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“Little Science, Lots of Advertising: How the U.S. Forest Service Suppressed Cultural Burning”

Kirsten Vinyeta
Kirsten Vinyeta
Utah State University
Miller Learning Center, Room 348
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Co-sponsored by: Workshop on Culture, Power, and History and the Willson Center for the Humanities and Arts

This presentation synthesizes the findings from two separate but related research efforts examining the tactics employed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in the 20th century to inculcate settlers in the United States with pyrophobic values. By examining USFS fire suppression rhetoric from 1905-present, as well as carrying out a systematic analysis of Smokey Bear campaign materials, these combined research efforts reveal how settler colonial logics permeated the agency's outward-facing dialogue and marketing to conceal the lack of science informing the agency's strict fire suppression. These logics served to erase Indigenous peoples, women, and more-than-human species as active and capable agents in the forest, a fact that has eco-cultural consequences that reverberate to this day.

Co-sponsored by: Workshop on Culture, Power, and History and the Willson Center for the Humanities and Arts 

Speaker Bio:  Dr. Vinyeta is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Utah State University. She is an environmental sociologist specializing in qualitative methods whose research focuses on federal land management, climate change, and the impacts of these on Indigenous peoples and sovereignty in the United States. Prior to her role at USU, Kirsten received her PhD in Environmental Sciences, Studies and Policy at the University of Oregon and her BS in Landscape Architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At the University of Oregon, she was a research fellow for the Tribal Climate Change Project and carried out a community-based participatory research project with the Coquille Indian Tribe as part of her master's thesis. Since 2016, she has served as a collaborating researcher and illustrator for the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources, examining how federal wildfire management policies affect the Tribe's ability to adapt to climate change and protect the ecological integrity of the Klamath River Basin. As a settler frequently collaborating with Indigenous scholars, professionals, and communities, she is committed to community-based projects that honor Indigenous epistemologies and advance Indigenous sovereignty. She is also interested in projects that interrogate mainstream discourses of climate change vulnerability and resilience, and in exploring the applicability of multispecies justice frameworks.

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