Beth Rose Middleton is Associate Professor of Native American Studies at UC Davis. She is author of Upstream: Trust Lands and Power on the Feather River (2018, University of Arizona Press) and Trust in the Land: New Directions in Tribal Conservation (2011, University of Arizona Press).
1. Introduction to the Field
he two pieces that begin this module provide a broad introduction to the field of Indigenous leadership in adapting to and mitigating climatic change. Leaders in the field, professors Whyte and Wildcat offer conceptual frameworks with applied examples that orient students to the readings that scaffold a curriculum on Indigenous Leadership in Dealing with Climate Change.
Whyte, Kyle (Spring/Fall 2017) “Indigenous Climate Change Studies: Indigenizing Futures, Decolonizing the Anthropocene” English Language Notes 55 (1-2): 153-162
Potawatomi scholar-activist Prof. Kyle Whyte offers a definition of the history, components, and key themes of the emerging field of Indigenous Climate Change Studies (ICCS), arguing that ICCS embraces nuanced and necessary approaches to understanding and addressing climate change. He posits three key themes of ICCS: climatic change is an expression of colonialism; practicing traditional knowledge is essential for maintaining communities, relationships, responsibilities, and self-determination, particularly in a time of climatic change; and Indigenous views on climatic futurities emerge uniquely from both Indigenous worldviews and Indigenous experiences with apocalyptic colonialism. Whyte’s piece introduces key literature (ranging from academic articles, public statements, and governmental reports) in ICCS, thus providing a guide to additional sources in the field.
Wildcat, Daniel (2009) Red Alert: Saving the Planet with Indigenous Knowledge. Fulcrum: Golden, CO.
Wildcat offers several key terms and approaches in this text which provide a framework for understanding the impacts of climate change on Indigenous peoples, and Indigenous approaches and responses to dealing with climatic change. He introduces the concept of climate-induced removal as “just another removal of Indigenous peoples,” considering the long history of forced displacement and clearly linking climate change to colonialism. He also underscores Indigenous ingenuity—or Indigeneuity—in the range and diversity of Indigenous-led approaches to deal with climate change. Students reading this text may pair it with videos of his talks online, and study of his leadership and scholar-activism with the Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Working Group, the Haskell Environmental Resource Studies program, and Rising Voices.
Introduction / Context
Indigenous peoples have been stewarding forests, plains, coasts, mountains, and deserts since time immemorial. Each landscape is a storied place rich with meaning, lessons, and a long history of relationships between human and non-human elements. The curriculum begins with an introduction to Indigenous stewardship and relationships to land, largely from Indigenous perspectives. This is a starting place for understanding Indigenous perspectives on climate change, as rooted in both Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and in the ongoing struggle to implement it in a colonial context.
Bauer, William J. (2016) California through Native Eyes: Reclaiming History. University of Washington Press.
A California-focused course productively begins with William Bauer’s text, because it reframes understanding of the state’s geography and history by centering Indigenous narratives of place. Commonly accepted settler narratives of California are de-centered by Bauer, allowing students to step-out of familiar interpretations of place and into California Native spatial and temporal epistemologies.
Tuck, Eve, and K. Wayne Yang (2012) “Decolonization is not a metaphor” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1(1).
As students begin to “de-colonize” their perspectives on place and history, it is imperative to discuss how “decolonizing” can be co-opted, and what true decolonization looks like—including the repatriation of lands claimed by settlers. This piece may be un-settling and uncomfortable, yet it is necessary for students to wrestle with what ally-ship with Indigenous peoples actually means.
California Tribal Water Summer Planning Team (2010) Tribal Water Stories, also available from CA-Dept of Water Resources.
This text can be utilized across units in this curriculum.
The first segment, “Tribal Water Stories” offers traditional narratives of water and relationship to water from across California. The second and third segments, “Tribal Water Position Papers” and “Tribal Water Briefing Papers,” offer both traditional perspectives, attention to current legal and political struggles, and policy recommendations.
Anderson, M. Kat. (2005) Tending the Wild, University of California Press
Ethnoecologist Kat Anderson draws on ecological, participatory, and ethnographic methods to highlight the ingenuity, transformative capacity, necessity and resilience of Indigenous stewardship of the eco-regions now known as the state of California.
Kimmerer, Robin Wall (2013) Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. Milkweed Editions.
Ecologist Robin Kimmerer offers grounded reflections on being an Indigenous ecologist. She speaks of family history, identity, language-learning, and cultural practice as inseparable from her praxis as a scientist and scholar. Like Anderson, Kimmerer documents ecological stewardship over millennia, but presents the work in a more personal, storytelling form.
[Film] Tending the Wild, KCET
Four approximately 15-minute segments highlight Indigenous traditional knowledge holders and cultural practitioners throughout California implementing traditional burning; tending and gathering of basketry plants; tending, gathering, and applying medicinal plants; and maintaining and using traditional foods. Film provides a wonderful, visual companion particularly to readings by M. Kat Anderson, Ron Goode, and Jared Aldern, all of whom are featured in the film.
Aldern, Jared D. and Ron W. Goode (2014) “The stories hold water: Learning and burning in North Fork Mono homelands” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 3(3): 26-51.
Educator and environmental scientist Dr. Jared Aldern and traditional ecological knowledge holder, land stewardship expert, and North Fork Mono Tribal Chairman Ron Goode offer a land-based pedagogical approach to restoration of Mono landscapes. They foreground Mono narratives and land-based experience to guide students to understand the importance of restoring Mono stewardship and, as part of this, reintroducing fire in the Mono homeland.
Amy Bowers & Kristen A. Carpenter, “Challenging the Narrative of Conquest: The Story of Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association,” in Indian Law Stories (C. Goldberg, Kevin K. Washburn, Philip P. Frickey eds., 2011).
Two legal scholars offer a Native-centric discussion of the context for the infamous 1988 Lyng case, in which the Supreme Court denied constitutional protection for Native religious freedom. Bowers and Carpenter explain the covenants that constitute Indigenous northwestern California (Yurok, Hoopa, Karuk, Tolowa) commitments to care for and protect sacred places in their homelands. They offer a comprehensive overview of the ways in which California and US incursions on their homelands, responsibilities, and rights impacted land and people. This piece is important in a discussion of traditional stewardship because it both highlights the ways in which Indigenous people’s stewardship responsibilities continue to be impacted by settler legal and political systems, yet also underscores the ways in which Indigenous people continue to successfully resist those incursions and continue their lifeways.
[Film] Chuck Sams 2011 Indigenous Leadership Award
In this short film, Native Conservation leader Chuck Sams (Cayuse, Walla Walla, Cocopah, and Yankton Sioux) is honored by Ecotrust with the 2011 Indigenous Leadership Award. Beginning at about 0:40, he offers a clear and succinct explanation of what his people’s covenant with salmon means, and how it informs his actions. This film is helpful for students to understand the importance of Indigenous responsibilities to other beings.
Lightfoot, Kent and Valentin Lopez (2013) “The Study of Indigenous Management Practices in California: An Introduction,” California Archaeology 5(2)
This piece offers an overview of a range of methods utilized in a collaborative, ongoing research project between the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and scientists at UC Berkeley to understand pre-contact, Indigenous land stewardship on the central California coast. UCB archaeologist Kent Lightfoot and Amah Mutsun Tribal Chairman Valentin Lopez discuss their interdisciplinary, eco-archaeological project at Quiroste Valley Cultural Preserve, which includes archaeology, palynology, plant genetics, dendrochronology, and other research methods to understand historic Indigenous land stewardship. This piece is useful for engaging students in the sciences looking for models of collaborative work that may draw on their disciplinary expertise. This piece is part of a longer issue with several pieces that go into more detail on each of the distinct methods and research outcomes.
Anderson, M. Kat. “The fire, pruning, and coppice management of temperate ecosystems for basketry material by California Indian tribes.” Human Ecology 27 (1): 79-113. March 1999.
Native people had to actively manage landscapes in produce the materials they needed, including the long, straight epicormic shoots required for basketry. Techniques included burning, irrigating, pruning, coppicing, sowing, and weeding. Basketweavers’ knowledge of basketry plants, plant communities, and biodiversity is currently underutilized and undervalued by public lands management agencies; Anderson examines how the knowledge came to be ignored through a focus on (1) men’s work, (2) food gathering as opposed to procurement of other resources, and (3) the human, not ecosystem, dimensions of basketry. She outlines a natural and cultural research methodology for appreciating Indigenous management techniques, including studying vegetation change on archaeological sites, observing and talking to contemporary weavers, creating field experiments to mimic weavers’ management, studying archival data and museum artifacts, and looking at fire scar and pollen data.
The article is organized by a series of properties that basket weavers look for in plant parts, including flexibility, youth, straightness, color, diameter, and length, and how they manage plant species to attain those characteristics. An examination of baskets housed in museums shows extensive use of young branches with uniform characteristics which would not have existed “in the wild.” In discussions with Native people, Anderson finds that they recall light, frequent fires set at the base of a slope that burned to create an open forest. From discussions with elders and others, Anderson quantifies the number of branches per shrub and number of shrubs needed for making baskets. Native management techniques mimicked natural disturbance to enhance plant productivity over time—without management the plant is less productive, and may not live as long (due to disease, the weight of dead branches, etc.). A flow diagram shows how Indigenous people intervened in shrub lifespan, offsetting shrub death by pruning or burning that mimicked natural fire, flooding, or herbivory, and then harvesting the rejuvenated growth, over and over again, thus keeping the plant at a physiologically young state. Burning not only made basketry material available, but also recycled nutrients, and increased sunlight, structural complexity, and seed germination of seral species. Anderson concludes that the term “hunter-gatherer” is a simplistic misnomer, as the ecological consequences of Indian horticultural practices affected organisms and ecosystems, creating a managed—not wild—ecosystem.
2. Transcending barriers to Indigenous stewardship
Indigenous stewardship has been outlawed legally and politically in many areas of the globe. What processes allowed this to occur? What are impacts on land and people in the absence of stewardship? What do Indigenous people write/say about these practices of removal and displacement, and disallowance of ecological-cultural practices? What are the impacts on Indigenous families, communities, and identities? How does this relate to climatic change: for example, in what ways did the supplanting of Indigenous stewardship with non-Indigenous stewardship hasten climatic change? Finally, this sub-module calls students to consider Indigenous resistance and resilience—while Indigenous stewardship may have been legally forbidden, it never stopped, and is ongoing in the face of duress. How might agencies and other potential land management partners work most productively with Indigenous peoples to support Indigenous-led stewardship to combat the global threats of climatic change?
This module begins with four more general pieces on Indigenous stewardship and resilience, and includes a significant sub-module on Indigenous fire management as a specific area of Indigenous leadership in addressing climatic change.
Huntsinger, Lynn, S. McCaffrey. “A Forest For the Trees, Forest Management and the Yurok Environment, 1850 to 1994.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 19 (4): 155-192. 1995.
The introduction of science-based forestry and the associated exclusion of the Yurok from management of their lands ecologically transformed the forests and contributed to divesting Yurok people of their land-based lifeways. Federal and state application of scientific forestry took control over forest resources away from Yurok people. Landscapes were manipulated biologically to produce certain goods and services, resulting in ecological transformations. The authors draw on ethnographic publications (including Yurok publications) to describe Indigenous management, which involved burning to increase productivity and maintain a diversity of ecotypes. Fire suppression by the US Forest Service, a focus on economic outputs, and the use of chemicals to reduce pests reduced Yurok ability to gather on and steward the forest, and affected Yurok health.
While the Yurok continue to hunt, fish, and harvest basketry materials, externally imposed environmental/conservation goals threaten to be the next incursion on Yurok stewardship. The authors conclude that any ecological restoration must also be cultural, and must represent a convergence between landscape and cultural values. The authors’ question of how to balance community and federal roles in management speaks directly to questions facing land stewards and managers dealing with climatic change, and may provide a basis for productive scenario-based exercises for students that consider historical and cultural contexts.
Madrigal, Anthony (2008) Sovereignty, Land and Water: Building Tribal Environmental and Cultural Programs on the Cahuilla and Twenty-Nine Palms Reservations, California Center for Native Nations: UC Riverside.
Attorney/ scholar/ tribal cultural resources protection leader Anthony Madrigal, Sr. provides a nuanced overview and description of the development of Cahuilla environmental and cultural protection programs in two tribal governments in southeastern California.
This book is only accessible from the California Center for Native Nations at UC Riverside.
It is absolutely invaluable as a specific, focused study of the considerations that inform the development of tribal environmental and cultural departments. This text will help inform students about the ways in which specific nations draw on their rich cultural heritage and living practice, and deploy tribal political resources to address and respond to local and regional challenges.
Maldonado, Julie Koppel, Benedict Columbi, and Rajul Pandya, eds. (2013) “Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in the United States: Impacts, Experiences and Actions,” Climatic Change 120(3)
This interdisciplinary special issue of Climatic Change offers 13 articles that highlight Indigenous observations of climatic change; specific impacts on Indigenous peoples and lands caused by climatic change; the necessity of foregrounding Indigenous concerns in responding to climatic change; and Indigenous leadership and ingenuity (“Indigeneuity,” following the introductory article by Dr. Daniel Wildcat) in both developing responses, leading collaborations, and critiquing climate mitigation. The diverse North American nations profiled in the special issue underscore the necessity of diverse solutions to respond to the climate crisis. This collection of articles is excellent for interdisciplinary courses, as it include pieces that emphasize hydrology, law, ethics, forest management, and disaster response, all with a focus on Indigenous-led responses to climate change.
Herman-Mercer, Nicole, Paul F. Schuster, and Karonhiakt’tie Bryan Maracle (2011) “Indigenous Observations of Climate Change in the Lower Yukon River Basin, Alaska” Human Organization 70(3)
This article helps students/practitioners bridge the perceived and actual gaps between Indigenous and Western observations of climatic change. Researchers noted a dearth of information on specific climatic changes and impacts in the Lower Yukon River Basin in Alaska. From 13 interviews with local Indigenous people, they documented observed experiences of climatic change, and considered these alongside larger-scale general predictions of climatic impacts in the region. Careful to acknowledge the validity of each knowledge system stands, the authors call for bringing the two knowledge systems into simultaneous consideration in specific locations in order to develop nuanced adaptation approaches. Students might build from this article to consider different scenarios and study designs that would facilitate applied communication between knowledge systems to confront local and regional impacts of climatic change.
2(a): Indigenous Fire Knowledge and Climate Change
Developed by Christopher Adlam, PhD Candidate, Ecology, UC Davis
Around the world, Indigenous cultures have skillfully used fire to manage their home landscapes for many thousands of years. This practice has many benefits, including recycling nutrients for cultivated or wild crops, creating habitat for wild plants and animals, maintaining travel routes and visibility, and protecting communities from uncontrolled fires. Regrowth after fires feeds herbivores and brings out vigorous, straight shoots used to make tools and baskets. Berry and nut gathering areas are rejuvenated through repeated fires at specific intervals. People feel the land is cleaner and healthier when looked after in this way, and academic scientists measure increases in biodiversity when there are many burnt patches of different ages.
In many places, traditional burning practices have been criminalized, and people struggle to continue using their ancestral knowledge. Indigenous people must contend with colonial governments that do not understand their motives and fear that fire will inevitably destroy resources and threaten the economy. Yet, people around the world are working to bring back the use of fire to keep the land healthy. Policies that aimed to put out all fires have failed, and worsening wildfires are causing a shift towards preventative approaches, including frequent burning to reduce the impact of wildfires. Now, Indigenous people are partners in fire management in many countries, and collaborations are helping heal both the land and people.
This revitalization of Indigenous fire knowledge comes at a time of great ecological and social challenges due to climate change. Without fire, forests are being turned to shrublands and grasslands, wildfires are burning ever hotter and spreading further, and many species are suffering as a result. In many places, the local knowledge of Indigenous people is critical in forestalling these losses and helping landscapes and communities adapt.
NOTE: In some parts of the world, Indigenous people clear land and burn to create fields, which are then left to return to a forested state as new fields are created elsewhere. This is called “swidden” agriculture, or sometimes “slash-and-burn”. Like landscape burning, swidden agriculture is complex, requires great skill and knowledge, despite its negative reputation, may benefit the local ecology by creating different-aged patches of forest. However, this module does not address swidden agriculture; we focus instead on the use of fire to manage natural ecosystems such as grasslands and savannas, dry forests, and wetlands.
Indigenous Fire Practices Around the World
On every continent, Indigenous peoples living in diverse environments use landscape fires to keep their lands healthy. Temperate forests, tropical savannas, wetlands and arid grasslands are set ablaze to regenerate the vegetation and keep it from getting too dense. In wetter ecosystems, like boreal forests and temperate and tropical rainforests, smaller patches are burnt to hunt, maintain travel routes, and create small openings. Despite many challenges to continuing these practices, traditional burning remains important for many Indigenous cultures on all continents.
The following resources present accounts of contemporary Indigenous burning practices and the material, ecological, and spiritual motivations for traditional burning:
[Video, ~41 min; excellent introduction to Aboriginal burning in Australia]
KCET, 2016. Tending the Wild: Cultural Burning.
[Video, ~18 min; Ron Goode, chairman of the North Fork Mono Tribe, and others talk about the importance of traditional burning to tribes and to the health of forests in California, USA]
Lou van Rikxoort, 2016. Kowanyama Early Savanna Burning Project 2016.
[Short video, 1:30; shows the current process used by an Aboriginal organization to burn country in Australia]
Ecological Role of Indigenous Burning
Indigenous burninghas many ecological benefits. Burning to create a mosaic of small patches prevents severe fires. The availability of unburnt, recently burnt, and older burnt patches creates habitat for many species. Other unexpected benefits of burning include lowering water temperature in summer when smoke clouds the sky, which benefits cold-water fish like salmon; increasing water availability to plants and runoff into streams; and leading to more snow accumulation in winter than if dense trees intercepted the snowfall, which leads to water being released later into the spring. Counter-intuitively, frequent burning protects fire-sensitive species, because, without frequent fire, wildfires would be bigger and more intense. Today, Indigenous burning is being employed for conservation goals, such as promoting rare species and controlling invasive weeds.
[Blog post by Australian fire scientist, giving overview of the importance of Aboriginal burning]
Restoring Indigenous Burning
Indigenous cultures around the world have had to face great upheaval due to colonization, environmental changes, and the introduction of the market economy. In most cases, state authorities criminalized the use of fire, making it hard to practice traditional burning. While this situation prevails in many regions, in others the relationship between Indigenous peoples and states has turned to collaboration to restore fire. This is because the land has become less healthy without it, wildfires have gotten bigger and more destructive, and more forests are lost and carbon emitted into the atmosphere as a result.
Working in collaboration has required special efforts to bring together western science and Indigenous ways of knowing. Overcoming conflict, building trust, repairing the damage of policies aimed at quelling all fires will take time, resources and education, but restoring Indigenous burning will help heal the land and the people.
[Video, ~9 min; collaboration in Brazil between government authorities and Javaé and Karajá tribes to restore traditional burning after failed suppression policies]
Indigenous Burning and Climate Change
Climate change is causing changes in the way fires burn around the world. Indigenous communities are often already dealing with restrictive regulations that misunderstand the reasons and impacts of traditional burning; now they must also adapt their ancient practices to changing environments.
Policies to reduce climate change sometimes misguidedly run against traditional practices. In many countries, government authorities have a negative view of fire, and attempts are made to ban its use and “educate” local populations about the harms it causes to the environment and society. With the growing importance of storing carbon to reduce climate change, further pressure is put on Indigenous people to stop using fire, under the belief that burning causes carbon to be released into the atmosphere. International programs that rely on carbon offsets to reduce greenhouse gases can result in prohibition or restriction of traditional practices; thus threatening the maintenance of traditional knowledge and livelihoods.
In other cases, there is a recognition of the critical role of Indigenous burning in preventing worse wildfires. In Australia and Brazil, policies have shifted to account for the critical role of Indigenous burning to reduce carbon emissions. Frequent burning is being re-established, as it has been observed to curtail hot, late-season fires which release large amounts of the carbon stored in the soils and vegetation. In Australia, within the Indigenous Carbon Industry Strategy, carbon credits are being used to pay Indigenous groups for traditional burning. This is protective and restorative for the land, and also helps traditional practitioners maintain their cultural management activities.
Klamathmedia, 2018. Revitalizing Our Relationship With Fire. [Video, ~6 min; Karuk Burning for Climate Adaptation (California, USA)]
Bird, Rebecca Bliege, Brian F. Codding, Peter G. Kauhanen, and Douglas W. Bird. “Aboriginal Hunting Buffers Climate-Driven Fire-Size Variability in Australia’s Spinifex Grasslands.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109, no. 26 (June 26, 2012): 10287–92. [Journal article] .
This third and final module of the Indigenous Leadership in Dealing with Climate Change curriculum focuses on Indigenous-led and/or Indigenous-centered creative partnerships and policy adaptations to address climate impacts. This module engages students in learning about Indigenous climate adaptation plans, participation in and leadership of climate assessments, and Indigenous climate justice organizing for policy change. Scholar-activists can contribute to expanding these partnerships through supporting appropriate policy. Readings include a focus on how Indigenous interventions have transformed the national and state climate assessments; specific Indigenous approaches to understanding and responding to climatic change; and current movements in Indigenous climate justice and activism.
Watt-Cloutier, Shelia (2018) The Right to Be Cold University of Minnesota Press
Grossman, Zoltan (2017) Unlikely Alliances: Native Nations and White Communities Join to Defend Rural Lands, University of Washington Press.
Indigenous climate change movements have often had to challenge multinational corporations and settler government-permitted processes that threaten climate stability. Evergreen Geography and Native Studies Professor Zoltan Grossman traverses the greater western United States, documenting understudied instances of Native and rural white collaboration in the face of common environmental threats. Beyond a series of case studies, Unlikely Alliances offers a framework for understanding collaboration between groups that have historically acrimonious relationships in a shared place. Grossman engages questions of scale (“at what geographic scales can alliances best construct common ground?”); methodology (what organizing strategies work across groups divided by race, privilege, and history?); and temporality, examining collaborations bounded by space but not necessarily by time. With over 30 years of experience working alongside Native and white rural community leaders to protect health and homelands from militarization and extraction, Grossman outlines three conditions central to Native /non-Native alliances: a common place, a common purpose, and a common understanding, and examines the ways in which these factors may be defined and juxtaposed in order to result in alliances that endure and accomplish their goals. This text may be used to help students consider the factors that support unlikely partnerships between actors facing common climatic impacts, and how research and organizing, or scholarship and activism, may be deployed to support respectful collaboration.
The following five resources document Indigenous interventions in climate change assessment, policy, and planning. Students should be asked to read the chapters for both methods/ framework (who are the authors? What questions were asked? What data was used to draw conclusions? What sources were cited?, etc.) as well as content (what are key impacts of climatic change? What are recommended actions in response? How is Indigenous knowledge foregrounded?).
Jantarasami, L.C., R. Novak, R. Delgado, E. Marino, S. McNeeley, C. Narducci, J. Raymond-Yakoubian, L. Singletary, and K. Powys Whyte, 2018. “Tribes and Indigenous Peoples”. In Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II [Reidmiller, D.R., C.W. Avery, D.R. Easterling, K.E. Kunkel, K.L.M. Lewis, T.K. Maycock, and B.C. Stewart (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 572–603. doi: 10.7930/NCA4.2018.CH15
Gonzalez, Patrick, Gregg Garfin, David Breshears, Keely Brooks, Heidi Brown, Emile Elias, Amrith Gunasekara, Nancy Huntly, Julie Maldonado, Nate Mantua, Helene Margolis, Skyli McAfee, and Beth Rose Middleton, Chapter 25 “Southwest.” In Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States. US Global Change Research Program. 2018
Ron Goode, Shasta Gaughen, Marissa Fierro, Don Hankins, Keir Johnson-Reyes, Beth Rose Middleton, Teri Red Owl, and Randy Yonemura (2018) “ Summary Report from Tribal and Indigenous Communities” California 4th Climate Change Assessment. [The Names of the 7 lead authors are listed alphabetically here. There were also 7 contributing authors with less involvement in the production of the document.]
Bennett, TM B, NG Maynard, P Cochran, R Gough, K Lynn, J Maldonado, G Voggesser, S Wotkyns, and K Cozzetto (2014) 12: Indigenous Peoples, Lands, and Resources. In Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment. JM Melillo, TC Richmond, and GW Yohe, eds. Pp. 297-317. U.S. Global Change Research Program.
Redsteer, M. H., K. Bemis, K. Chief, M. Gautam, B. R. Middleton, and R. Tsosie. 2013. “Unique Challenges Facing Southwestern Tribes.” In Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States: A Report Prepared for the National Climate Assessment, edited by G. Garfin, A. Jardine, R. Merideth, M. Black, and S. LeRoy, 385–404. A report by the Southwest Climate Alliance. Washington, DC: Island Press
Krupnik, Igor, Jennifer T. Rubis, and Douglas Nakashima “Indigenous Knowledge for Climate Change Assessment and Adaptation: Epilogue,” Chapter 20.
This concluding chapter highlights responses to the question that animates Krupnik et al.’s anthology: namely “How can Indigenous knowledge be brought together with science and technology to respond to climate impacts?” (280). Authors call for a turn to local knowledge and practice—particularly that held by Indigenous peoples—as both a complement and an alternative to the Western emphasis on global climate change modeling. As Krupnik et al, explain, the time has come to translate global scenarios into local plans to address and respond to climate change impacts. While there is value large-scale climate modeling, local expertise often productively challenges the assumptions inherent in such models, resulting in more applicable information to guide proposed actions. Further, Krupnik et. al. argue for a recognition of ongoing Indigenous resilience and self-reliance—far from being solely victims of climate change that require Western assistance, Indigenous peoples have been observing and adapting to climatic change, and can contribute to broader solutions. Indigenous people are also calling attention to the imbrication of justice with both understanding the impacts of climate change and developing solutions. Building on sources in the previous units, this chapter reminds readers that Indigenous people often feel more impacts of climatic change due to colonial disruptions, and that proposed climatic solutions that don’t consider Indigenous rights result in compounded injustices. As such, working with Indigenous partners helps to ensure that climatic adaptation actions are just and collaborative, rather than neo-colonial. This collaboration and communication can happen at all levels, and authors draw particular attention to efforts that facilitate cooperation between Indigenous peoples, national and international research programs, university climate scientists, and non-governmental environmental and policy organizations. Supporting the maintenance of Indigenous knowledge, and making space for Indigenous knowledge in regional, national, and international assessments are highlighted as promising directions for this work.
Norton-Smith, Kathryn, Kathy Lynn, Karletta Chief, Karen Cozzetto, Jamie Donatuto, Margaret Hiza Redsteer, Linda E. Kruger, Julie Maldonado, Carson Viles, Kyle P. Whyte (October 2016) Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: A Synthesis of Current Impacts and Experiences, USDA PNW-GTR-944
This USDA synthesis centers Native North American assessment of and response to the impacts of climatic change. Authors provide three frameworks that they argue must be central in climate change analysis: tribal sovereignty/ self-determination; traditional knowledge and culture; and community health. Climate change impacts cannot be understood apart from the context of Indigenous nations as self-determining entities that pre-exist the surrounding nation state, and have been impacted politically, socially, and culturally by ongoing settler colonialism. Secondly, traditional knowledge both frames Indigenous understanding of climate impacts and enables informed adaptation strategies. Authors draw on the Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledges in Climate Change Initiatives (2014) to underscore the importance of tribal protection of traditional knowledge and control over research that involves traditional knowledge. Authors also point to specific articles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to underscore Indigenous rights to protection of lifeways, livelihoods, self-governance, and knowledge, all of which are threatened by both climatic change and non-Indigenous governmental responses to climatic change. This synthesis is a useful companion for students looking to both analyze existing research or develop preliminary research proposals: authors offer examples of Indigenous-led research on climate change, Indigenous metrics for identifying climatic change impacts, and specific gaps in climatic change research.
Vinyeta, Kirsten, Kyle Powys Whyte, and Kathy Lynn (December 2015) Climate Change Through an Intersectional Lens: Gendered Vulnerability and Resilience in Indigenous Communities in the United States, USDA PNW-GTR-923.
This paper offers a compelling argument for attention to gender in discussions of impacts on Indigenous peoples and Indigenous resilience in the face of climatic change; an overview of relevant literature on gender, climate, and Indigenous communities; and a series of research questions that engage gender, climatic change and indigeneity on a range of topics, including public health, migration/ forced displacement, traditional foods, and poverty. This paper can help students develop intersectional analyses of climate change impacts and response strategies.
Powless, Ben (2012) “An Indigenous Movement to Confront Climate Change” Globalizations 9(3): 411-424
International Indigenous organizing on climatic issues has a deep history in Indigenous advocacy for recognition of territorial and human rights in the international sphere. Ben Powless, a First Nations youth from Canada, offers a historical perspective on the roots of the current International Indigenous Climate Movement, with attention to Latin America, New Zealand, North America, and the importance of spaces created by Indigenous organizing beginning in the 1970s with the United Nations. This piece gives students a greater context and background to understand the emergence and goals of International Indigenous climate activism.
Ramos-Castillo, Ameyali, Edwin J. Castellanos, Kirsty Galloway McLean (2017) “Indigenous Peoples, Local Communities and Climate Change Mitigation,” Climatic Change 140(1)
This special issue highlights the importance of Indigenous peoples as leaders in climate change mitigation, and draws on a variety of approaches to assess the costs/ benefits of specific mitigation actions on Indigenous livelihoods, lifeways, economies, and cultures. The introduction to the special issue introduces students to the various considerations that must accompany analysis of climate mitigation actions, and the seven articles offer specific case studies of climate mitigation interventions and outcomes around the globe.
The following websites are three of many that provide essential content on Indigenous leadership in addressing climatic change. Each site has media that may be utilized alongside curriculum readings.
Unist’ot’en: Heal the People, Heal the Land: The Unis’tot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have been resisting the development of pipelines and other oil and gas extraction and transport infrastructure through their lands. Their site includes detailed information on the structure of their resistance; their resistance actions and opportunities to provide support; resources on how to be a good ally; and videos and media coverage of their work. They are a frontlines resistance movement with a media presence, allowing students to engage with on-the-ground, powerful work to stop incursions on unceded land.
Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP): ITEP’s mission is to “… strengthen tribal capacity and sovereignty in environmental and natural resource management through culturally relevant education, research, partnerships and policy-based services.” The ITEP website offers a page on “Climate Change” that includes many case studies of climate adaptation and mitigation in Indigenous nations around the US
Indigenous Environmental Network is “an alliance of Indigenous peoples whose mission it is to protect the sacredness of Earth Mother from contamination and exploitation by strengthening, maintaining and respecting Indigenous teachings and natural laws.” Their website offers information on Indigenous resistance to misguided/ neocolonial climate change policy, and offers alternatives based in Indigenous grassroots organizing and resilience.
— Updated: June 30, 2020
FEATURED MEDIA RESOURCES
Fighting Fire With Fire: Using Cultural Burning Practices
Ron Goode, Tribal Chairman of the North Fork Mono Tribe, led UC Davis professor, Beth Rose Middleton Manning’s, students through a cultural burn. Students participated in preparing the land and igniting the fire, and contributed to a historic indigenous tradition. Cultural burning practices empower Native American communities, and could possibly be used as a tool to help alleviate devastating wildfires.