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Book: Ritual, Personhood and the New Animism

Chapter: The Animacy of Fire and Personhood of Plants in Land Restoration

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.45203


This chapter draws on fieldwork with an Indigenous-led land restoration project in northern California in order to explore how emerging land restoration practices are decolonizing the landscape by ritualizing relationships with fire and plants. Fire is given agency and animacy and plants are treated like relatives in these restoration projects. In an area of California that was devastated by the combined genocide and ecocide in the wake of European settlers, especially during the Gold Rush of the mid-nineteenth century, catastrophic wildfires have led to the need for more fire on the land and the revival of Indigenous relationships with fire that were suppressed two hundred years ago. Decolonization involves the active rekindling of older ways of relating to landscapes among Native American tribes in this region. These ways treat fire and plants as persons to whom humans have responsibilities and these responsibilities are ritually expressed and constituted during restoration work.

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