Renewable Roundup: Indigenous Tribes of America – Part 2, Climate Change Action
I am not here to Whitesplain either what has been done to Native Americans by Whitey in general or Global Warming in particular, nor what they want to do about it. This Diary is a tip of the tongue taste of such issues, citing only readily available documents, which I have chosen because some of those most concerned get to speak for themselves in them. But there is far more going on than we can even sample. DailyKos has a vibrant Native American community, with several groups devoted to their issues.
Temperatures in Idaho’s Columbia, Snake, and Salmon rivers were so warm in 2015 that they cooked millions of salmon and steelhead to death. As climate change leads to consistently warmer temperatures and lower river flows, researchers expect that fish kills like this will become much more common. Tribal members living on the Nez Perce reservation are preparing for this new normal.
“The biggest and most poignant impact for Nez Perce tribal members has been the loss of fishing and fish,” said Stefanie Krantz, the climate change coordinator for the tribe. “For tribal peoples, they are absolutely essential for survival.”
After the 2015 fish kills, the tribe decided to hire Krantz to work full-time to assess the many ways that a warming planet threatens their way of life. The tribe has about 3,500 enrolled members, and its reservation spans 750,000 acres. For the last three years, Krantz has been conducting a vulnerability assessment and working on a new climate adaptation plan. The tribal government is expected to formally adopt Krantz’s plan after it has been finalized.
As other North American tribes have begun to experience the effects of climate change over the past decade, they too have started to adopt climate resilience and adaptation plans. According to a database maintained by the University of Oregon, at least 50 tribes across the U.S. have assessed climate risks and developed plans to tackle them. With more than 570 federally recognized tribes controlling 50 million combined acres, these adaptation plans could prove a crucial element in building resilient communities that can thrive despite weather-related catastrophes and changes to the natural environment.
(My thanks to Meteor Blades for a tip on the Kumeyaay being the first tribe to install wind turbines. I know how to find out something on this topic. He already knows.)
A new renewable energy project in San Diego boasts many firsts.
It’s the largest wind project on Native American land in the country and the first large-scale wind farm in San Diego in more than two decades. Reporter Rebecca Tolin has more.
Mike Connolly, Campo Kumeyaay Nation Council Member: “We’re famous for our winds.”
Joyce Papeech, GSG Wind Energy President: “When you’re coming up the road and see ‘windy area’ on a road sign, that’s a really good indication that you have a good spot.”
The wind isn’t wasted these days around this blustery stretch of East County. It’s powering these towering wind turbines, 25 new inhabitants atop the Tecate divide. Each giant generator is taller than a twenty story building, and sleeker than a skyscraper. You don’t realize how big these turbines are until you get up close. Each tower is 218 feet tall. And at the top, the blades are 136 feet long.
These turbines are the largest in America today. All 25 will produce enough electricity to power 12,000 homes, for 30,000 people. That’s caught the attention of wind experts around the country, who recently toured the Kumeyaay wind project.
Native American populations comprise 564 federally recognized tribes and 70 additional tribal entities recognized by 16 states. They make up about 1% of the U.S. population and occupy about 4% of the land. There apparently have been no national climate change polls of this diverse group. But feedback from selected Native American individuals, organizations, and tribes indicates they hold the same full spectrum of opinions that exists within the rest of the country.
Among indigenous peoples in North America, the Native Americans who continue to practice traditional and subsistence lifestyles to perhaps the highest degree are those in Alaska, where 80% of the diet comes from the immediate surroundings, says Jose Aguto, policy advisor on climate change, environment, and natural resources for the National Congress of American Indians. Between 2002 and 2007, coastal erosion more than doubled along a 40-mile stretch of Alaska’s Beaufort Sea, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study in the 14 February 2009 issue of Geophysical Research Letters. The authors posited that numerous climate-related factors may be working together to change erosion patterns. Some coastal villages have been swamped, and substantial shifts are occurring in plant and animal populations as they try to adapt to the thawing tundra.
Peoples in Alaska have been some of the most vocal about climate change, says Del Laverdure, a member of the Crow tribe in Montana and deputy assistant secretary with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Other tribes that have been active on the climate change issue include some in the Pacific Northwest, such as the Quinault Indian Nation in Washington, in response to changes in fish and forests that have already appeared, he adds.
Nov 21, 2018 — The Saint Regis Mohawk Reservation stretches for 25 square miles along the United States’ border with Canada. Akwesasne, as the land in Upstate New York is also known, translates roughly to “land where the partridge drums.” Nestled at the confluence of the Saint Lawrence River and several small tributaries, including the St. Regis and Raquette rivers, this ecologically rich environment consists of more than 3,000 acres of wetlands along riverbanks, islands, and inlets.
But the landscape can’t escape the encroachment of nearby pollution.
Tribal members live downstream from several major industrial facilities, hydro dams, and aluminum smelters. The Saint Lawrence has become an international shipping channel, and its sediments mix with heavy metals from old ship batteries and toxic chemicals from nearby Superfund sites. These pollutants have leached into the Saint Regis Mohawk way of life, shifting the range of flora and fauna on which many of their traditional practices rely.
The trash and toxic runoff are bad enough. They are killing off the tribe’s local fish population and medicinal plants. But now the Saint Regis Mohawk face another challenge: negotiating with the Environmental Protection Agency about how best to tackle these contamination issues while incorporating — and respecting — the tribe’s traditional knowledge.
Native communities are one of the groups most impacted by a changing climate — and many of the human activities that have precipitated it. They are also a necessary part of the solution, according to the newest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
Even when the government taps indigenous groups for input, many of the resulting collaborations don’t show respect for the tribal people or the accumulated knowledge they possess. Take, for instance, in 2011, when the Saint Regis Mohawk received an EPA grant to create a climate adaptation plan for its natural resources — their animals, their crops, their medicinal plants. Initially, the EPA called for a plethora of scientific vulnerability and risk assessments to parse what resources were important for the Akwesasne way of life. But tribal members felt the testing was an unnecessary step to get to the heart of the issue.
“We didn’t need them to tell us what’s important to us,” said Amberdawn Lafrance, coordinator at the Saint Regis Mohawk Environment Division. “We already know.”
The Department of the Interior approached the Klamath and Basin tribes in 1995 when deciding how to allocate water rights in southern Oregon and northern California. Communities located in the Klamath Basin shared confidential information with the government about their fishing methods and other cultural practices in order to inform the decision. Then the Klamath Water Users Protective Association, a nonprofit group of farmers and ranchers in the region dedicated to maintaining irrigated agriculture filed federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the Bureau of Indian Affairs within the Department of Interior, demanding that the tribes’ responses be disclosed. When the agency refused, the association took them to court.
Feb 11, 2020 — With their deep ties to the land and reliance on fishing, hunting, and gathering, indigenous tribes are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Now, native communities across North America are stepping up to adopt climate action plans to protect their way of life.
For thousands of years, the indigenous peoples of the West Coast would build rock walls at the low tide line, allowing sand to pile up behind them, making the slope of the beach gentler, and expanding the area of the intertidal zone that clams like to call home. These simple clam gardens are effective at boosting shellfish numbers, and have long been used to improve food security for traditional peoples.
Now the Swinomish are reviving the old idea to build the first modern clam garden in the United States. Greiner, who works for the Swinomish tribe, is collecting the data that will help the tribe determine the garden’s best location. The project aims to boost clam numbers, providing both a sense of purpose for the community and additional food as other resources, like salmon, decline.
This is just part of the Swinomish’s plan to ensure the ongoing prosperity of their people in the face of a changing climate. “They were the first native community — and really one of the first communities, period — to make climate adaptation a priority,” says Meade Krosby, a conservation biologist with the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group. The tribe’s climate proclamation came out in 2007, and their action plan, published in 2010, was one of the first such documents in the United States. “They’re early adopters and really innovative,” she says.“Tribes have always been adapting to climate change — now we … of the climate change project for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians …
Feb 7, 2020 – Indigenous tribes are centering climate change management strategies around traditional practices.Indigenous peoples are one of the most vulnerable communities when it comes to the effects of climate change. This is due to a mix of cultural, economic, policy and historical factors. Some Native American tribal governments and councils have put together their own climate risk assessment plans. Native American communities are very diverse—and the challenges and adaptations are just as varied. Professor Kyle Whyte, a tribal member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, says that many of the species and food resources that are affected by climate change are also important cultural pieces, which are integral to the identity and cohesion of tribes.
(Crossposted with DailyKos.)