Fire & Traditional Knowledge
The key to working effectively with tribes is the ability to build trust and to respect differences. Unfortunately, all too often, fire managers make critical mistakes when dealing with tribal governments, tribal people, and tribal fire teams. It is easy to assume that the same ways of seeing things and communicating—the same cultural norms of interaction—exist among Indians and non-Indians. Tribal views about fire, for example, can be quite different from modern western views. For the Salish and Pend d’Oreille Tribes of western Montana, fire is a gift from the Creator brought to the people by animals. Fire is a blessing that is the heart of spiritual practice and at the very center of traditional ways of life. When used respectfully in a manner consistent with traditional knowledge, fire enriches the world of these tribes, which have a long tradition of spring and fall burning and adapting to, rather than fighting, lightening-caused fires.