Shortly after the Coalition for Archaeological Synthesis (CfAS) was established in 2017, CfAS sponsored two proof-of-concept projects using the working group model pioneered by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. These projects were selected by an independent review panel from responses to a request-for-proposals (RFP) circulated to CfAS Associates and to members and employees of CfAS Partners. One of the projects—People, Fire, and Pines (PFP)—was proposed by Forest managers in the Border Lakes region of the US and Canada as a means of providing evidenced-based support for altering regional fire management policy in Wilderness Areas. In the process, the working group of managers, archaeologists, ecologists, and traditional knowledge experts not only advanced forest science but also laid the groundwork for cultural revitalization and restorative justice through the reintroduction of Indigenous fire management.
Led by Evan Larson of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, the project has produced management actions (indigenous-led prescribed burns, integration of indigenous knowledge into forest management plans), creative writing (story maps, blog posts, newspaper and magazine articles), audio/video/lectures (podcasts, film, radio documentaries, webinars and workshops), research briefs, peer-reviewed scientific publications, professional papers, and public talks. The CfAS grant led to more than $500,000 in additional grants to keep the expand the scope of the working group. Perhaps the project’s greatest accomplishment, however, were the intangible changes in the affected communities of the Border Lakes region. As Evan Larson states in the final report:
It is difficult to fully capture the impacts of this work which is helping to reshape relationships among Indigenous and settler-colonial communities and perceptions and actions around fire stewardship across the Great Lakes Region. This final report includes descriptions of the myriad products developed through the synthetic efforts and new collaborations facilitated by CfAS support. Numerous tangible outcomes are detailed, but perhaps more importantly, the emotional, spiritual, and relational work catalyzed by this support is at the core of the current momentum around engagement with Ishkode, fire, that will continue to ripple outward for years to come. As described in the original call for proposals, the CfAS program was envisioned as a way to bring together diverse perspectives, data, and ways of knowing to enable transdisciplinary conversations and the emergence of radical new understanding. This has happened to substantial and dramatic results.
The final report is now available on the PFP project page. Congratulations to the entire working group, and thank you for demonstrating the value and potential of collaborative synthesis!