8 Tribes That Are Way Ahead of the Climate-Adaptation
Condensed by Native Village
Climate Change Projections for the
In the year
1 - 1 1/2 feet
3°F° - 5°F°
4 - 4 1/2 feet
6°F° - 9°F°
The alarming rates of climate change are triggering efforts
models, and a re-analysis of all information point to humans
as the main cause of these
Among these dire pronouncements and warnings is a bright spot:
It may not be too late to turn
the tide and pull Mother Earth back from the brink.
This isn't news to the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island.
Their understanding of
environmental issues comes from thousands of years of historical
perspective. Native Americans live at the forefront of
and have been forced to adapt.
knowledge and ability to read
environmental signs, the tribes below are leading the way
with climate-change plans:
From Proclamation to Action
In 2006, a strong storm
pushed tides several feet above normal,
flooding and damaging Swinomish reservation property.
This spurred the tribe to find appropriate
responses to climate change. Since then they
have implemented a concrete action plan.
In 2007, the Swinomish became the
first tribal nation to pass a
Climate Change proclamation.
In 2008, they began a 2-year project. By 2009
they had issued an
impact report, and in 2010 they released an
“next step” implementation projects. Several
of those projects are now under way,including
Coastal Protection Measures,
Community Health Assessment
Swinomish won funding to help support
the $400,000 Swinomish Climate Change
Initiative from the U.S. Department of Health &
Human Services, the Administration for Native
“The latest reports reflect accelerated
rates of sea level rise and temperature
increases, among others," said Ed Knight. “We are
currently passing 400 ppm of CO2, on track for
[Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] worst-case scenarios.”
More tribes are addressing climate change on their
communities and resources. The Institute
for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP)
has received funding to
conduct climate adaptation training.
Rising Sea Levels and
Jamestown S’Klallam tribal citizens live in an
ecosystem that has sustained them for thousands
of years. Although
they've adapted to climate change in the past,
current and projected climate change prompted
them to step it up.
It became apparent when
tribal members noticed ocean acidification in
the failure of oyster and shellfish larvae.
“Everyone who was part of the advisory group all
had their personal testimony as to the changes
they’d seen,” said Hansi Hals, the tribe’s
environmental planning program manager.
“Everybody had something to say.”
Tribal members took their concerns to the Natural Resources committee
and tribal council three years ago, Hals said.
climate vulnerability assessment and adaptation
identifies key tribal resources, outlines expected impacts from climate change, and
creates adaptation strategies for each
It included sea-level-rise maps are
for three time frames, near (low),
and end of century
Bolstering Tribal Resilience
Southwestern New Mexico
The Mescalero Apache's Tribal lands flank the Sacramento
Mountains and border Lincoln National Forest.
Growing numbers of intense wildfires are
destroying their drought-compromised
The tribe has undertaken
innovative environmental initiatives
to bolster tribal resilience to climate change
impacts. One example is a
pond built as an alternative
for the fish hatchery. It holds 500,000
gallons of water from a river 3,600 feet away.
“It’s all gravity fed,” said Mike Montoya,
director of the tribe's Fisheries Department. “Now, with
the aid of solar powered water pumps, we are
able to supply water to our community garden.”
Defending the Klamath River
With lands around the Klamath River
and Six Rivers National Forests, the Klamath Tribe is implementing
parts of its
Eco-Cultural Resources Management Draft Plan.
in 2010, the plan blends the best
available science, local observations,
and Traditional Ecological Knowledge. From
this, the Karuk will create an integrated approach
that addresses natural resource management
confronts the potential impacts of climate
Confederated Salish and Kootenai
the Tribal Science Council
identified climate change and traditional
ecological knowledge as the top two priorities
for tribes across the nation. In 2013, the
Salish and Kootenai adopted a
Climate Change Strategic Plan.
So did the Inter-Tribal Timber Council
Financial support came from groups affiliated
with the Kresge foundation and from the Great
Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative. Next the tribes
will establish a Climate Change Oversight
Committee. This committee will:
Coordinate funding requests
Continue researching Traditional
Incorporate strategic planning
results into other guiding document
Update the plan on a regular basis
based on updated science
Preservation Via Carbon
In 1990s, the Nez
Perce Forestry & Fire Management Division
developed a carbon offset
to market carbon sequestration credits. Several
years later the Tribe recognized that
carbon sequestration on forested
would preserve natural resources, generate jobs and income,
and reduce greenhouse gases emissions into the
The Nez Perce's afforestation project is meant to establish marketable carbon
offsets, promote understand of potential
carbon markets, and fund implementation and administration projects.
The tribe says raising awareness and educating
other tribes about carbon sales and the
opportunities for more carbon sequestration
projects as its biggest
accomplishment of the last two years.
Attacking Greenhouse Gas
Band of Chumash Indians
In 1998 the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians formed the
Chumash Environmental Office.
Their goals were to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions and the impacts of climate
change on tribal peoples, land and resources.
many projects have had
impressive results, including major reductions
of greenhouse gas emissions.
One example is the
Chumash Casino’s shuttle
bus program. In 2009, it eliminated 800,000 car trips
with 66,000 bus trips.
has reduced its energy consumption,
chemical waste and use of one-use materials. It
also has an extensive rainwater and gray water
collection and treatment system. Many
initiatives have proven economical
offer a model for tribal and
non-tribal businesses to implement similar changes.
The tribe is
now investigating future plans. They include opening a public
compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station,
replacing our fleet with CNG vehicles,
installing EV charging stations, implementing
an innovative home, and building upgrade training
Newtok Village is home to some of America's
first climate refugees. Sea and river cut
through, then eroded, the permafrost beneath
their Native Alaskan village. A 1983 assessment
predicted Newtok would be endangered within 25-
30 years. In 1994, Newtok began working on the ultimate adaptation plan:
In 1996, they chose to relocate 9 miles south in
Martarvik. Their efforts
intensified when an
Army Corps of Engineers study
highest point would be
below sea level by 2017.
The Newtok community,
government agencies and other organizations formed the
But Stanley Tom, Newtok's administrator, said
funding has been nearly impossible to find.
He is now
calling for Newtok's
"It's really happening right now,” has said
May. “The village is sinking and flooding and
At the time, Tom was
moving his own belongings to the new, still
very sparse Martarvik village site. He advised fellow villagers to start doing the
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