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From Fire We Are Born: Fire’s Role in Traditional Ecological Knowledge and California Indian Ways of Life

From Fire We Are Born: Fire’s Role in Traditional Ecological Knowledge and California Indian Ways of Life

January 12, – May 25, 2025

Fire has always been part of land management and cultural practices among Indigenous Californians. But the settlers who moved into the state associated fire with untamed wildfires and outlawed prescribed fires. From Fire We Are Born examines how three Southern California Indian communities—the Tongva, Ivilyuqaletem (Cahuilla), and Payómkawichum (Luiseño)—historically used fire to replenish the land and spur plant growth. The exhibition unites a wide range of Indigenous art objects embedded with traditional ecological knowledge about fire, including baskets, bark skirts, canoes, and more. It places these historical artifacts in dialogue with newly commissioned videos, sculptures, photographs, and installations by artists from those same Southern California communities who offer innovative ideas about the role fire might play in our collective future.

Credits
This exhibition is organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA and is curated by Daisy Ocampo (Caz’Ahmo Indigenous Nation of Zacatecas), Assistant Professor of History at CSUSB; Michael Chavez (Tongva), Archaeological Collections Manager, NAGPRA Project Manager, Fowler Museum; and Lina Tejeda (Pomo), Graduate Student Research Assistant, CSUSB.

This exhibition is made possible with support from Getty through its PST ART: Art & Science Collide initiative. Additional funding is provided by the Pasadena Art Alliance.

 

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