Random Thoughts: Pine Barrens (NJ)

As I’m wandering the newly burned area of the Pine Barrens, I am reminded of the original people where I live now.

The Lenape lived in the Pine Barrens long before Europe even had an idea how to govern. You know, back when it was just war lords? Lenape have been here existing.

Given the timeline we’re talking, there will be nothing about Nature that wasn’t affected by human involvement.

It’s not that they specifically went out of their way to harm Nature. It was the exact opposite. Every task set before them with Nature was given proper course and time to review.

In this area, when Nature does as it does, chaos rules the plants. It gets too abundant and wears on many aspects of life. I’ve watched it happen.

The Pine Barrens is known for fire.

But, it’s more an area that needs controlled burns than one that catches naturally often.

Fire will happen in the Pine Barrens. If Nature is let to control the option, it won’t be pretty.

The Lenape did control burns. Not that I know the word they used for it. My brother asked, “Did they use fire breaks?”

I’m wondering if he even realized these people had a more advanced civilization than Europeans for longer. White History is oh so wrong.

My question has been why? Because I knew about the burnings longer than i had an answer to it.

Then it hit me. Or fire hit the area. An area that hasn’t had a control burn in a while. Then I looked into further proof to the theory.

Fire that has more to burn will be hotter. It will go farther and do a lot more damage. Pitch Pine, the tree that belongs in the Pine Barrens (hence the name), can handle a basic fire. It can handle control burns. It was done so often, that many pitch pine seeds will only activate with fire. If control burns were kept up, the pitch pine would dominate the area like it should be. The fires would be easy to handle. And it would be rare that a forest fire turns into a danger to human life.

Control burns here save lives.

Control burns save the environment.

So that was the why. An answer to my little self question: Why did the Lenape do control burns?

It is also the answer why we still need control burns. If we want to save both the environment and human lives, we must have control burns.

This lead me to another question recently. My open question. An unanswerable question. Did the forest become this way because of the Lenape? Did it become the Pine Barrens because of the Lenape? Or was it always like this and white settlers gave the Pine Barrens a chance to be something more than just pitch pines and blueberries?


I don’t know how many died in the first fire before control burns were a thing. I don’t know who decided on doing the control burns. I cannot even name the ancestors in my tree let alone the list of leaders of Lenape. (I need to go seek that knowledge. I can gain access to the one who married white. … this is unimportant side information)

There were many benefits to the control burns. Nature thrived with them. Without the choking hazards that died with fire, plant life that could survive fire did so stronger. They became more fruitful and plentiful.

The blueberries and cranberries lived in water zones protecting themselves and making it clear where the water table was. We can easily find water in the Pine Barrens by following the blueberry bushes.

The sight range without the chaos plants let invaders and animals besides within full sight.

Movement was far more possible after control burns.


So why did it get started?

Was it an invader set to raze this family of Lenape?

The natives here used fire readily for a lot of things. Even if it wasn’t called coal, they used a form of it. NJ produced a lot of coal in the early days of its existence. Fire was an invasion tactic. Fire was a defense. Fire was healing. Fire was clearing.

Did Nature cause the fire that left them with the idea? With the requirement? Watching the new growth after fire and the several plants that didn’t die when Nature razed things?

We get lightning strikes pretty often. Before humans were here, those strikes would’ve lead to fire every single time.

Humans have made comments about setting fire in the woods is bad. Fire in the woods is bad. Yet… We need it. Often when thinking about a tree’s timeline.

It’s been about a hundred years since life without fire has existed. Nature isn’t allowed to ravage with fire like she did. Now, after not doing so, each fire is so much worse. It’s far more dangerous.

We learned what the Lenape did- hopefully not the hard way-, we need control burns.

Fire helps.

Fire heals.

Fire saves the day.

Because it belongs here far more than humans do.

Humans can try to control it. But there are ways to control that save lives. And ways to control that kill so many more.


Think of fire as if you are releasing your emotions. Control burns are giving yourself time to feel often so it’s never overwhelming. Without those control burns, you will suffer a worse fate when it finally blows up in your face.

These random thoughts…

Ones I’ll never get the truth to. Because the when and the why it was started happened so long ago even spirits would struggle to give me the truth.

I could spin a tale that suits, but there is no way it is truth. I find it doubtful the old tale that the Lenape used to explain to the next generation about control burns is around still. It was such a strong powerful story lost to the hands of time.

Or more it was covered in blood by those called heroes.

There’s a reason a write dark fantasy.

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