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

Project Leader: 
Research Partners: 
Kyle Powys Whyte, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Michigan State University (MSU); Jason Komanekin, CMN Student; Casey Thornbrugh Ph.D. Tribal Climate Science Liaison, United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) Inc.; Bull Bennett Ph.D. Kiksapa Consulting LLC.; Sara Smith, Midwest Tribal Resilience Liaison, CMN.
Project Fellows: 
Science Themes: 

This project seeks to implement the recommendations included in Science Theme 6: "Impacts of climate variability and change on cultural resources" of the NECASC Strategic Science Agenda as a baseline for future efforts in the Northeast region. Tribal nations (Tribes) in the Northeast region face different challenges and opportunities regarding climate change impacts. Each Tribe is unique in terms of its cultural, economic, geographic, jurisdictional, social, and political situation. As sovereign governments exercising self-determination, Tribes will have greater capacity to adapt if they are able to determine how climate science research can serve their governance priorities. Fulfilling the Theme 6 recommendations of the NECSC Strategic Science Agenda, then, requires a project that respects the uniqueness and self-determination of Tribes in the Northeast region. This project will provide assessment for Tribes of strengths and vulnerabilities to climate change to better link NE CSC and other resources to address tribally identified issues.

The goals of this project are to support Tribal efforts to (A) create awareness about climate change impacts on Tribes in the Northeast region and (B) develop a set of working ideas about what capacities are needed for Tribes to adapt and to mitigate climate change impacts. The climate change impacts in (A) will range from threats to the continuance of Tribal cultural activities such as ceremonies to new challenges for Tribal mixed subsistence and commercial economies. The working ideas in (B) include both solutions that individual Tribes can pursue independently through the development of policies that primarily affect Tribal members and cooperative solutions that require Tribes to work with a range of national, regional and local governmental and nongovernmental partners.  Project Outcomes: 1) Report on Recommending the Role of the NE CSC in supporting Tribal scenario development; 2) Review of existing published literature that fulfills the recommendations in the Strategic Science Agenda. This project will provide assessment for Tribes of strengths and vulnerabilities to climate change to better link NE CSC and other resources to address tribally identified issues.

We have recently been conducting tribal site visits. These specific results are being tracked and reported on under the "Supporting Tribal Relations" grant project, but we do have a few results we are looking at in this project: the tribal site visits have yielded a number of different activities, which range from the development of scenarios with the respective Tribes, to assisting with the development of climate education materials for community and K-12 initiatives. At this point of the project, the biggest issue we are looking at is how we begin to pull in other consortium members of NE CSC to not just learn about Tribes, but consider the development of partnerships and projects. The current base funded initatives were necessary to build towards that, but we are at a juncture where getting specific is the key.

Additionally, Project Director Caldwell is now participating in two advisory committee/boards, one for the Northern Arizona University's (NAU) Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) development of tribal leadership training, and the other with the new GLISA Advisory Board. These activities provide opportunities to learn more about Tribal needs around the country but also provide connections from the NE CSC work into these other initatives.

Tools and Products

The Northeast Indigenous Climate Resilence Network 

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. 


  • Caldwell, Tribal Climate Camp offered by Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians (ATNI), United Southern and Eastern Tribes (USET), and the Northwest Climate Science Center at Pack Forest, in Eatonville, Washington from July 31-August 4, 2017
  • Edler, R., Caldwell, C., North Central Extension Water Summit May 23-25, 2017 “Building Collaboration Between State Land Grant Universities and Tribal Colleges and Universities” Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence, Kansas.
  • Caldwell, C., Five Colleges Consortium Native American and Indigenous Studies Program, "Living Waters, Animate Lands Symposium" in Amherst, MA. April 5-7, 2017           
  • Caldwell, C., Food Sovereignty Symposium and Festival, March 10, 2017. UW Madison Law School.
  • Schaefer, M.,  Rising Voices IV meeting in Hawaii, July 5-9, 2016 to talk about the "Sustaining Indigenous Voices for the National Climate Assessment"
  • Caldwell, C., Whyte, K., Penn State led SCRiM Summer School August 15-19, 2016
  • Caldwell, C., BIA Midwest regional Partners in Action meeting in Sault Ste. Marie on July 25, 2016
  • Caldwell, C., Tribal Climate Boot Camp, June 20-23, 2016, McCall Idaho,
  • Caldwell, C., Great Lakes Integrated Science and Assessment (GLISA) at University of Michigan February 17, 2016. 
  • USET Impact week meeting February 8-10, 2016.
  • Caldwell, C., MSU Law School event "Indigenous Communities and Climate Change."
  • CMNSDI Advisory Council meeting, January 2016
  • Schaefer, M., “Indigenous Networks and Climate Chage”. American Anthropological Association, Denver, CO. November 21, 2015.
  • Schaefer, M., Upper Midwest Great Lakes LCC Steering Committee, November 19th, 2015.
  • Huaro,C., (CMN Student intern), "Agricultural Research and Climate Change." First Americans Land-Grant Consortium, Denver, CO. November 6-8, 2015.
  • Schaefer, M., Manoomin (Wild Rice) Symposium hosted by Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and University of Minnesota, September 28th-29th, 2015.
  • Hosted NE CSC Fellows Retreat - College of Menominee Nation, September 23rd, 2015.
  • Caldwell, C., "Indigenous Perspectives on Climate Change," Penn State SCRiM Sustainable Climate Science Summer School, Penn State, PA. August 3-8, 2015.
  • Schaefer, M., Presentation on CMN/SDI Tribal Climate Change Initiatives. "Rising Voices III: Learning and Doing--Education and Adaptation through Diverse Ways of Knowing."  Boulder, CO, June 29-July 1, 2015.
  • Schaefer, M., participated in "Researcher and Community Engagement: the Politics of Doing Research" panel. "Collaboration in Action: Building Bridges between Tribes and Climate Scientists," Society for Applied Anthropology, Pittsburgh, PA. March 26, 2015.
  • Caldwell, C., Tribal and Community Colleges: Education, Equity, and Climate Change. Caldwell attended and presented College of Menominee Nation Work on Tribes and Climate Change. National Adaptation Forum: Action today for a better tomorrow, St. Louis, MO. May 12-14, 2015.
  • Caldwell, C., Roundtable Discussions: Tribal Colleges/Universities. February 2015.
  • Caldwell, C., Schaefer, M. Presented the project work. Amherst MA, February 19, 2015.
  • Caldwell, C., Schaefer, M., Barten, P., Five Colleges Indigenous Studies program. Keshena WI, December 18, 2014.
  • Caldwell, C., “Donning Our Regalia: Maintaining Tradition in an Age of Modernity” workshop at University in British Columbia on December 8-11, 2014.
  • USET’s Tribal Climate Science Liaison, Casey Thornbrugh, worked with the College of the Menominee Nation – Sustainable Development Institute and the Wabanaki Culture Center to host a writing retreat for Tribal environmental profession staff tasked with completing their Tribe’s climate adaptation plans.  Staff participated from the Aroostook Band of Micmac, Houlton Band of Maliseet, Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point, and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head. August  2018
  • Website:  Northeast Indigenous Climate Resilience Network ( This website serves as a resource for Tribal governments, Tribal institutions, and Tribal members to gather relevant information on climate change and provide a resource for scientists looking to work with Tribes, especially in the Northeast.
  • News: Building Bridges Between Tribes and Climate Scientists. February 20, 2015.
  • Webinar: Caldwell, C., Schaefer, M., “Building Tribal Capacity for Climate Change Adaptation”, 2014 NE CSC webinar series on December 3, 2014.

Tribal Site Visits

  • Site Grand Traverse Bay Band of Odawa, and Little Traverse Bay Brand Indians in May. Worked to provide LTBB with beginning thoughts on development of curriculum for Tribal Youth Summer camp.
  • Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi and Little River Band of Ottaway, September 11-13.