Cultural Burning KCET

For thousands of years, California Indians used fire as a tool for natural resource management. Throughout the state, Indigenous people carried out cultural burns on a wide range of plants. Their fire regimes created a diverse habitat mosaic that supported meadows, coastal prairies and grasslands. Careful fire application increased fruit and seed production, caused new growth more suited to basket making, and reduced the fuel load that could be burned by naturally occurring wildfires. But starting with the Spanish conquest and continuing today in the form of Forest Service and CalFire policies, fire prevention has significantly restricted cultural burning. As a result, the forest has become incredibly thick and we are now facing a situation in the Sierra Nevada where drought causes many trees to die. These massive deaths of trees have brought the forest to a tipping point, where large-scale wildfires threaten to permanently change Sierra’s forests. In this video, we explore how cultural burning is practiced today and what lessons it holds for the future of the forest. We visit the area just south of Yosemite National Park where two tribes work to bring fire back to the land, the Mono North Fork Tribe and the Mono Indians Cold Rancheria Cold Springs.

Watch “Tending Nature,” a series that throws light on how indigenous knowledge can inspire a new generation of California to find a balance between human beings and nature.

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Co-produced by KCETLink Media Group and the Autry Museum, this six-part multimedia series and the hour-long documentary are being presented in conjunction with California Continued, an innovative exhibition at the Autry.