Watching and participating in Indigenous cultural burns not only teaches a way of forest management, but the process can also help in people’s healing from the trauma of fire, say, the loss of a home or worse, Ph.D. candidate Deniss Martinez said on this month’s edition of Face to Face With Chancellor May.
“People are aware of that [trauma] and are able to kind of heal their relationship with fire and feel empowered and held through handling fire in a different way,” Martinez said.
Martinez — who studies Indigenous forest and fire stewardship — said she grew up in an area where fires were common, and was afraid of fire as a result. But she later dug into her own identity as a person of Mexican and Tutunaku tribal heritage, and was inspired by tales of resiliency to look at her situation in a different way. She also spent time, as an undergraduate at UC Davis, seeing forest management — including cultural burns — up close with members of the Karuk Tribe.
She now helps to expose students to cultural burns through “Keepers of the Flame,” a Native American studies course that was first taught in 2019.
Watch her full interview with Chancellor May in the video above — or listen to an audio-only version in your podcast player of choice — to hear more about how that course works and what she hopes students take away from it.
She and May also discussed the way her work led to a recent President's Award for Outstanding Student Leadership from the UC Office of the President, and the faculty member whom Martinez thinks should be a guest on Face to Face. The chancellor offered career advice for Martinez as she nears the completion of her third UC Davis degree.
Cody Kitaura is a News and Media Relations Specialist in the Office of Strategic Communications, and can be reached by email or at 530-752-1932.