Why Does Climate Change Matter to tribes?

Many tribes are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change because of their close dependence on and connection with the natural environment for their culture, health, and livelihoods. Most tribes have reservations and treaty rights that are connected to specific places and resources, challenging tribes’ mobility and flexibility to go elsewhere in response to future changes. Additionally, many tribal communities face difficult social and economic conditions that may be exacerbated by climate change.

Below are a series of resources that describe impacts of climate change in the northwest and southwest and highlight the unique challenges that climate change presents to tribes.

Resources describing the unique challenges that climate change presents to tribal communities

Tribes & Climate Change

For those just getting started, an overview of how tribes are affected by climate change.

This short, two-minute video features T.M. Bull Bennett, the convening lead author of the Indigenous Peoples chapter of Third National Climate Assessment. It provides an overview of why tribes are particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Video: Indigenous Peoples chapter of Third National Climate Assessment

Climate Impacts on Tribes

For those who want more detail, summaries of key impacts on tribes across the nation.

The Indigenous Peoples Chapter of the Third National Climate Assessment summarizes many of the climate impacts that are particularity important to tribal nations, including the loss of traditional foods, impacts to ecosystems and water quantity and quality, and loss of sea ice cover.
U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, Tribal Nations Third National Climate Assessment, Indigenous Peoples, Lands, and Resources

The below examples highlight impacts climate impacts on Tribes in the Great Basin and the Northwest region

Example: Northern Nevada Tribe

Water scarcity on reservations in northern Nevada is a critical impact for tribes.

Tribal communities who live near the terminus of the Truckee-Carson River system in northern Nevada are especially vulnerable to declining water supplies. Recent drought in the region provides an indication of the impacts that are expected to intensify with climate change: warmer temperatures, reduced snowpack, and lower streamflows. These changes threaten traditional ways including hunting, fishing, and farming. Water for the Seasons is a federally funded project bringing together scientists and tribes in Nevada to study the Truckee-Carson River to determine how the region will handle future weather events and help develop new policies to adapt water management to changing weather patterns.

Video: Water Scarcity on the ReservationWater for Seasons

Report: NW Treaty Tribes

Impacts in Western Washington: Climate Change Impacts to Tribal Rights and Resources

This report by the Northwest Treaty Tribes synthesizes the expected impacts of climate change to the natural systems that sustain the tribes' treaty rights. The scope of the assessment covers the reservations, trust lands, traditional territories, Usual and Accustomed (U&A) places, and historic hunting and gathering areas of the 20 tribal members of the Northwest Treaty Tribes. This includes the homelands that extent from the Cascade Mountains westward to several miles off the Pacific coast of Washington. The assessment summarizes impacts to freshwater aquatic environments, coastal and marine environments, and terrestrial and upland environments. The report also includes some helpful information for understanding climate change basics and potential opportunities to reduce impacts.
Climate Change and Our Natural Resources

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