»News»Daniel May concludes fire-related history research in California
Daniel May concludes fire-related history research in California
Daniel May conducting a prescribed burn near Chico California 2018. Photo Don Hankins
Monday 8 October 2018
Seeking to understand non-Indigenous people’s understanding of Indigenous fire practice has led history doctoral student Daniel May to the USA. Daniel recently concluded a six-week research visit to Forest History Society in northern California as part of his ANU Endeavour Research Fellowship. This was part of a five-month research period abroad collecting primary evidence for his project Taking fire: the political and cultural influence of Indigenous burning in settler societies. Daniel has been conducting prescribed burns, researching historical fire management, and gathering information on how the cultural burning movement in the US compares to Australia
Daniel’s passion for environmental history sparked his interest in the cultural and political factors denying Indigenous people from lighting fires in certain environments. Daniel notes Indigenous communities used their knowledge of the land to start fires across Australia for many reasons including vegetation regeneration, to move through thick grassland and to attract animals for hunting purposes. Many of these practices were feared and disapproved by Europeans upon their arrival in Australia. When asked about his work, Daniel stated;
Both Aboriginal Australian and Native American societies used (and some continue to use) fire for a wide range of reasons, which shaped our environment today. There are also big similarities in how non-indigenous people in both countries have understood indigenous burning, and how these understandings have influenced political debates over fuel reduction, logging, and grazing. With increasing public interest in restored "cultural burning" and a major fire deficit, it's critical that contemporary debates be historically informed.