Native Village 
Youth and Education News

November 1, 2013

Native Tribes’ Traditional Knowledge Can Help US Adapt To Climate Change
Dartmouth, other researchers explore global warming's ecological, cultural, health impacts on indigenous peoples
Condensed by Native Village
New England: The sustainable methods Native People used to farm, hunt and manage the forests, lands and waters were devastated by Europeans 400 years ago.  Now, more than 50 researchers from Dartmouth and elsewhere say these Native methods can help today's America adapt to climate change.

Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Working Group 
Nov 4- 5, 2013
Dartmouth University, New Hampshire

Their conclusions were published in the peer-reviewed journal, Climatic Change.

The special issue, which includes 13 articles, focuses on climate change’s impact on U.S. tribes and how they've responded to the changing environments.  The issue concludes that tribes’ traditional ecological knowledge can play a key role in developing scientific solutions to adapt to the impacts.

Approximate location of old growth forests

“The partnerships between tribal peoples and their non-tribal research allies give us a model for responsible and respectful international collaboration,” the authors say.

Dartmouth assistant professors Nicholas Reo and Angela Parker wrote the article, “Re-thinking colonialism to prepare for the impacts of rapid environmental change.” They said New England settlers created a cascade of environmental and human changes that spread across North America. These included human diseases, invasive species, deforestation and overharvest.

The researchers identified tipping points and feedback loops that cause environmental change. For example, before European invasion, old growth deciduous forests covered more than 80% of New England. These forests were rich with animal and plant resources that Native peoples sustained for centuries through their land practices.

“But when indigenous communities were decimated by disease and eventually alienated from their known environments, land tenure innovations based on deep, local ecological knowledge, disappeared,” researchers say. “Colonists, and their extractive systems aimed at key animal and plant species, became the new shapers of cultural landscapes. Rapid ecological degradation subsequently ensued, and New Englanders created a difficult project of stewarding a far less resilient landscape without help from indigenous land managers who would have known best how to enact ecological restoration measures.”

Today’s tribal members working in natural resources-- fisherman, farmers, land managers, etc -- can play key roles in devising strategies to adapt to climate change, the researchers say.

THE 13 Climatic Change ARTICLES

Introduction: climate change and indigenous peoples of the USA

Justice forward: Tribes, climate adaptation and responsibility
Culture, law, risk and governance: contexts of traditional knowledge in climate change adaptation
The impacts of climate change on tribal traditional foods
Indigenous frameworks for observing and responding to climate change in Alaska

Climate change impacts on the water resources of American Indians and Alaska Natives in the U.S.
Climate change in arid lands and Native American socioeconomic vulnerability: The case of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe
The impact of climate change on tribal communities in the US: displacement, relocation, and human rights
Cultural impacts to tribes from climate change influences on forests

Changing streamflow on Columbia basin tribal lands—climate change and salmon

Exploring effects of climate change on Northern Plains American Indian health

The effect of climate change on glacier ablation and baseflow support in the Nooksack River basin and implications on Pacific salmonid species protection and recovery

Re-thinking colonialism to prepare for the impacts of rapid environmental change

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