This fall, the Karuk Tribe and other agencies will host the first Indigenous women-in-fire training exchange meant to train firefighters in burning practices.
The exchange will focus on Indigenous women and prescribed burning — which is intentional fires set in the wild for a variety of cultural and ecological reasons — with cultural objectives in an attempt to make fire management systems more equitable.
“Women are just as important in fire as the men are. And I think that’s baby that it sprouted from is just this push to say, for us, it’s not unique, and it really shouldn’t be unique. Women should be part of this discussion,” said Alora Sutcliffe, a public relations specialist with the Karuk Tribe.
The exchange is a 12-day program where the chosen applicants will do practical, live-fire training in addition to indoor learning meant to boost their knowledge of fire management and indigenous fire practices.
The program is open to wildfire personnel and other natural resource managers from all backgrounds. Participants of any gender may apply, but Indigenous women will be prioritized in the selection process.
“We’re not using fire to fight fire, because fire is not (a weapon). Fire is something good to us, it is a crucial part of our culture. But in the same way, we have, since time immemorial, used fire in a pattern that helped reduce wildfire impact if the forest is healthy,” Sutcliffe said.
The program will take place in and around Karuk ancestral territory, which includes land owned by the U.S. Forest Service and private landowners.
“We have been here since time immemorial. This knowledge has been passed down for generations, this isn’t something that was learned now, and so we’re able to incorporate that with Western knowledge together and bring those practices to a more advanced level,” Sutcliffe said.
While the Karuk Tribe does not have ownership over much of their ancestral lands, they have been key in training a variety of agencies in land management techniques, according to Sutcliffe.
“We spend quite a bit of our time training others and other organizations such as CalFire and the forest service on how to manage those lands. We’re finally being able to start to bring back some fire, which has had huge importance to our tribe and our culture, and being able to put that back on this land is important to us. And if that means we have to work with other organizations to make that happen that we will because this is our land, and we see it as our duty to steward this land,” Sutcliffe said.
The full list of qualifications can be found at https://bit.ly/3HHurWc and the link to the application can be found at https://bit.ly/3HGnLHI. The deadline to apply is July 15. Questions about the program and application can be sent to [email protected].
Jackson Guilfoil can be reached at 707-441-0506.