Ep. 55Humble Fire and Traditional Ecological Practices with Cultural Fire Scholar, Dr. Melinda Adams

You’ve probably heard of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) but how about Traditional Ecological *Practices*?

In this episode, we spoke with Dr. Melinda Adams of the N’dee San Carlos Apache Tribe about translating Indigenous knowledge into Indigenous-led action—which means giving Indigenous practitioners the “space, opportunity and action” to see their knowledge systems play out on the landscape. We spoke about a whole lot more than that, though; we heard about Dr. Adams’ PhD work at UC-Davis, about her new assistant professor position at the University of Kansas, about “rematriating” fire (bringing  women back into cultural fire decision making) and generally bringing more humility into the use of fire. We also spoke at length about her recent paper titled “Solastalgia to Soliphilia: Cultural Fire, Climate Change, and Indigenous Healing,” which she co-authored with Erica Tom and Chairman Ron Goode of the North Fork Mono Tribe (who coined the term “Traditional Ecological Practices”).

A bit more about Melinda: As a fire scholar, Dr. Adams concentrates on encouraging public participation in prescribed and controlled burns, getting more people fire certified, and placing more Indigenous-led cultural fire to the ground with allies, agencies, and Tribal members— “decolonizing fire” as she describes. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Haskell Indian Nations University (one of thirty-seven tribal colleges located across the United States), her Master of Science from Purdue University, and PhD from the University of California, Davis. Her research focuses on the intersection of ecology, environmental science, environmental policy and Native American studies; through her research and work, she envisions a future where cultural fire is used as a climate adaptation strategy while mitigating the frequency and intensity of catastrophic wildfire.

This is an important episode for those interested in Indigenous knowledge, understanding and practice of land stewardship—including the use of fire—but is absolutely essential for anyone who works in an agency or organization that emphasizes the importance of TEK, and especially for those who recognize a need for a different and more humble approach to fire and active stewardship.  

Beyond that, if you’re looking for an antidote to your climate grief, look no further than this conversation with Melinda. Her energy for the work is incredible, and is bolstered by countless other Indigenous practitioners and allies who envision a more sustainable, Indigenous-led, community-based future of land stewardship and fire use. 


07:17 – Introduction

09:42 – Fire in Tribe’s Cultural Stories

10:35 – Soliphilia

12:32 – California and Tribal Recognition

15:19 – Healing Powers of Cultural Fire

17:34 – State Agencies Invited to Cultural Fire Demos

18:37 – Wildfires and A Lack of Relationship with the Land

21:20 – Community Education

23:30 – Generational Protocol and Practices

24:46 – Traditional Ecological Practices

27:25 – Melinda’s Teaching and Her Students’ Focus

31:50 – The Humble Fire Approach

34:12 – Learn Homeland History Where You Burn

36:15 – Caring for the Place You Live

38:28 – Collaboration with Different Tribes

39:31 – Storytelling to Translate Scientific Findings

44:02 – Final Thoughts from Melinda

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