Leok Po Demonstration & Workshop
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Date(s): November 10-12, 2022 weather permitting
Time(s): 8 am start
Location: Cache Creek Nature Preserve (see map)
Sponsored by: Cache Creek Conservancy and the Tending & Gathering Garden Advisory Committee
Funding for the event is provided by CalFIRE; CEMEX; Granite Construction, Inc.; Teichert, Inc.; Vulcan Materials; Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation; and Yolo County.
For more information contact: Nancy Ullrey, executive director of Cache Creek Conservancy, 530-661-1070 or [email protected]
Cost: By Invitation Only - Very Limited Availablility
Leok Po (pronounced lay-oak poe) in the Wintun language means Good Fire. This demonstration and workshop will showcase California Native American use of fire to enhance cultural resources and help restore the environment.
(Scroll down to see local news coverage of the event.)
Recent wildfires in California and the passage of SB 332 (Dodd) have sparked interest in traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), specifically about the use of low-intensity fire. There is a need to educate fire professionals and the public about the difference between cultural burns and beneficial burns (formally called prescribed burns). Both kinds of fire can be good for the ecosystem, and in some ways the results are similar, but the intention and purpose of each differs.
Beneficial fires are used by fire professionals and cultural experts for several reasons, including fuel load reduction, biodiversity, subsistence, and ceremonial activities. Most California native plants are adapted to fire and in some instances, require fire to start seed generation.
Beneficial fire also helps ecosystem processes by adding nutrients and minerals into the landscape. Beneficial fires are typically lower burning than wildfires, which is what helps the environment.
The cultural burns will take place at the Cache Creek Nature Preserve, a restored gravel mine. Parts of the Preserve will be burned during this event. There are five fire sites, and each will have its own fire crew responsible for that unit’s burn.
One of the burn sites is the Tending and Gathering Garden (TGG), a demonstration garden established in 2003 with funding from the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.
History and Origin of the TGG
In 2000, UC Davis graduate student, Shannon Brawley conceptualized the idea of a garden of culturally important local plant species within the academic community. Having read of the extensive environmental management utilized by Native Americans in California, she learned that Native land managers used a number of different techniques. These management practices mimic natural disturbances, such as lightning-induced fires, floods and animal activity.
Several local fire agencies are invited to participate and learn TEK techniques.
- CAL FIRE
- County of Yolo
- Yocha Dehe Fire Department
- Willow Oak Fire Department
- Yolo Volunteer Fire Department
- Tribal EcoRestoration Alliance
- Yolo County Prescribed Burn Association
- Shingle Springs Tribal Fire Department
- United Auburn Tribal Fire Department
- Department of Native American Studies, UC Davis
Participants are expected to bring the personal protective gear required by their respective organization.
Members of the general public will be allowed to the workshop and the fire day(s). We will be designating sites for observers during the fire(s).
Attendance is limited for safety reasons and the nature preserve will be closed to the public. As the event date approaches, we’ll know more about the number of observers we can invite.
If you’d like to get on the waiting list, let us know by emailing Sheila at [email protected]
Members of the press will receive media packets containing such items as the history of TGG and the Cache Creek Nature Preserve and full bios of the workshop leaders.
Observers to the cultural burns are encouraged to wear clothing made of natural fibers and closed-toed shoes with burn resident soles (like leather). Keep in mind that plastics and rubber can melt!
Cultural Experts and Educators
Diana Almendariz, (Wintun, Nisenan, Hupa), cultural practitioner and PhD candidate at UC Davis
Danny Manning, (Mountain Maidu) cultural expert, professional firefighter
Melinda Adams, (San Carlos Apache), UC Davis Native American Studies graduate student studying the effects of cultural burns on ecological health
Harnawaz Boparai, Project Specialist here at the preserve will be providing a tour of the impacts of the last cultural burn in April, 2022.
Nancy Ullrey, executive director of the Cache Creek Conservancy is leading the outreach for the event.
The event will take place over two–or possibly three–days, weather permitting. The Conservancy and its partners anticipate that if conditions permit, all the units can be burned in one day. If, for some reason that is not possible, Saturday, November 12 is reserved as a second burn day.
The event schedule, which is still subject to change
- Thursday, November 10, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- 8 a.m. Registration and gathering
- 8:30 a.m. Tour of past, recent burn and discussion of its environmental impacts
- 10:30 a.m. Demonstration of “walking fire” by Diana Almendariz
- 11:30 a.m. Discussion and demonstration by other cultural experts on culturally significant plant resources revived by cultural burns. Cultural burners will review assigned areas to prepare for the next day to burn.
- 12 p.m. Lunch (provided for fire fighters and staff only)
- 1 – 2 p.m. Discussion, debrief, and dismissal
- Friday, November 11, Burn Day, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- 8 a.m. Check in and gathering
- 8:30 a.m. Unit assignments and review of burn plan
10 a.m.12 p.m. First fires lit (conditions permitting)
- Governor Gavin Newsom has been invited to give brief opening statement before fires are lit, but his office has not yet confirmed his attendance
- 1 p.m. Lunch will be available (for fire fighters and staff only), but we are not stopping for lunch.
- 3 p.m. Fire site clean-up, debrief, and dismissal
- Saturday, November 12 Burn Day if necessary starting at 8 am
Local News Coverage
Cultural burning is key to fighting severe wildfires, Indigenous practitioners say
Manola Secaira, Tuesday, November 22, 2022 | Sacramento, CA
“We weren’t afraid of fire”: Native Americans share ancient wildfire mitigation
Shawnte Passmore, November 10, 2022
‘Cultural Burns’ take place at Cache Creek Conservancy
Jim Smith, November 13, 2022
KCRA Channel 3
California’s Native American tribes are using cultural burns to help prevent wildfires
Jason Marks, November 18, 2022
Rekindling the Practice of Cultural Burning: An Act of Climate Hope
Tara Lohan, January 23, 2023
Previous Burns in the Region
Some links to benefits of fire:
- Benefits of Fire, CalFire (PDF)
- The Ecological Benefits of Fire, National Geographic
- Fire Effect on Soil, Forest Encyclopedia Network
- Indigenous Fire Practices Shape our Land, National Park Service
- Tribal and Indigenous Fire Tradition, US Forest Service
April 28, 2022 Prescribed Burn