts in B.C.

The first video in this ongoing mini-series features two members of the Interior Salish Fire Keepers Society, Harry Spahan (Nlaka’pamux Nation) and Joe Gilchrist (Skeetchestn Indian Band). Topics covered include when the landscape is ready to burn and what conditions are required when burning specifically for plant revitalization.

Indigenous Cultural Burning in Shackan

This video details the cultural burn being conducted in the Spring of 2019 on Shackan band lands; it was facilitated by the First Nations’ Emergency Services Society’s Fuel Management Department and Shackan Indian Band members with assistance from the BC Wildfire Service.

Watch:
Case Study: Indigenous Cultural

The history of fire

Indigenous communities have in many ways been leading wildland fire mitigation and prevention in Canada since time immemorial.