Tom “Little Bear” Nason, Esselen Elder, on the history of fire management in Big Sur

20 09 2020

I live on Esselen tribal land. The name “Esselen” is derived from the word Ex’xien, or “the rock”, assumed by many to be Point Sur (pictured above). Several years ago I met an Esselen tribal elder named Little Bear at a meeting of the Four Winds Council in Big Sur, CA. I have since joined him in sweat lodge ceremonies and jaunts into sacred redwood groves. His perspectives have fascinated me over the years I have known him.

With his permission I am reposting below a recent series of photos and commentaries by Little Bear on the history of land management here in Big Sur. Please pay attention!

Tom “Little Bear” Nason, September 20, 2020:

“My Great Grandfather Fred P Nason with guests in Pine Valley, Los Padres National Forest in 1940s. Our family has lived, loved and shared this sacred lands for over many generations and we always will forever.Our family has been practicing traditional native indigenous Esselen tribal burning of this valley up until 1970s. Government said STOP BURNING!! My Forefathers all told them that by ordering ceasing off these lands it would begin a dangerous situation by allowing the brush and scrub to grow out control and the forests would become choked off and when a natural force like lighting comes it would cause the lower brush to burn at high heat and kill the trees. In this photo you see many big ponderosa pine trees and open meadows surrounding them. As Natives of this lands we knew how to manage our lands and the forests. Since 1940s, we’ve had many wildfires come thru the Santa Lucia Mountains and some were good for the land and most have been extremely damaging. I will start posting more pictures and stories about how my family and tribe have seen our beloved and sacred places here in Big Sur changing so much due to imbalance and the deep sadness for losing so many of the old trees. We need change and it’s very challenging for all us to live with so many fires so frequently!! Prayers and Respect to all who listen to Mother NatureπŸ™πŸ½πŸŒ€πŸŒπŸŒ²πŸ»πŸ™πŸ½ Tom Little Bear Nason September 20th, 2020 Last Day of Summer🌞 Praying for Early Rains🌧

“This is a picture of us on the Pine Ridge Trail 2 miles from China Camp in 1940s. The country was beautiful and balanced. Open meadows and healthy trees. Today there are no trees left here is this spot. There is A bunch of brush only. 4 major wildfires since 1977 Marble Cone Fire that burnt over 177,000 acres. The Most recent was the Soberanes Fire is 2016. Now we have the Dolan Fire. A human started fire that may burn the Northern Ventana Wilderness.”

“Auntie is showing off herself and her pretty paint horse heading out of Church Creek in 1940s. Los Padres Forest Esselen Tribal Family Mucjai and Nason’s Deep Roots”

“This is what it looks like now since 1940s. Repeated fire regimes that have changed our sacred lands and forest to ash with very little trees left. If they would have listened to the Elders and the Native people of these lands we may have been able to save some of these. Future generations will not ever see what these sacred mountains looked like and it’s only been less than 50 years! We must do something to get our species to wake up! πŸ‘£πŸ‘£πŸŒ²πŸŒ²πŸŒ²πŸ‘£πŸ‘£πŸ‘£

“Our Trails and views of the Ventana Wilderness after the Soberanes πŸ”₯ 2016″



One response

21 10 2020
David Nyquist

Thank you for this impassioned report from the edge. Let’s all lean in to Little Bear’s words with urgency

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