Native Fire History

Native Americans have called the San Francisco Bay region home for over 10,000 years. The area is known to have hosted the Ohlone and Coastal Miwoks. “Both the Ohlone and Coast Miwok peoples were organized into small, politically independent societal groups or tribes; the Ohlones had about 50 tribes and the Coast Miwoks had approximately14 tribes” (NPS). It is known that Natives used fire to manage the landscape in California and the same can be said about bay area tribal populations. “Periodic burning of the landscape was conducted to promote the growth of native grasses for seed gathering and to create forage for deer and elk” (NPS). “Native American land stewardship practices in California increasingly have come to the attention of natural resource management agencies such as the National Park Service, California State Parks, Bureau of Land Management, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), National Forest Service, and others” (Fire Science).

            “In the 1940s, Omer Stewart, a student of Alfred Kroeber at the University of California, Berkeley, undertook the first major synthesis on indigenous fire use in California and across North America (Stewart 2002). His work inspired a generation of later scholars in the 1970s, including Henry Lewis (1973), Florence Shipek (1977), Lowell Bean (Bean and Lawton 1976), William Clarke (1952), and David Mayfield (1978), who began to address the significant role that fire played in indigenous landscape management practices across the state” (Fire Science).

Periodic fire was considered a means of preventing wildfires fueled by accumulated dead vegetation.

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