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“We’re starting to see the smoke, eventually we will see the flame”

The Southern California Interagency Wildland Fire & Fuels Cadre, in close partnership with the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, the Stewardship Pathways Program (led by the Climate Science Alliance and its Tribal Working Group), brought elders, fire practitioners and participants together for the first Cultural Burning Demonstration and Awareness Workshop.


A speaker stands in the center of a circle of tables full of many people

Last week, the Southern California Interagency Wildland Fire & Fuels Cadre, in close partnership with the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, the Stewardship Pathways Program (led by the Climate Science Alliance and its Tribal Working Group) held the first Cultural Burning Demonstration and Awareness Workshop. Originally, the event was to be held at Palomar Mountain State Park, established within the ancestral gathering grounds of the Payómkawichum and Kumeyaay. Snow and rain showers guided the event into the La Jolla Indian Reservation’s gymnasium where over 100 elders, practitioners and participants gathered and kept warm sharing stories of fire.


The event began with an opening ceremony by the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians’ Vice Chairman Jack Musick and a welcome from Jimmy Trujillo. Participants introduced themselves and reflected on what comes to mind when they think of fire. A practitioner panel discussion was held with Wesley Ruise Jr., Jimmy Trujillo, Will Madrigal, Emily Burgueno, Angela Mooney D’Arcy, Diania Caudell, Willie Pink, and Richard Bugbee. All participants shared a meal together, provided by La Jolla community member Sabrina Magante, featuring local native foods: Wiiwish acorn mush, Indian tacos and burritos.


Elders and local practitioners Richard Bugbee, Will Madrigal Jr., Emily Burgueno, Frank Padilla Jr. and Willy Pink discussed gathering practices that depend on the Indigenous land management practice of cultural burning to care for the land and share in its bounty in talking circles. Fire Chief Wesley Ruise Jr and La Jolla Tribal Historic Preservation Officer James Trujillo discussed cultural burning support needs and challenges and the importance of historic preservation. CalFire Chief Len Nielson discussed state legislative and administrative information around prescribed fire, and pathways for cultural practitioners to engage in cultural burning and answered questions from participants. UC Riverside graduate student researcher and La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians Environmental Protection Office Natural Resources Program Director, Joelene Tamm, presented about Goldspotted Oak Borer management, and the potential use of prescribed fire based on cultural burning. The afternoon closed with final reflections from community members and partners, who expressed their hopes for future collaboration and a need for continuing cultural burning gatherings. “We’re starting to see the smoke, eventually we will see the flame” - Fire Chief Wesley Ruise Jr.



The Climate Science Alliance is grateful to the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians for hosting the workshop in their space and to the elders, practitioners and participants for sharing in this important event. To learn more about the Cultural Burning Demonstration and Awareness Workshop and similar efforts, visit the Climate Science Alliance’s Stewardship Pathways Indigenous Fire Stewardship page, subscribe to Tribal Nations News, and stay tuned for Condor Visual Media’s upcoming documentary “Maathaw: The Fire Within Us”.

















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