For centuries, Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples have stewarded natural resources to sustain their communities, traditional ways of life, and cultural identities. This close relationship with the natural world puts Indigenous communities at the forefront of climate change impacts.
Drawing upon a strong history of adaptation and innovation, Tribal nations and Indigenous communities are key collaborators on adaptation work within the Climate Adaptation Science Center (CASC) network. The CASCs partner with Native and Indigenous communities to better understand their specific knowledge of and exposure to climate change impacts, to increase or assist with capacity to support adaptation planning, and to identify and address their climate science needs.
The CASCs have funded, organized, and participated in a variety of research projects, training workshops, and stakeholder meetings. The CASCs have also worked with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to support Tribal Resilience Liaisons who provide another avenue for communication, engagement, and research between Indigenous peoples and the CASCs. These Liaisons are dedicated to increasing CASC engagement with Tribal nations, Tribal consortia, and Tribal organizations so that the CASCs can further understand and meet their information needs.
The projects CASCs have funded to support and assist Native and Indigenous communities can be grouped into four main categories: 1) assessing science needs; 2) increasing capacity; 3) understanding impacts to food, water, and culturally important resources; and 4) incorporating traditional knowledge into adaptation planning.
Input & Engagement
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, collaborative partnership established in the Southeast, 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.
Tribal resilience, Applied Research and Outreach, Cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary communication
Tribal Resilience Liaisons
Tribal nations and native communities face significant challenges in responding to long-term trends in climate and extreme climatic events. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, the US Geological Survey, and tribal groups are collaborating to station Tribal Resilience Liaisons at Department of the Interior Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASCs). Liaisons are generally employed by tribal organizations and work at CASCs, and will increase the resources available to:
- Help tribes access information, data, and expertise at the CASCs and elsewhere
- Facilitate research integrating traditional knowledge
- Support tribal forums and information exchange
These efforts are designed to better understand, communicate, and meet the needs of tribes through partnerships to build tribal capacity and promote more resilient tribal communities.
The Tribal Resilience Liaisons for the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center are Sara Smith and Casey Thornbrugh.
Sara serves as the liaison between Tribes in the Midwest, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and climate science researchers to identify and address research gaps in climate, natural, and cultural resources; as well as improve outreach and capacity building. Sara is a direct descendant of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. Her experience is in research and development, natural resources, ecology, Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), and working with indigenous communities in the Midwest. Sara’s interests entail forest ecology and dynamics, bridging the gap between science and indigenous knowledge, climate resilience education, and community outreach.
View her staff profile page, including contact information, here.
Casey serves as the liaison between Tribes in the Northeast and the Southeast, the United South and Eastern Tribes Inc. (USET), the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and climate science researchers. Based out of the Northeast CASC at UMass-Amherst, he provides current climate science information to Tribal Nations on the East Coast and in Gulf Coast states, as well as identifies climate research needs and priorities, and provides climate adaptation planning support for the Tribes. Casey participates in the network of Tribal climate science liaisons within the Climate Adaptation Science Centers, as well as a national workgroup of Tribal organizations, Tribal colleges, and other partners to address policy and resource issues associated with Tribal climate resilience.
View his staff profile page, including contact information, here.
Key Resources and Developed Products
The Northeast Indigenous Climate Resilence Network
Collaboration in Action: Using the Menominee Model of Sustainability to Assess, Plan, and Build Capacity for Tribal Communities to Address Climate Change in the Northeast Climate Science Center Region
A website built to convene Indigenous Peoples to identify threats to Indigenous self-determination and the ways of life and formunlate strategies, dialogs and educational programs that build Indigenous capacities to address climate-related issues.
Tribal Adaptation Menu
The Tribal Adaptation Menu is an extensive collection of climate change adaptation actions for natural resource management, organized into tiers of general and more specific ideas.
Case Study for U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit: Building Tribal Capacity
A website to highlinght case-studies of communities, businesses, and individuals actions to document their vulnerabilities and build resilience to climate-related impacts.
- The Northeast Indigenous Climate Resilience Network (NICRN), which seeks to convene Indigenous peoples to identify threats to Indigenous self-determination and ways of life and to formulate adaptation and mitigation strategies, dialogues, and educational programs that build Indigenous capacities to address climate-related issues.
- Eastern Turtle Island Climate Change Newsletter Feb 2018
- Eastern Turtle Island Climate Change Newsletter Jan 2018
- Webinar - 2018 Update Tribal Climate Science and Adaptation in the Midwest and Northeast
- USET/USET SPF Executive Officers Discussion on Indian Country: A panel moderated by USET Executive Director, Kitcki Carroll, Citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and was recorded at the USET SPF Impact Week held in Washington D.C. March 4-7, 2019. Provides great insight to the priorities and concerns of Tribal Nations through their leadership. Panelists included:
- USET President, Chief of the Penobscot Nation, Kirk Francis Sr.;
- Vice President, Robert McGhee, Vice Chief of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians;
- Treasurer, B. Cheryl Smith, Chief of the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians;
- Secretary, Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts) Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, Chief of the Mohegan Tribe.
Learn more about affilaited Indigenous Peoples and Tribal Partners projects
- Providing Support for the Development of a Tribal Forest Adaptation Menu
- Indigenous Planning Summer Institute
- Supporting Collaborative Relationships between Tribes and Climate Science in the Northeast Region to Address Climate Impacts
- Tribal Colleges and Universities: TCU Engagement with Tribal Communities on Climate Change Issues
- Shifting Seasons: Tribal Climate Adaptation Training with Northeastern Tribes
- Collaboration in Action: Using the Menominee Model of Sustainability to Assess, Plan, and Build Capacity for Tribal Communities to Address Climate Change in the Northeast Climate Science Center Region
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