Bruno Seraphin

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Cornell U.

Grant number

Gr. 9929

Approve Date

October 25, 2019

Project Title

Seraphin, Bruno (Cornell U.) "Indigenous Karuk and Settler Colonial State Fire Politics and Practices in Northern California"

In 2018, California spent nearly a billion dollars fighting wildfire. By 2050, destruction from fire is expected to double. During wildfires the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE), the Forest Service, and other government agencies exercise extraordinary authority under the sign of “crisis.” Indigenous Karuk people, who reside in their aboriginal homelands in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains of northern California, equate this intermittent exercise of environmental authority with “martial law.” My project takes wildfire as a lens into the securitization of the environment as an emergent mode of climate change response, and asks how Karuk people interpret and respond to climate change in a landscape shaped by quotidian militarization, criminalization of Indigenous prescribed fire practices, and dispossession of ancestral lands. Working with the Karuk’s Department of Natural Resources as a filmmaker and ethnographer, I will interview people from threatened Karuk communities, visit firefighting camps, and attend state-Tribal consultations. I will examine how Karuk people take climate change as a strategic opportunity to assert land claims and activate cultural resurgence through coalition building. This project attests that the intersections of race, settler colonialism, and militarism are central for grasping the politics of climate change in the United States and beyond.