3rd National Climate Assessment: Indigenous Peoples, Lands, and Resources

A chapter of the Third National Climate Assessment, this report provides an overview of the challenges that indigenous peoples in the United States face due to climate change, as well as the opportunities they have to prepare. Climate change will undermine indigenous ways of life and, in many cases, tribal adaptation efforts will be “limited by poverty, lack of resources, or [...] because there may be no land left to call their own.” The assessment emphasizes the importance of leveraging traditional knowledge for adaptation planning efforts. Examples of this are provided, such as the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium which made use of western science, traditional ecological knowledge and a vast network of ‘Local Environmental Observers’ to develop comprehensive, community-scaled climate change health assessments.   

As described in the report's review of climate change and traditional knowledge: "Native cultures are directly tied to Native places and homelands, reflecting the indigenous perspective that includes the “power of place.” Many indigenous peoples regard all people, plants, and animals that share our world as relatives rather than resources. Language, ceremonies, cultures, practices, and food sources evolved in concert with the inhabitants, human and non-human, of specific homelands.The wisdom and knowledge of Native people resides in songs, dances, art, language, and music that reflect these places. By regarding all things as relatives, not resources, natural laws dictate that people care for their relatives in responsible ways. “When you say, ‘my mother is in pain,’ it’s very different from saying ‘the earth is experiencing climate change.’"

The Assessment findings are organized into five key messages, including sections on:

  • Forests, Fires, and Food: climate change is threatening indigenous peoples’ access to important food sources and other natural resources
  • Water Quantity and Quality: several factors, including climate change, are limiting access to usable water
  • Declining Sea Ice: Alaskan native communities are facing a variety of risks due to a decrease in sea ice, including risky travel conditions and damage to settlements
  • Permafrost Thaw: permafrost thawing in Alaska contributes to erosion, food insecurity, and damage to the buildings and infrastructure of native communities
  • Relocation: many native communities in Alaska and other coastal regions of the U.S. are facing relocation as a result of climate change.

The website allows users to explore this section of the National Climate Assessment electronically, or to download a PDF version of the chapter. 

If you have any trouble accessing the website link above, please find here an archived page. You may find this has limited use.  https://web.archive.org/web/20170128022831/http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report/sectors/indigenous-peoples 


Publication Date: 2014

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