Researchers are working with tribes and indigenous communities to better understand their specific vulnerabilities to climate change and to help them adapt to these impacts.
For centuries, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and other indigenous peoples and communities have relied on natural resources to sustain their families, communities, traditional ways of life, and cultural identities. This relationship with both land and water ecosystems makes indigenous people and cultures particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which can include drought, increased wildfires and extreme weather, sea-level rise and melting glaciers.
Many communities are already facing problems such as loss of important freshwater resources and agricultural lands due to ocean inundation in the Pacific Islands, the decimation of an important food source, potentially related to climate change in Alaska, and vulnerability to extreme weather events in the South Central U.S.
The Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASCs) are working with tribes and indigenous communities to better understand their specific vulnerabilities to climate change and to help them adapt to these impacts. This work is conducted through research projects, outreach events (i.e. cultural festival and tribal schools), training workshops, stakeholder meetings, youth internships, and other coordination activities.
Direct input from and engagement with tribal and indigenous communities is crucial for the CASCs to provide the appropriate science needed by these communities. Input is also important so that, when appropriate and acceptable, researchers can understand and consider Traditional Knowledge. Input is, in part, gathered through participation from these communities in the regional CASC Stakeholder Advisory Committees.
CASCs have also engaged with native communities through efforts such as inter-tribal workshops and climate related training classes in the South Central U.S., education and networking meetings in the Northeast, and interviews with tribal elders in the Northwest.
The Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has also placed Tribal Climate Scientist/Technical Support Coordinators ("Tribal Liaisons") at several of the CASCs to help identify climate information and research needs of tribes and indigenous communities and work with federal partners to address those needs. The Tribal Liaisons in place at this time are listed below.
|Alaska||Malinda Chase||Aleutian Pribilof Islands Associationfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|North Central||Stefan Tangen||Great Plains Tribal Water Allianceemail@example.com|
|Northeast (Midwest)||Sara Smith||College of Menominee Nationfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Northeast & Southeast||Casey Thornbrugh||United South and Eastern Tribes Inc. (USET)||cthornbrugh@USETINC.org|
|Northwest||Chas Jones||Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indiansemail@example.com|
|South Central (OK, TX, LA)||April Taylor||The Chickasaw Nationfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|South Central (NM)||Atherton (Atty) Phleger||The University of Oklahomaemail@example.com|
|Southwest||Althea Walker||American Indian Higher Education Consortiumfirstname.lastname@example.org|
To learn more about CASC initiatives to support indigenous communities, and other related external programs, please visit the sites below:
CASC Project Search: Search for projects using keywords (try "tribal" or "indigenous") and filter by CASC, name, resource type etc.
Northwest CASC Tribal Engagement Strategy, 2012-2016: The purpose of this tribal engagement strategy is to describe the opportunities for collaboration between the NW CASC and 52 Native American tribes within its geographic area.
South Central CASC Tribal Engagement Strategy, 2014: This strategy describes how the SC CASC, tribes and tribal members, and others can collaborate to minimize potential harmful effects of climate change on human society and our surrounding ecosystems.
U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit: Tribal Nations: The U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit provides scientific tools, information, and expertise to help people manage their climate-related risks and opportunities, and improve their resilience to extreme events.
BIA Tribal Resilience Program: The BIA provides federal-wide resources to Tribes to build capacity and resilience through leadership engagement, delivery of data and tools, training and tribal capacity building.
Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledges (TKs) in Climate Change Initiatives: This document is intended to be an informational resource for tribes, agencies, and organizations across the U.S. interested in understanding TKs in the context of climate change.
Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP): ITEP acts as a catalyst among tribal governments, research and technical resources at Northern Arizona University (NAU), in support of environmental protection of Native American natural resources.
National Climate Assessment: Indigenous Peoples, Lands, and Resources: The 2014 National Climate Assessment included a chapter describing the impacts of climate change on Native communities.
Images on Page: Coast Salish Canoe Journey 2009 landing in Pillar Point, WA. Each year Northwest Indian tribes collaborate with USGS to measure salinity, temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen in the Salish Sea. (Photo by Carol Reiss/USGS)