Kiiyolia Kiilhswa ‘Smokey Burning Moon’ is one of two months focused on the cultural fires that Myaamiaki ‘Miami people’ used to shape their environment. Historically, grass and underbrush were dry enough during this month for the burning of larger and hotter fires. Myaamiaki regularly burned the woods and prairies in the regions around their villages. These fires benefited the larger trees in the hardwood forests of our homelands and the mammals and birds who lived there.
The Beech-Maple and Oak-Hickory forests of our traditional homelands often appeared “park-like” to Euro-American settlers, but these healthy hardwood forests were the result of regular burning from both human lit fires and lightning strikes. Over thousands of years, the trees and understory – shrubs, bushes, flowers, fungi, and ferns – of these forests evolved to prefer environments that experienced regular burns.
Today, many forest management experts agree that the absence of fire has negatively affected the health of hardwood trees and greatly changed the understory species present in these forests.