Climate Change Response of Indigenous People

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A report that the Institute of Tribal Environmental Professionals at Northern Arizona University published shows how Indigenous Nations respond to climate change.

The 300+ page report, ‘The Status of Tribes and Climate Change Report’, talks about the science of climate change and weaves personal stories from tribal members on how they adapt and cope with climate change impacts.

These stories from tribal members of the Indigenous peoples of North America are essential because it highlights their Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). The report combines the traditional knowledge of the Indigenous people with the western science perspective to help tribal members respond to climate change.

Indigenous people are on the frontlines of climate change and climate adaptation. They possess incredible resilience and innovation from their Indigenous knowledge, worldviews, and strong connection to their land and environment passed on from countless generations.

However, many tribal communities are also experiencing severe climate change impacts like shifts or loss in key cultural species, land loss due to erosion, permafrost thaws, and flooding. These challenges are daunting fuelled by the lack of funding, technical resources, and their painful experiences of colonialism and discrimination.

Ninety people from diverse entities and perspectives authored the report. It includes 34 personal narratives and author teams who wrote topic reviews from their own experiences and knowledge and information from current literature.

The report seeks to honour and uplift the voices of Indigenous people across the United States to promote understanding of their tribal ways, cultures, and worldviews. It also shows the climate impacts they are experiencing, and the solutions they are implementing – information that could help the U.S. governments, NGOs, decision-makers, and organisations support Tribal communities with climate adaptation.

Indigenous peoples have a history of relating to human-caused climate change through land-use changes imposed on them by the actions of U.S. citizens and policy-makers. Honouring indigenous knowledge systems means that authorities must consult indigenous peoples meaningfully from the earliest policy and research development stages.

The report has 12 chapters. Each chapter contains a complete list of key messages and recommendations. It mentions, “Much like the interwoven nature of all the topics addressed in this report, the key messages and recommendations are interdependent and can be distilled into two themes: Respect and uphold Tribal sovereignty and self-determination and Integrate holistic responses in line with Tribal values.”

To read the entire report, click the link below:

Source Citation:

Status of Tribes and Climate Change Working Group (STACCWG). (2021). Status of Tribes and Climate Change Report, Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ. [Marks-Marino, D. (ed.)] Status of Tribes and Climate Change Report. (August 2021).

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