Socioecological Dynamics of Indigenous Burning in California’s Klamath Basin

Thu May 14th 2020, 3:30pm
Via Zoom
Meeting ID: 950 2662 8872
Please contact Emily Bishop if you would like to join this meeting
Presenter:  Tony Marks-Block
Doctoral Candidate, Stanford University

In northwest California, the Karuk and Yurok Tribes are leading efforts to revitalize and expand the use of cultural fires, or fires intentionally set to enhance the abundance and quality of species and habitats fundamental to their livelihood and culture.  Before widespread fire exclusion and suppression policies were enacted in California, cultural fires were ubiquitous, thus limiting woody fuels and moderating wildfire spread across the landscape. 

This dissertation investigates the socioecological effects of cultural burning and fire exclusion polices in Karuk and Yurok territory, and begins by examining historical and contemporary fire management as a product of colonialism and Indigenous resistance, different modes of production (e.g., capitalist timber extraction and Indigenous subsistence economies), and (de)centralized governance systems.  This is followed by an analysis of: the effects of fire proxy treatments—developed by Karuk and Yurok basketweavers in the absence of cultural burning—on the production of California hazelnut (Corylus cornuta var. californica) basketry stems; the effects of re-introduced cultural and prescribed burns on hazelnut basketry stem production and basketweaver gathering decisions; and the effects of cultural fire frequency and fire exclusion on forest stand structure and overstory species composition.  The dissertation concludes with an investigation of the constraining and facilitating factors to the expansion of cultural and prescribed burning in northern California. In Karuk and Yurok territory, mounting Indigenous fire and land sovereignty has accelerated cultural fire implementation and cultural revitalization.