Prairie Fires and Earth Mounds: The Ethnoecology of Upper Chehalis Prairies

This spring I spend my days at Mima mounds natural area preserve and glacial heritage prairie in Thurston County, Washington. I monitor camas distributions on mounds and their intermound swales, along northsouth gradients. I record camas phenological stages and the relative abundance of other ethnobotanical species important to the Native peoples of this land. Each day, when the prairie warms up it becomes abuzz with busy bees, pollinating future camas crops. Butterflies dance on the breeze, a pair of Northern harriers soar over mounded terrain, and meadowlarks sing happily as I count “Bud Bud Flower Fruit Fruit Flower Flower Fruit . . .” My volunteer companion, Dale Pressler, records this monotonous drone. Riffle club shell fire and a remotecontrol toy airplane periodically shatter the serenity of our routine. But the prairie’s beauty, the secrets lying dormant in these earth mounds, and my desire to complete my PhD keep me coming back, day after day, week after week