Ósoko sáwi is a Maidu name for Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) and the plant is still valued by California Native basketmakers, however much of the Deergrass in grasslands and parks of California such as Verbena Fields has been missing the pyro-management of cultural burning, which has been carried on by indigenous people across the continent for centuries. Fire makes the deergrass stems become stronger and better basket material!
The Mechoopda Tribe’s ongoing Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) work, and the applied fire ecology and wildland management research being carried out by the CSU, Chico Wildland Management students both on city lands and the CSU, Chico Ecological Reserves, helps lead a cultural shift toward a better public relationship with good fire. The importance of expanding the use of prescribed fire is recognized in the City of Chico’s Vegetative Fuels Management Plan (VFMP, 2021). This cultural burning is described in that Plan and will revitalize cultural resources and control invasive plants. It is also an opportunity to exchange knowledge and inspire future generations.
Ali Meders-Knight, Master TEK Practitioner of the Mechoopda Tribe, and Don Hankins, Miwok tribal member, pyrogeographer, and Professor of Geography at Chico State, explain the significance of cultural burning to California ecosystems and the Native cultural practices of tending the land.
Master TEK Practitioner Ali Meders-Knight lights off the first deergrass
Native and non-Native community members come together for the first cultural burn within the city limits of Chico in nearly 150 years.