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 Chumash Cultural Burn fuels flames for future progress

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.— A planned burn took place at UCSB’s North Campus Open Space Thursday morning, and it was history in the making.
The burn revived a Chumash practice that no living person has seen in the area.
It was the first time in more than 200 years that the Chumash were able to reignite this important tradition. 
For centuries, the Chumash used fire to stimulate plant growth, increase seed and other plant resources, and create better hunting conditions. 
The burn was set to take place a couple of weeks ago, but because of foggy weather conditions it had to be postponed. 
“It's just one of those things we've been leading up to for an awful long time. So it's kind of a big deal seeing it all happen. And it was lit by a Chumash Elder, and started with two native plants. So all those things haven't happened in a long time,” said UCSB Cheadle Center’s Wayne Chapman.
After experiencing a dramatic erasure of her culture, Chumash Elder Ernestine Ygnacio-De Soto says society still has a long way to go. 
She hopes Thursday’s burn will fuel the flames for greater progress. 
“I’m hopeful they'll continue doing something like this, but then it'll be our own people on their own land and they give it back,” said Ernestine Ygnacio- De Soto.
It’s a full circle moment, because the idea is that it will change what has been lost,” said Chumash Elder Patrick Tumamait.
The burn scorched 14 acres of perennial grassland. In addition to its deep cultural significance, this controlled burn will reduce the risk of future fires. 
“I wrote a paper about it in 1985 about the historical documents and the circumstances under which the fire was prohibited. So I'm just so gratified to see it coming back again,” said Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Curator of Ethnography Jan Timbrook.
The fire will also get rid of invasive plants, making room for native species to come back. 
Plant experts are excited to see what this land will look like come springtime. 

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County

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Mina Wahab

Arab-American producer & reporter with a mission to dig deep in interviews, share authentically, shed light on the issues that matter, and provoke deep thought.


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