Fire as Medicine: Learning from Native American Fire Stewardship - Eos (2023)

In 2020, nearly 60,000 wildfires raged across the United States, burning a record-breaking 10.3 million acres. The fires weren’t just frequent; they reached epic proportions: California and Colorado recorded their biggest fires ever, and in early October, 65 large fires were burning in California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and, in smaller instances, five other states. In all, the blazes consumed more than 2 million acres.

The year’s catastrophic fire season could potentially be the new normal, as climate change is bringing hotter and drier conditions, perfect for igniting forests laden with fuel after decades of fire suppression efforts.

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“As a tribal forester, I am always thinking about climate change,” said John Galvan, a forester for the Pueblo of Jemez, a tribe located in north central New Mexico. “It is so much drier, and we are getting so little precipitation.”

The ancestors of the Native American community at Jemez Pueblo lived in fire-prone forests for centuries before European contact, often in densely packed towns. Nearly 2 decades ago, it struck environmental archaeologist Christopher Roos how those tribes learned to live sustainably in a highly flammable ecosystem.

Indigenous peoples “are depending upon these landscapes for their lives and livelihood,” said Roos, who is now a professor of anthropology at Southern Methodist University in Texas. “Of course, they would have figured something out—some sort of accommodation.”

To investigate further, Roos initiated a study in 2011 to analyze the dynamics of the region’s fire regime over the past 7 centuries, and also to learn more about the ancestral practices of the Jemez with respect to the forests and fire. In doing so, Roos was one of a group of Western researchers learning more about how Native Americans relate to the land, in the hope of gleaning valuable insights regarding the current wildfire crisis.

“In the Indigenous worldview, people can be a force for good and regeneration on the land,” said Robin Wall Kimmerer, a professor of environmental and forest biology at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Kimmerer is also an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. “And I think that is a perspective we desperately need right now.”

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Collaborating for the Cause

Tom Swetnam grew up near the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico, which form the southernmost tip of the Rockies. He described the Jemez’s dense forests of piñon-juniper, ponderosa pine, aspen, and spruce-fir. Swetnam also recalled walking through these woodlands and the many ruins of ancient Jemez villages and fortresses. Some of these strongholds were up to four stories high and had more than 1,000 rooms.

For Swetnam, a professor emeritus who was the director of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona from 2000 to 2014, the Jemez Mountains struck him as the perfect place to study the combination of fire and human history. “It’s somewhat unique to have such a large number of datable archaeological sites within a forest like this,” he said.

Swetnam and Roos teamed up to start the Jemez Fire and Humans in Resilient Ecosystems (FHiRE) project in 2012. The project aimed to investigate the history of fires, people, and the interaction between the two in the Jemez Mountains over the past several hundred years.

Project scientists worked on reconstructing the region’s population history from archaeological artifacts—they used ceramics to identify dates and rubble volume to determine the number of people living in a house or a village. Simultaneously, they used tree rings, soil, and sediment data to document past records of fire and vegetation. Then, using the collected data, ecological modelers ran computer simulations of fire, land use, and vegetation under different scenarios of population history, wood availability, and fire use. “We assembled all the pieces that we thought were needed to build a holistic picture,” Roos said.

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To understand and interpret the historical data, the researchers needed to learn about the behaviors and practices of the Native American tribes who have lived on the land for centuries. To that end, the team connected with tribal members of the Pueblo of Jemez and, with their help, members from the Hopi, White Mountain Apache, and Zuni tribes.

The team’s ethnographers worked with Chris Toya, the Pueblo of Jemez Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, and Paul Tosa, the two-time governor of the Pueblo, to conduct more than 50 interviews with tribal members about the traditional use of fire and wood in the past and present. Many of the recorded interviews were conducted in Towa, the native language of the Jemez, and Toya and Tosa translated parts of the interviews to relay the relevant information to the FHiRE study’s researchers.

The researchers’ goals were to learn more about the tribes’ relationship with fire, and also to provide an archive of the elders’ knowledge that the tribes would keep. The collaborations between the FHiRE team researchers and the Pueblo of Jemez were so beneficial to both parties that in 2015, the Tribal Council of the Pueblo of Jemez unanimously passed a resolution that called for more collaborations in the same vein.

“We now have this pool of data that can really benefit the forest and the people that interact with it,” Toya said. “Not only my people, but everyone else that wants to enjoy the landscape.”

A Fiery Tale

After 5 years of research, the Pueblo of Jemez hosted a meeting at which the FHiRE study researchers presented the history they’d uncovered to a gathering of representatives from each of the tribes involved. “We talked about our results and had an open conversation about how they might be beneficial,” Roos said.

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The researchers had found that when Indigenous Jemez settlers first moved to the mountains in the 12th century, the number of fires increased in the region, most likely due to cultural burning practices. But the tree ring data revealed a surprising story. During that time, many trees were fire scarred at the base but went on to survive. And the dates of fire scarring would differ, even for trees close to one another. “There was no evidence that these were really widespread fires,” Swetnam said. “They were just really small, patchy fires.”

The frequent collecting of wood for fuel and the clearing of the areas around the villages prevented fire from spreading, even in hot, dry summers, researchers concluded. “They would always run into another burn area and run out of fuel, so [the fires] never got very big,” Roos said.

Beginning in the late 1500s, Spanish colonizers forced the Jemez people into the Jemez River valley. With few people living in the mountains, tree ring data showed that wildfires became very large and widespread. “With the trails and forests overgrown, the fire really ranged over the landscape uninterrupted by humans,” Swetnam said.

The 1623 Jemez Revolt led most of the Jemez population to move back to defensible spaces in the uplands. Then, as white settlers moved into the area in the 1800s, they brought with them sheep and cattle. The livestock ate the grasses that were important in spreading fires. During this period of the return of the Jemez to the mountains and white settlement in the valley, researchers saw the elimination of widespread wildfires.

The final stage of the story was all too familiar to FHiRE participants. In the early 20th century, fire suppression became the official policy in the United States with passage of the Weeks Act in 1911. This law largely outlawed Native American fire management and called for fire protection efforts through federal, state, and private cooperation. Wildfire fuel accumulated, and as a result, 21st-century fires are frequently catastrophic, roaring high into the canopies and burning hundreds of thousands of acres.

“They burn so hot that they kill almost all of the trees over large areas,” Swetnam said. “There are big canopy openings where there are no living trees, and [the trees] are probably not coming back because there is no seed source.”

Feared and Revered

In the past 3 years, the FHiRE team has published a series of papers, the most recent in January 2021. The researchers identified several lessons learned, not least of which is that living without smoke and fire is simply not an option.

“It is possible to live sustainably in these forests. But you have to use the wood, you have to keep the fuel density low, and you have to live with fire—you have to make an accommodation with fire.”

“I think the simplest lesson is that it is possible to live sustainably in these forests,” Swetnam said. “But you have to use the wood, you have to keep the fuel density low, and you have to live with fire—you have to make an accommodation with fire.”

For Native Americans, living with fire has been a way of life. “For us, fire is sacred,” Galvan said, “and it is important to recognize that it has many benefits.”

Native Americans depend on fire in so many ways that forest ecologist Frank Kanawha Lake of the U.S. Forest Service refers to their cultures as fire dependent. Lake is a Karuk descendant with Yurok family and grew up immersed in the cultural beliefs and knowledge systems of the two California tribes.

Before the widespread fire exclusion policies, these tribes used cultural burns to enhance the value of food and raw materials they used in their everyday lives. Early in his career, for instance, Lake became involved in a pilot study to look at what was needed to produce the gold standard of hazelnut shrub stems used for tribal basket weaving. Controlled burning, the type traditionally practiced by tribes in the region, turned out to be key. “The straight, nonkinky stems that we thought were natural were actually a construct of sophisticated Indigenous agroforestry and fire stewardship,” Lake said.

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For the past 2 decades, Lake has collaborated with Yurok and Karuk tribes on this hazelnut study, publishing the findings in 2019 and February 2021. The project has demonstrated that cultural fire practices could benefit tribal economies in the region, while continuing to reduce wildfire risks.

In a similar collaborative effort, Lake has also worked with California’s North Fork Mono Tribe and colleagues to create a synthesis report outlining how low-intensity fire can help preserve mature California black oaks, which provide an important food source for Native Americans and habitat and sustenance for numerous wildlife species such as spotted owls and fishers.

Judicious thinning and fire treatment that benefit black oaks would help the tribes, wildlife, and the environment, researchers said. “From a fire resilience and a drought resilience perspective, it’s a very important species to try to make sure we maintain,” said the report’s lead author, ecologist Jonathan Long of the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station.

In many Native American cultures, all beings, be they a bear, a tree, or a human, have a gift, Kimmerer said. And one of the gifts of humans is the ability to use fire creatively. “So the use of fire is understood to be responsibility for caring for the land, not controlling it,” Kimmerer said. “It is something that we are supposed to do to keep the land healthy.”

Fire as Medicine

Fire is a form of medicine for the land and its people, Lake said. It is necessary to prescribe the right amount of medicine through a process of understanding how to live with fire and adaptation to a changing environment. “But if you don’t have adequate medicine on the landscape, the ecosystem and [the] people are sick,” Lake said. “Now, with the wildfires we are seeing due to fire suppression, we’re having an overdose.”

“In Indigenous science, you cannot separate knowledge and responsibility for knowledge. They are tightly coupled with one another.”

Indigenous Knowledges have emerged from centuries of Native Americans studying how the land has responded to controlled burning, akin to the Western science approach of field study and experimentation. “Traditional and Western knowledge each have their own form of science,” Lake said.

Indigenous science, however, is guided by a value system of humans playing a positive role in creating balance and well-being, not just for the tribes but also for the environment and all the plants and animals that inhabit it. “In Indigenous science, you cannot separate knowledge and responsibility for knowledge,” Kimmerer said. “They are tightly coupled with one another.”

Restoring Cultural Practices

Recognizing the value of Native American knowledge and experience about fire, a suite of federal policies in the past 2 decades—including the Healthy Forests Restoration Act and the Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement (FLAME) Act—have sought to facilitate tribal engagement in Forest Service land management activities.

According to Long, many tribes are keen to move forward. “We hear from many tribes that are interested in maintaining their traditional relationships with their aboriginal lands,” Long said. “They want to apply their practices and do the restoration work needed to sustain their communities.”

To make the cultural use of fire a reality requires Western forest scientists collaborating with tribes at every stage of a project and a respect for Indigenous science, Kimmerer said. “There’s a sense [that] we need to encourage native people to embrace Western science so we can collaborate,” Kimmerer said. “Well, we also have to teach Western scientists Indigenous science so that they can collaborate.”

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Successful collaboration involves having a respect for and an understanding of Indigenous Knowledges systems. As the director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, Kimmerer is engaged in programs that introduce the benefits of traditional ecological knowledge to the scientific community.

Helping to improve the representation of tribal voices in government agencies is also key, Roos said. Roos has a proposal in for another collaborative project with the Jemez, which would fund internship opportunities for the tribe’s college students in federal agencies. “It could start a pipeline of Jemez people in the [U.S. Forest Service] so their voice is not an episodic thing, but a daily thing,” Roos said.

Cooperators for Abundance

Currently, some tribes lack the resources to engage in cultural burning, as they have so many other issues that they are trying to keep up with, Long said. “We can’t incorporate our cultural values in[to] the use of wildfire because we simply don’t have the capacity at the tribal level,” Galvan said.

In other tribes, some Indigenous Knowledges surrounding fire practices may have been lost. Education is key, especially for younger tribal members, Toya said. Before the pandemic, Toya would visit Jemez classrooms and teach students about how their ancestors took care of forested landscapes. “And that, in turn, the land took care of them,” Toya said.

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Despite the challenges of more intense fire seasons, Kimmerer believes that incorporating a Native American viewpoint, which sees humans as positive participants in ecological systems, could bring an element of hope and empowerment to the efforts.

Lake concurs. In his role as an academically trained scientist, he aims to contribute to caring for the forests, while simultaneously helping to fulfill the federal government’s responsibility to Native Americans’ livelihood and well-being. Guided by his cultural values, Lake has a vision to use the best available science to inform policies that benefit both the environment and the communities that live in it.

“You know, fire can be one of those things that brings back abundance and health and productivity of the environment, as well as a culture that depends on it,” Lake said. “We could go from being perceived competitors for a scarce resource—where things are degraded, people are excluded—to being cooperators for abundance.”

Author Information

Jane Palmer (@JanePalmerComms), Science Writer


Palmer, J. (2021), Fire as medicine: Learning from Native American fire stewardship, Eos, 102, Published on 29 March 2021.

Text © 2021. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
Except where otherwise noted, images are subject to copyright. Any reuse without express permission from the copyright owner is prohibited.


What is a fire practice used by Native Americans to improve the health of the country and its people known as? ›

For thousands of years, Native Americans in what is now California and across the West treated and nurtured fire like the natural resource it is through the practice of cultural burning.

Why is fire important to Native American culture? ›

Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians used fire to clear areas for crops and travel, to manage the land for specific species of both plants and animals, to hunt game, and for many other important uses. Fire was a tool that promoted ecological diversity and reduced the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

Is prescribed burning the same as cultural burning? ›

By observing fire's effects, people have learned that they can use it for specific results on the ground. The practice of intentional burning is called prescribed burning. Native American practitioners call it “cultural burning” when it is used to meet cultural goals.

What is indigenous fire stewardship? ›

Indigenous fire stewardship (IFS) is the use of fire by various Indigenous, Aboriginal, and tribal peoples to: (1) modify fire regimes, adapting and responding to climate and local environmental conditions to promote desired landscapes, habitats, species, and (2) to increase the abundance of favored resources to ...

What are two Native American healing practices? ›

Native American healing practices There are a number of common Native American healing practices that tend to be practiced by many tribes and those who subscribe to a pan-Indian outlook. These practices include powwow, music, smudging, storytelling, sweat lodge, pipe ceremony, and use of herbs.

What did Native Americans believe about burning bodies? ›

Traditional After-Death Customs

Cremation: Burning the deceased helps them enter the afterlife. The smoke sends the body upward in their journey. This was custom to many tribes, including the Odawa.

What is the cultural value of fire? ›

In each example, new healthy regrowth occurs. Fire does not imply death, but rather change. As fire was associated with rebirth and renewal in mythology, fire today is recognized as an instrument of change and a catalyst for promoting biological diversity and healthy ecosystems.

What are the positives of indigenous burning? ›

Scientific research has confirmed that traditional fire management increases biodiversity and benefits the ecosystem. Small, patchy burns create a mix of different habitat types that provide more food for wildlife, and can even limit the harmful effects of invasive predators, like cats and foxes.

What was the most important way that fire helped humans? ›

Fire provided a source of warmth and lighting, protection from predators (especially at night), a way to create more advanced hunting tools, and a method for cooking food. These cultural advances allowed human geographic dispersal, cultural innovations, and changes to diet and behavior.

What is the argument against prescribed burning? ›

When these fires are suppressed, flammable materials accumulate, insect infestations increase, forests become more crowded with trees and underbrush, and invasive plant species move in.

What are the negative effects of prescribed burning? ›

The main effect of prescribed burning on the water resource is the potential for increased rainfall runoff. When surface runoff increases after burning, it may carry suspended soil particles, dissolved inorganic nutrients, and other materials into adjacent streams and lakes reducing water quality.

What is the Indigenous spiritual meaning of fire? ›

Fire is an important symbol in Aboriginal culture. Traditionally it was used as a practical tool in hunting, cooking, warmth and managing the landscape. It with many stories, memories and dance being passed down around the fire.

What is the seven fires Indigenous spirituality? ›

The seven fires of the prophecy represent key spiritual teachings for North America, and suggest that the different colors and traditions of the human beings can come together on a basis of respect. It contains information for the future lives of the Anishinaabe which are still in the process of being fulfilled.

What does fire mean in Native American culture? ›

The gift of Fire is believed to be the giver of new life and is often associated with fertility. Fire is the element that requires the utmost care and attention since it can bring new life and take life away. Fire can devastate land during times of drought but can also provide a natural cleansing of Mother Earth.

What are the 4 sacred medicines? ›

There are four Sacred Medicines: Tobacco, cedar, sage, and sweetgrass. These are traditional medicines that have physical qualities for medicinal purposes, and a spiritual aspect used in traditional healing and ceremonies. Care and attention should be given when harvesting Sacred Medicines.

What are the four sacred medicines of the Native Americans? ›

Cedar, sage, sweetgrass, and tobacco are sacred to Indigenous people across North America. These herbs are used to treat many illnesses and are crucial in many ceremonies.

What is a Native American healer called? ›

A medicine man or medicine woman is a traditional healer and spiritual leader who serves a community of Indigenous people of the Americas.

What did Native Americans believe about healing? ›

Ceremony is an essential part of traditional Native healing. Because physical and spiritual health are intimately connected, body and spirit must heal together. Traditional healing ceremonies promote wellness by reflecting Native conceptions of Spirit, Creator, and the Universe.

What was the Native Americans healing ritual? ›

Another practice of Native American healing, symbolic healing rituals, can involve whole communities. These ceremonies can include chanting, singing, painting bodies, dancing, exorcisms, sand paintings, and even limited use of mind-altering substances. All this is done to promote healing of the sick.

What did Native Americans believe about healing practices? ›

Native American healing practices include the use of herbal remedies to treat physical conditions; purifying rituals to cleanse the body in preparation for healing; and shamanism, which is based on the concept that spirits cause illness.

What fire symbolizes? ›

Fire is associated with the suit of rods/wands, and as such, represents passion from inspiration. As an element, fire has mixed symbolism because it represents energy, which can be helpful when controlled, but volatile if left unchecked.

What is fire a symbol of in culture? ›

Of all the major symbols in literature, art, and religion, perhaps no symbol is more ambiguous and double-edged than fire. Fire symbolism can simultaneously denote illumination and purification and destruction and pain.

What is the symbolic value of fire? ›

Aside from being a symbolic representation of hell, fire can also symbolize eternity remembrance for humans who are no longer with us in this world. That's why we light a candle to remember their lives and their legacy and to symbolize that they will never be forgotten.

How do you start a sacred fire? ›

Protocols of the Sacred Fire

When entering into the lodge, we enter in the eastern direction, and with your left-hand grab tobacco, cedar and/or sage, say your prayer and put the tobacco, cedar and sage in the fire. There is also a water basin, where you can dip you fingers in the water and then sprinkle the fire.

How do indigenous people feel fire was created? ›

A written record from the early 1830s suggests Aboriginal people in the north east of Tasmania believed fire was first made by two particular stars in the Milky Way. These stars gave fire to people to use. Camp fires feature in several creation stories.

How a Native American culture first got fire? ›

The Cherokees tell how fire was obtained. At first there was no fire and the world was cold. Then the Thunders, who live in the Above World, sent lightning to put fire in a great, hollow sycamore tree that grew on an island. The animals could see the smoke but they didn't know how to get to the fire.

What are three ways fire helped early humans? ›

Fire control changed the course of human evolution, allowing our ancestors to stay warm, cook food, ward off predators and venture into harsh climates. It also had important social and behavioral implications, encouraging groups of people to gather together and stay up late.

How did humans learn to use fire? ›

The first stage of human interaction with fire, perhaps as early as 1.5 million years ago in Africa, is likely to have been opportunistic. Fire may have simply been conserved by adding fuel, such as dung that is slow burning.

Why do humans like fire? ›

Humans have long been drawn to fire; our ancient ancestors used it for warmth, protection and cooking. In fact, fire was critical for our evolution. But thousands of years later, with all our modern electric lighting and cooking facilities, fire has become a comfort rather than a necessity in the developed world.

What is the effective medicine for burning? ›

Burn Treatment

First-degree burns can usually be treated with skin care products like aloe vera cream or an antibiotic ointment and pain medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol). Second-degree burns may be treated with an antibiotic cream or other creams or ointments prescribed by a doctor.

What are great burn meds? ›

Neosporin (Triple Antibiotic Ointment) is an appropriate treatment option for a minor, uncomplicated burn. Other potential treatments include bacitracin, Polysporin, or petroleum jelly. You should apply the ointment or cream and cover the wound with a non-stick dressing or pad such as Telfa (not a cotton ball).

Has a prescribed fire gone wrong? ›

Colorado News. May 12 - The Cerro Grande fire in New Mexico has become one of the worst examples of a "prescribed" fire gone wrong, fire officials said Thursday. The fire was set deliberately by officials at Bandelier National Monument on May 4, and was supposed to have cleared 900 acres of brush and other tinder.

Are prescribed fires good or bad? ›

It's an important forest management tool that benefits forests and wildlife, while also helping to reduce the impact of wildfire hazards. Prescribed fire improves wildlife habitat for both game and non-game species, especially when patches of unburned areas are left for nesting and cover.

What are the 3 concerns for burn patients? ›

Complications of deep or widespread burns can include: Bacterial infection, which may lead to a bloodstream infection (sepsis) Fluid loss, including low blood volume (hypovolemia) Dangerously low body temperature (hypothermia)

What are six negative effects of fire? ›

Negative Effects of Fire on Environment-

Fire may be destructive, destroying homes, areas used by wildlife, and timber while contaminating the air with hazardous fumes to people's health. Additionally, fires that contaminate the air release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Which drug can cause chemical burns? ›

Antibiotics such as tetracycline and sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim), some diuretics and antihistamines (such as Benadryl), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Feldene, Naproxen, Motrin), and some antidepressants can be phototoxic after exposure to UV light.

How is fire a symbol of God's presence? ›

Primarily fire represents the presence of God, as when Moses encountered God at the burning bush, and later when God appeared in a pillar of fire to lead his people in the wilderness (Exodus 3:2; 13:21). In Acts, the tongues of fire represent the presence of God the Holy Spirit.

Is fire a symbol of the Holy Spirit? ›

Fire: Fire as symbol of the Holy Spirit is indicated in the statements about Holy Spirit's baptism (Matt. 3:11) and the tongues of fire on the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3-4). Fire illuminates, warms, refines, purifies and can change material from one form to another.

How do Indigenous people view fire what is their relationship to it? ›

Fire is part of nature,” said John Waconda, a member of Isleta Pueblo and the Indigenous Partnerships Program Director with The Nature Conservancy. “It's just like the rain, the sunrise each day. It's a natural occurrence, a part of nature necessary to complete lifecycles of different plants and animals.”

What is the 8th fire prophecy? ›

In recent times there has been a talk of an Eighth Fire in which the ancestor prophets say that to light the Eighth Fire Indigenous People will come forward with their knowledge connecting with the western knowledge and from this union a new people will emerge lighting the Eighth and final Fire.

What are the Three Fires Native American? ›

They called themselves the Three Fires. They were the Ottawa, the Potawatami and the Ojibwa. Westland might have been where they once held their tribal meetings.

What is Indigenous fire stewardship? ›

Indigenous fire stewardship (IFS) is the use of fire by various Indigenous, Aboriginal, and tribal peoples to: (1) modify fire regimes, adapting and responding to climate and local environmental conditions to promote desired landscapes, habitats, species, and (2) to increase the abundance of favored resources to ...

What is the Native American legend about fire? ›

In Algonquin myth, Rabbit stole fire from an old man and his two daughters. In Cherokee myth, after Possum and Buzzard had failed to steal fire, Grandmother Spider used her web to sneak into the land of light. She stole fire, hiding it in a clay pot or a silk net.

What are the fire colors in Native American culture? ›

Yellow, gold, and orange represented the South direction, fire, and even the season of autumn. Here are some symbolic meanings associated with these colors across different Native tribes: Yellow – the power of pollen, divinity, and perfect ceremonial control.

What are traditional Native American healing practices? ›

Another practice of Native American healing, symbolic healing rituals, can involve whole communities. These ceremonies can include chanting, singing, painting bodies, dancing, exorcisms, sand paintings, and even limited use of mind-altering substances. All this is done to promote healing of the sick.

What is the Native American smoke ritual? ›

On journeys or hunts, Indian men paused for a smoke and left a pinch of tobacco as an offering when they encountered certain features of the landscape, including waterfalls, misshapen trees, oddly shaped rocks, and lakes or islands said to harbor spirits.

What are indigenous fire methods? ›

Indigenous fire management involves the lighting of 'cool' fires in targeted areas during the early dry season between March and July. The fires burn slowly, reducing fuel loads and creating fire breaks. Not all the area is burnt, with the end result a mosaic of burnt and unburnt country.

What is indigenous fire management practices? ›

Indigenous cultural burns focus on what needs to be burned to revitalize the land with the intent of returning to make use of it again. Traditional baby baskets of the Yurok and Karuk Northern California tribes, for instance, are made from hazelnut shrub stems that are collected after fires.

What are the key principles of Native American medicine? ›

A healthy patient has a healthy relationship with his or her community and, ultimately, with the greater community of nature known as "All Relations." The goal of Native American healing is to find wholeness, balance, harmony, beauty, and meaning.

What are the 3 methods of healing in indigenous religion? ›

Traditional healing refers to the health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs that incorporate First Nations healing and wellness. These practices include using ceremonies, plant, animal or mineral-based medicines, energetic therapies and physical or hands-on techniques.

What are the seven natural ways of healing indigenous? ›

There are seven natural ways of emotional discharge and healing in Indigenous cultures: shaking, crying, laughing, sweating, voicing (talking, singing, hollering, yelling, screaming, etc.), kicking, and hitting. All of these need to be done in a constructive manner so as to not harm another spirit.

What does smoke symbolize in Native American culture? ›

The Sacred Pipe was revered as a holy object, and the sacrament of smoking was employed as a major means of communication between humans and sacred beings; the narcotic effect of tobacco and the symbolism of the indrawn and ascending smoke affirmed that such communication took place.

Why do natives burn sage? ›

But for centuries, Indigenous tribes have burned white sage in spiritual ceremonies to cleanse, purify and pray. These sacred bundles of sage, sometimes called "smudge sticks," can be found everywhere from Urban Outfitters to indie shops, including, of course, your Instagram feed.

What does white smoke mean in Native American? ›

After his return from war, Tayo retreats into a dense “white smoke” where “visions and memories of the past did not penetrate . . . where there was no pain” (15). This white smoke represents Tayo's attempt to withdraw completely into the white hegemonic society, deserting his Native American roots.

What is fire medicine? ›

For millennia, native people have used flames to protect the land. The US government outlawed the process for a century before recognizing its value. by Susie Cagle with photographs by Alexandra Hootnick.

What does fire represent for indigenous people? ›

The gift of Fire is believed to be the giver of new life and is often associated with fertility. Fire is the element that requires the utmost care and attention since it can bring new life and take life away.

How do indigenous people view fire what is their relationship to it? ›

Fire is part of nature,” said John Waconda, a member of Isleta Pueblo and the Indigenous Partnerships Program Director with The Nature Conservancy. “It's just like the rain, the sunrise each day. It's a natural occurrence, a part of nature necessary to complete lifecycles of different plants and animals.”


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