Indigenous experiences in the U.S. with climate change and environmental stewardship in the Anthropocene

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Chief, Karletta, Daigle, John J., Lynn, Kathy, and Whyte, Kyle Powys
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The recognition of climate change issues facing tribal communities and indigenous peoples in the United States is growing, and understanding its impacts is rooted in indigenous ethical perspectives and systems of ecological knowledge. This foundation presents a context and guide for contemporary indigenous approaches to address climate change impacts that are comprehensive and holistic. Tribal communities and indigenous peoples across the United States are reenvisioning the role of science in the Anthropocene; working to strengthen government-to-government relationships in climate change initiatives; and leading climate change research, mitigation and adaptation plans through indigenous ingenuity. Unique adaptive capacities of tribal communities stem from their ethics and knowledge, and help frame and guide successful adaptation. As documented in the Special Issue of the Climatic Change Journal on the impacts of climate change to U.S. indigenous communities (Maldonado and others 2013), these issues include the loss of traditional knowledge; impacts to forests, ecosystems, traditional foods, and water; thawing of Arctic sea ice and permafrost; and relocation of communities. This collaboration, by more than 50 authors from tribal communities, academia, government agencies, and NGOs, demonstrates the increasing awareness, interest, and need to understand the unique ways in which climate change will affect tribal cultures, lands, and traditional ways of life. Climate change is expected to affect animal and plant species that indigenous people depend on for their livelihoods, health and cultural practices. The impacts of climate change on forests and other ecosystems that are home to many of these species require tribal engagement in climate change research, assessments, and adaptation efforts. This paper synthesizes key issues and case studies related to climate change impacts on tribally valued forest resources and tribal adaptive responses to climate change.


Chief, K., J. J. Daigle, K. Lynn, and K. P. Whyte. 2014. Indigenous experiences in the U.S. with climate change and environmental stewardship in the Anthropocene. Pages 161–176 in RMRS-P-71. US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station.