By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
See the forest for the trees this Saturday with Wildsight’s sixth event in its Fire & Ice series with Firestory: A Learning Walk. Join Deb Murray and Laverna Stevens from 10 a.m. to noon on a walk and talk through the forest off Restoration Trail at Redstreak Campground as they explore some of the benefits of fire, such as how it replenishes the land and provides food and homes for humans and animals.
“Fire is vital to these landscapes. Some trees cannot reproduce without fire as they have serotinous cones, meaning they are sealed shut and need to be heated to pop open,” said Lianna Ferguson, program co-ordinator at Wildsight Invermere. “Other plants have fire-activated seeds, where they depend on fire to break their dormancy and break down the tough outer coating.”
The first newcomers to this land lived within a healthy ecosystem and fire was respected and used wisely. Many First Nations had fire chiefs with the knowledge and gifts wrapped in the relationship with earth and fire. This strong relationship with fire and ceremony, including the fire keepers at the sacred Sundance Ceremony, is still present today and something Murray and Stevens will discuss.
Stevens is a survivor of residential schools and an elder from the local Shuswap Band. Wildsight has partnered with Stevens in the past when she led a walk about native herbs and how they are used today in traditional medicine. Murray is both Mohawk & Cree and from the Michel Band West of Edmonton. Murray has been a resident of the valley for the last 20 years and currently works at Edgewater Elementary School as an Indigenous Education Support Worker. Both education and fire are very close to her heart, and she is always happy to share her lived experiences and Indigenous perspectives.
“Indigenous peoples have been using fire since time immemorial to restore and rejuvenate the forest and all of the relationships within it. On this walk, participants will clearly see two sides of the forest – one side that was ‘conserved’ and the other side that was burned, and how that affects the relationships between plants, animals, humans, and all other living and nonliving elements,” said Murray.
“Small events like this are very important as a tool for real reconciliation and understanding between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous peoples. Participants will learn about the Indigenous way of viewing everything in the forest as part of a relationship. Relationships are very important, not only between humans, but also between all living and nonliving things. Fire is the closest relationship that we have with the sun. Without the sun we’re gone – we cannot survive, so without fire we’re also gone. It’s closely related. Thus the development of our relationship with fire is vital to our survival. In a non-Indigenous perspective relationships are viewed as only between humans, but in an Indigenous perspective, relationships are with everything – trees, earth, money, home fire, humans, and so much more.”
All are welcome to the family-friendly and free-learning walking along the Restoration Trail near Redstreak Campground in Radium, located on the unceded territories of the Secwépemc and Ktunaxa Peoples and the land chosen as home by the Métis Peoples. Dress for the weather and a morning of walking while talking more about the positive impacts fire has on our landscapes.
“This kind of event is important and so informative to the community. Integrating Indigenous knowledge and perspectives, particularly as it relates to our relationship with the natural world, is vitally important for our community,” Ferguson said.
To register for this unique learning walk, visit wildsight.ca.