When the first fire of the season broke out on the Hoopa Valley Reservation in Northern California in July, Greg Moon faced a dilemma.
As Hoopa’s fire chief and its pandemic team leader, Moon feared the impact of the blaze on the dense coniferous forests of the reservation, near Redwood National and State Parks, where 3,000 tribal members depend on steelhead trout and coho salmon fishing. He was even more terrified of a deadly viral outbreak in his tribe, which closed its land to visitors in March.
“We’re a high-risk community because we have a lot of diabetes, heart disease and elders that live in multigenerational homes. If a young person gets it, the whole household is going to get it,” Moon said.
Eventually, the three major blazes that burned nearly 100,000 acres around Hoopa were too much for the tribe’s 25-member fire team. Moon had no choice but to request help from federal wildland rangers and other tribal firefighters.
Native American tribes are no strangers to fire. Working with flames to burn away undergrowth and bring nutrients and biodiversity back to lands is an ingrained part of their heritage. But epidemics