Climate Change Through an Intersectional Lens: Gendered Vulnerability and Resilience in Indigenous Communities in the United States

This report examines the role of gender in indigenous communities and discusses how gender influences climate change vulnerability and resilience of Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities. The intersection of gender with other forms of oppression in the face of climate change can result in unique vulnerabilities, requiring nuanced adaptation strategies for indigenous communities. This report provides a resource for native americans as well as nonindigenous collaborators to inform the development of climate adaptation strategies, that also help alleviate intersectional oppression and promote gender justice.

The report focuses on how gender may influence the experience of climate change impacts and solutions in four key areas of indigenous life: 

  • Public Health
  • Migration, Displacement, and Altered Social Networks
  • Unemployment, Poverty, and Impacts on Tribal Economies
  • Culture: Impacts on Traditional Species, Places, and Relationships

Examples from around the world, especially within the U.S., of indigenous and gendered experiences of climate hazards and impacts are used to illustrate the role that gender can play in creating unique vulnerabilities and strengths in the face of climate change. This report asserts that understanding these vulnerabilities and strengths can help create more effective indigenous adaptation efforts.

The report includes a discussion of gender as a social construct as well as concepts of gender (including LGBTTQ) and gender roles in indigenous cultures in the U.S (both traditional and post-colonization). Gender roles, gender inequalities, and the ongoing impacts of colonization can affect indigenous climate change vulnerability, adaptive capacity, and resilience. Indigenous communities are already being affected by climate impacts such as permafrost melt, sea-level rise, intense storm, drought, and wildfire. Both colonization and climate change alter a variety of reciprocal relationships indigenous communities have or have had with local plants, animals, and ecosystems and thereby threaten indigenous peoples’ health, cultures, economies, and ways of life. 

Indigenous communities have, historically, “been highly adaptable and resilient to environmental change” and traditional relationships and responsibilities with land, water, plants, and animals were often gendered.  As an adaptation strategy - and in order to maintain transmittance - some tribes are encouraging members to learn skills and knowledge traditionally held by genders other than their own. Better understanding of traditional gendered responsibilities and knowledge can inform climate change initiatives and may increase resilience in indigenous communities.


Publication Date: December 2015

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Kirsten Vinyeta
  • Kyle Powys Whyte
  • Kathy Lynn

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Resource Types:

  • Case study

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