“Margo Robbins is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Cultural Fire Management Council (CFMC), and one of the key organizers of the Cultural Burn Training Exchange (TREX) that takes place on the Yurok Reservation twice a year.
Margo comes from the traditional Yurok village of Morek, and is an enrolled member of the Yurok Tribe. She gathers and prepares traditional food and medicine, is a basket weaver and regalia maker.
She is also a co-lead and advisor for the Indigenous People’s Burn Network.”
Trees Foundation. “Prescribed Fire: An Indigenous Perspective.” Trees Foundation, 4 May 2022, treesfoundation.org/2022/04/prescribed-firean-indigenous-perspective.
Prescribed Fire: An Indigenous Perspective
Traditionally, native people used fire as a land management tool and in ceremony. Our ancestors burned from the coastline to the high mountain peaks, stewarding the forest to ensure healthy outcomes for the plants, the animals and the people. Wildfire protection was a by-product of these burn practices.
In her talk “Climate Change and Native Knowledge,” Margo Robbins shares her experience bringing Traditional Ecological Knowledge into practice as her and her networks rekindle an age-old relationship with fire. She discusses how using smaller, controlled burns can help communities take better care of their lands and their people.
Listen to this episode from Overheard at National Geographic on Spotify. For decades, the U.S. government evangelized fire suppression, most famously through Smokey Bear’s wildfire prevention campaign. But as climate change continues to exacerbate wildfire seasons and a growing body of scientific research supports using fire to fight fire, Indigenous groups in the Klamath Basin are reviving cultural burning practices that effectively controlled forest fires for centuries.
Fire is Medicine
hen Rick O’Rourke walks with fire, the drip torch is an extension of his body. The mix of diesel and gasoline arcs up and out from the little wick at the end of the red metal can, landing on the ground as he takes bite after bite out of the dry vegetation in the shadow of the firs and oaks.
“There’s good fire and bad fire.”
In Margo Robbins’s home, the first thing you notice is family: portraits of children and grandchildren in a crowded display on the wall. The second thing you notice is accomplishment: lines of academic and athletic trophies from those children and grandchildren.