Indigenous People's Day: Recognizing Tradition Could Provide Modern Solutions

by Shaina Hall

Indigenous People's Day: Recognizing Tradition Could Provide Modern Solutions

Today is Indigenous People's Day, where we recognize our country’s original residents. Before the murderous intrusion of Christopher Columbus and his colonial settlers, Indigenous People successfully lived by their own code, and prospered. Native Americans never had to face natural disasters on the scale we experience today because they understood how to take care of their land. It’s time we learned from them again.

These devastating wild fires that have been desecrating our lands do not share a biological bond to California’s natural history. The phrase “fight fire with fire” can appear senile without context, but the “good fire” that Native American tribes once traditionally performed could be the answer. Before the state government banned these sacred traditions, Native Americans would annually practice controlled burns. This method was used to discard underbrush, promote new plant life, and prevent the catastrophic forest fires we now so commonly see. “We don’t put fire on the ground and not know how it’s going to turn out,” said Ron Goode, tribal chairman of the North Fork Mono. “That’s what makes it a cultural burning, because we cultivate.”

Through the attempted erasure of Native American culture by Western colonizers, these cultural burnings almost faced extinction. State and federal government officials decided to put their energy on a more dangerous and less predictable method: extinguishing these massive fires as fast as they can. So far this hasn’t been the most efficient method, as seen by San Francisco’s “red sun.”

The blotting out of Native American practices and climate change go hand-in-hand in aiding the wildfire crisis. Without regular controlled fires, vegetation grows and expands, all while drying out from droughts and hot summers. These are the primary ingredients that make fire season an annual event. This isn't a coincidence as both share a root cause: the government. If government officials continue to deny, ignore, and criticize climate change, fires will be the least of our worries. It is imperative that our leaders in office take action and fight for environmental justice before it’s too late.

Furthermore, the result of these fires was never a secret. Climate scientists have warned and predicted these outcomes for decades. Much to the dismay of Californians, this deliberate ignorance has caused more than 3 million acres to be destroyed, a new state record. “This debate is over around climate change, just come to the state of California, observe it with your own eyes. It’s not an intellectual debate. It’s not even debatable any longer.” said California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Fortunately, tribal leaders and government officials are building bonds and creating partnerships to protect the land they all love so dearly. NPR states that, “Senate and federal land managers have hundreds of thousands of acres that need careful burning to reduce the risk of extreme wildfires. Tribes are eager to gain access to those ancestral lands to restore traditional burning.” Hopefully these alliances will be prosperous and beneficial. This could be the first step in securing a better future for the great state of California.

Posted on October 12, 2020 in ECOVOTE BLOG.

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