ReaD-FIRE: Researching and Decolonizing: Forest fires and indigenous landscape relations

Last changed: 10 September 2020

ReaD-FIRE departs in recent experiences of wildfires in boreal Sweden. Fire causes dramatic and abrupt change reaching far beyond what is visible in the physical and temporal location of the fire itself. We propose that a landscape perspective provides a good starting point for untangling the multiple and complex consequences that forest fire may generate.

We view the boreal forest not one as landscape, but many, with important distinctions drawn between Sami and commercial forest landscapes. The tensions that arise as these views confront one another have been visible for centuries and carries cultural, political, economic, historic as well as ontological dimensions.

The systematic and continued subordination of Sami worldviews, perspectives and rights - a colonization of Sápmi - and Swedish inertia is becoming untenable against demands for environmental and social justice, including indigenous rights to land and traditional practices. Although binary oppositions of the ‘indigenous other’ and ‘majority society’ are simplified and effectively cloud inherent diversities (e.g. small-scale forest holders vs commercial forestry and diverse Sami livelihoods), understanding Sami landscape perspectives as something qualitatively different than the commercial forestry paradigm serves an important heuristic. It highlights that differences do exist.

Forest fire is the empirical arena where we will reveal such differences, recognize inequities and decolonise the boreal landscape to practically address them.