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Indians, Fire, and the Land in the Pacific Northwest

Indians, Fire, and the Land in the Pacific Northwest

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Early explorers to the Pacific Northwest expected to encounter a land of dense forests. Instead, their writings reveal that they were often surprised to discover spacious meadows, prairies, and open spaces. Far from a pristine wilderness, much of the Northwest landscape was actively managed and shaped by the hands of its Native American inhabitants. Their primary tool was fire. During more than 10,000 years of occupation, Native Americans in the Northwest learned the intricacies of their local environments and how to use fire to create desired effects, mostly in the quest for food. The essays collected in this important volume summarize virtually everything that is currently known about the use of fire in the environment. The fourteen contributors bring to the discussion expertise in such areas as anthropology, environmental history, ethnohistory, ethnobotany, forestry, cultural ecology and paleobotany. Drawing on historical journals, Native American informants, and botanical and forestry studies, the contributors describe local patterns of fire use in eight ecoregions, representing all parts of the Native Northwest, from southwest Oregon to British Columbia and from Puget Sound to the Northern Rockies. The essays provide glimpses into a unique understanding of the environment--a traditional ecological knowledge now for the most part lost.
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