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California Wildfires and a Prayer for Land Stewardship

by Rowen White

We are safe and sound amidst the wild apocalyptic state of northern California right now. Due to unseasonably dry weather with fierce northeastern winds, we have been experiencing unprecedented ”Public Safety Power Outages” and all of us sitting on edge with the state as a tinderbox. We are safe, we are well prepared on our farm for long power outages (we have had nine days in the last two weeks with no grid electricity, with the power currently out until perhaps Tuesday) and we are mindful of the tenuous balance of things here in this ecosystem that has been so disconnected from ways of indigenous land stewardship that knew fire as friend instead of foe. I have packed all the things most precious to our family that could fit into a few suitcases and baskets and have them loaded up and ready to go. We are safe. We are praying for rains. We are well aware that this is the outcome of late stage capitalism/colonization meeting climate change.

I think of this time we are living in, where the flames consume whole hillsides and mountaintops and whole villages with intense aggression, fueled by winds that gust with intensity, the hot breath of winds the people call Diablo. I am reminded of the song of this land, and cannot help but mourn in the arrogance of modern people who disregard the ways in which the indigenous ancestors of this land walked; amnesia of how this land has been stewarded for over a millennia upon the oak savanna and foothill forests, where fire is a tool and a medicine and a blessing instead of a curse, when used in regular and mindful ways.

In human forgetfulness and quest for permanence, many have allowed the forests to become choked with brush. The memories stir deep inside these acorns that lay scattered on the forest floor here, reminding me of the narrative of this land that seeps down to the very granite bedrock where the bones of the ancestors have become stone. Today, I send a prayer that the rains will come and assist us humans who are interdependent upon the grand family all around us. That we will learn from these times, that we will humble ourselves, to live in synchronicity with the seasons and elements and learn once again to feed the sacred hungers of time in ways that keep the grand family of elements from such insatiable hungers as we see today.

We are sending up prayers for all those who are in mandatory evacuation and to those who are struggling with this current new normal here in fire season in northern California. We must be adaptive and resilient in these strange times we find ourselves in. Sending my love.

Rowen White is a Seed Keeper and farmer from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne, NY and a passionate activist for indigenous  food sovereignty.  She wrote this post from her farm in northern California, which is threatened by uncontrolled wildfires, compounded by fierce winds and power outages.