For many years, every spring Syilx elder Dora Alexis has been conducting deliberate burns to filter out particles and forestall raging wildfires on her household’s property.
“That’s what my dad preached to us an extended very long time in the past: prescribed burning. He stated, ‘That’s what the old-timers at all times did was the little burns that protected your properties, your home, no matter you had.’ He swore by it,” Alexis stated.
This summer time when the White Rock Lake Wildfire burned into the Okanagan Indian Band’s predominant reserve, Alexis and all the opposite residents have been pressured to evacuate.
Nonetheless, the elder wasn’t too apprehensive about her household’s property.
“We have been fairly certain that not an excessive amount of injury can be performed on our properties right here as a result of we did the required again burning,” Alexis stated.
Westside neighborhood hub raised by White Rock Lake fireplace
The forested hilltops close to their houses have been scorched black by the hearth and different band members misplaced their houses however the household’s houses survived the hearth.
Alexis and Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis say Alexis’ deliberate burns helped defend her space from the large wildfire.
“The place she’s been doing her burns that fireplace simply ran actually scorching beneath the tree stems nevertheless it didn’t actually have an effect on the vegetation. You continue to see inexperienced bushes…proper subsequent door the place it’s pure regeneration has simply been burnt,” Louis stated.
The Okanagan Indian Band is increasing its use of prescribed burns, one thing the band had been engaged on for years even earlier than it was threatened by the White Rock Lake fireplace.
“We now have an extended historical past amongst our folks of utilizing prescribed burns for administration of the lands,” stated Louis.
“In the event you got here into this valley over 150 years in the past, you’d see grasslands on the hills and you’ll see a small line going alongside the highest which was the timberline. Each spring that will be burnt to make sure we didn’t get all this heavy build-up [of fuels] on the bottom.”
Louis stated within the early 1900s Indigenous folks have been really arrested for conducting conventional burns within the North Okanagan.
Now the chief is an advocate for managing the forest to handle fires and want to see the prescribed burns performed on an annual cycle in accordance with conventional practices.
“I believe there must be an understanding that we do have one thing to supply as Okanagan Folks or as Syilx folks. We now have 1000’s of years of data that’s primarily based upon this ecology. We have been right here. We’ve been at all times right here,” stated Louis.
In the meantime, Alexis and her household plan to proceed with their prescribed burns and can be pleased to see others choose up the standard apply.
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