Indigenous Peoples and Tribal Partners


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.Scollaborative 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.


Chris Caldwell College of Menominee Nation


Tribal resilience, Applied Research and Outreach,                                                                                                               Cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary communication


View all of Chris's relevant projects>>


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 Smith

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 Thornbrugh 

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

Tribal Colleges and Universities: TCU Engagement with Tribal Communities on Climate Change Issues 

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

Tribal Colleges and Universities: TCU Engagement with Tribal Communities on Climate Change Issues 

A website to highlinght case-studies of communities, businesses, and individuals actions to document their vulnerabilities and build resilience to climate-related impacts.



Click here to view a full list of all developed Tools and Resources>>




Learn more about affilaited Indigenous Peoples and Tribal Partners projects