Alaska Native Tribes, Regional Tribal Consortia, and ANCSA Corporations

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Since time immemorial, the Indigenous peoples of Alaska have taken care of the land, water, fish, birds, and wildlife that sustains their livelihood, traditions, and communities. This close relationship with the land, water, and natural world puts these communities at the forefront of climate change impacts. Drawing upon a strong history of adaptation and innovation, Native Alaskans are key collaborators on adaptation work within the CASC network. The Alaska and Northwest CASCs partner with Alaska Native Tribes, regional Tribal consortia, and for-profit corporations established under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) to assist in identifying climate vulnerabilities, addressing climate science needs, and supporting climate adaptation. 

Assessing Climate Impacts and Science Needs 

Assessing the science needs of Alaska Native Tribes, communities, and entities is an important first step in supporting the Indigenous Peoples of Alaska as they develop and implement effective climate adaptation strategies. Several CASC projects have worked with Alaska Native communities to identify their current capacity to adapt to climate impacts and determine what information is needed to build upon this capacity. 

Project Example: Community Observations on Climate Change: Arctic Village, Fort Yukon, and Venetie, Alaska 

Summary: The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the Alaska CASC organized a series of assessments to better understand the impacts of climate change on the Upper Yukon area of interior Alaska, including the Arctic Village, Fort Yukon, and Venetie communities. The USGS partnered with the Arctic Village Traditional Council, Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in Tribal Council, and the Venetie Village Council to provide support for this project, while three regional Tribal organizations, the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments, the Tanana Chiefs Conference, and the Yukon River Intertribal Watershed Council, performed the assessments. Through tours, interviews, data collection, and public meetings, project leaders identified negative health outcomes exacerbated by climate change, such as respiratory problems from wildfire smoke inhalation, and implemented programs to mitigate these impacts, such as purchasing air filtration systems. 

 

Building Capacity 

The CASCs support and enhance the capacity of Alaska Native Tribes and communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change. These efforts support Indigenous staff in assessing their vulnerability to climate change by providing trainings on climate science, available data resources, and data collection techniques and by developing a system of support that builds shared learning among communities on the front lines of climate change. 

Project Example: Yukon River Basin Indigenous Observation Network 

Summary: The Alaska CASC supports the Indigenous Observation Network (ION), a community-based project initiated by the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council and the USGS. Capitalizing on existing USGS monitoring and research infrastructure, ION investigates changes in surface water geochemistry and active layer dynamics throughout the Yukon River Basin. ION is one of the largest Indigenous water quality networks in the world and has enabled the first assessment of long-term changes in water movement and chemistry over a large geographic region. 

Project Example: Alaska Tribal Resilience Learning Network 

Summary: Alaska Tribal communities are experiencing rapid changes on the lands and ecosystems they live and rely on. Responding to these rapid changes requires ongoing learning to adapt. The Alaska Tribal Resilience Learning Network provides a space for Alaska Tribes and Indigenous communities to share knowledge, learn from one another, build upon and improve solutions successful in other Tribal communities, and leverage the skills and expertise of the CASC science community. 

 

Understanding the Effects of Climate Change on Culturally-Important Resources 

The CASCs partner with Alaska Native Tribes to assess the impacts of climate change on food, water, and other culturally important resources to improve understanding of how the abundance and distribution of these resources might shift over time and to identify priority management activities. 

Project Example: Vulnerability of Subsistence Systems in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska

Summary: Subsistence hunting provides a critical source of food for Alaska Natives and is foundational to Arctic Indigenous cultural practices and way of life. Yet shifts in seasonal weather patterns, permafrost thawing, and sea level rise are forcing Indigenous peoples in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta to alter their traditional practices. This study, authored by researchers at the USGS, the Alaska CASC, and partners at the U.S. Forest Service and Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, explored the vulnerability of subsistence practices in the Cup’ik village of Chevak and the Yup’ik village of Kotlik. They found that environmental changes affected hunters’ access to important resources such as moose and that late thaws reduced success in bird and fish harvests. 

 

Incorporating Traditional Knowledge into Adaptation Planning 

Traditional and local ecological knowledge can provide significant and unique information about the natural world that might not otherwise be readily available through Western science. Several CASC projects with Alaska Natives focused on gathering Traditional Knowledge and including them in local climate adaptation planning. 

Project Example: Mapping Wild Berries in the Chugach Region of Alaska to Inform Restoration of Traditional Foods 

Summary: Wild berries are a valued traditional food for the Chenega Bay, Eyak, Nanwalek, Port Graham, Qutekcak, Tatitlek, and Valdez Tribes of the Chugachmiut Tribal Consortium in the Chugach region of south-central Alaska. From 2008 to 2012, wild berry populations in the Chugach region were decimated by an unexpected outbreak of moths, thought to have been brought about by shifting climate conditions. A project supported by the Alaska and Northwest CASCs used remote sensing imagery, field data, and local Tribal Knowledge to create maps and models to help Tribal managers identify prime areas for berry restoration. The resulting products are helping Tribal forest managers and local landowners target their berry restoration efforts where they are most likely to be successful and protected from future insect outbreaks, contributing to the reestablishment and future resilience of wild berry populations. 

 

Interested in partnering? Contact us! 

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