chapter  5
Indigenous Fire Knowledge Retention: Spatial, Temporal, Gendered
Pages 19

The hazy outline of the Sutter Buttes lingers on the horizon to the southwest on the drive along the narrow plateau that elevates Highway 32 above the canyon country connecting the Sierra Nevada Mountains with California’s Sacramento Valley. The Sutter Buttes have an almost magnetic pull to the eye. Their remarkable beauty is magnifi ed by the stark contrast of the fl at valley fl oor in the midst of which the buttes are situated. It is known colloquially as “the smallest mountain range in the world” despite being the eroded remnants of volcanic cores standing above what was the once fl ooded Central Valley. This is where we begin our story of Indigenous fi re. According to Plains Miwok creation story, it is the place of the fi re that burnt the world over.1 The numerous layers of knowledge associated with the Buttes make them a fi tting focal point in this chapter. Beyond the story of fi re, the Buttes represent a lesson of a time when people had to learn to use fi re as a tool within their homelands or live in fear of the wrath of destruction described in the ancient story. It is also fi tting that traditionally the Buttes were only accessed by those initiated to visit them-a custom mirrored in Indigenous fi re traditions.