Like the recent Crozier Hall burn, Rainy River First Nations had quite a wait for the prescribed burn to take place at the Manitou Mounds. It finally went ahead last Tuesday (May 14).
“We had to wait for the winds to die down,” said Martin Nantel, co-ordinator of the Rainy River Watershed Program, adding rain also caused some delays.
“In spite of difficult weather causing us to nearly miss the burn’s window of opportunity, we managed to get an excellent prescribed burn, going deeper into the poplar stands and burning deep into the herbaceous
cover,” Nantel added.
The annual prescribed burn is a partnership between the watershed program, the Rainy River First Nations Fire Department, and Ministry of Natural Resources.
The band plans the burn, ignites it, and follows up to ensure the flames have been completely extinguished. The MNR acts as an advisor in addition to providing suppression and safety backup.
Desiring to maintain this site as part of its heritage, Rainy River First Nations and the watershed program developed a site conservation plan that prescribed spring burns to mimic the ones ignited by the original inhabitants centuries ago.
“Without fire activity, aspen will invade the site, outcompete the current species, and a new young forest type will evolve to replace the prairie oak-savannah eco-type [that’s there now],” noted Nantel.
The prescribed burn site, now part of Rainy River First Nations’ Historical Centre at Long Sault (known as Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung), first was designated as a site of national historical significance in 1970 owing to its many burial mounds.
Built 1,000-1,200 years ago as monuments to the dead, these earthen, nearly symmetrical, and oval-shaped structures represent one of the most significant centres of early habitation and ceremonial burial in Canada.
The biggest, the Armstrong Mound, is about 24 feet in height and 113 feet in diameter, making it one of the largest in Canada. Indigenous peoples throughout North America attach deep cultural and spiritual meaning to Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung.
Of a total of 260 plant species documented at Manitou Mounds last year, 12 provincially-rare plants, most of which are prairie species, were identified.