Climate change can magnify existing inequities that disproportionally affect Indigenous peoples and cultures at the forefront of rapid change. The CASC network partners with Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities to better understand the effects of climate change on their lands and communities, to assist in climate adaptation efforts, and to identify and address their climate science needs.
Indigenous Nations and Communities are Leaders in Climate Adaptation
Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and other Indigenous peoples have strong relationships with the lands and waters of North America and the Pacific Islands developed over millennia. They rely on the natural environment to sustain their families, communities, traditional ways of life, and cultural identities. Yet as the United States grew, many Indigenous peoples were forced to cede large tracts of their homelands or forced from homelands completely, disrupting their connection to their lands and resources.
Climate change further magnifies inequities that arrived or grew with colonization and disproportionally affects Indigenous peoples and cultures at the forefront of rapid change. Increased drought, wildfires, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise are profoundly impacting the relationship that Indigenous Peoples have with land and waters.
As Indigenous governments, resource managers, and communities experience impacts from climate change, many have begun both formal and informal climate change adaptation planning in recent decades. Through their sophisticated knowledge of land stewardship developed over time immemorial, many climate adaptation strategies implemented by Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities have improved the health and resilience of their communities and ecosystems in profound and lasting ways. As a result, many Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities are recognized as leaders in addressing climate change through adaptation planning and mitigation efforts.
Indigenous Peoples are Priority Partners for CASC Network
As a part of the Department of the Interior, the CASC network honors the government-to-government relationship of Tribal Sovereign Nations and supports the self-determination of Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities across the United States and the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands. The U.S. Department of the Interior is the primary federal agency charged with carrying out the United States’ trust and treaty responsibility to American Indian and Alaska Native people. This arises from the unique relationship between Tribal Nations and the U.S. federal government through written treaties and formal and informal agreements. In exchange for the vast tracts of land, which would eventually come under the jurisdiction of the United States, the U.S. federal government and its agencies have a trust and treaty obligation to work with Tribal Nations on a government-to-government level to ensure the protection of Tribal lands, resources, and assets. “Strengthening the government-to-government relationship with sovereign Tribal Nations” is an explicit priority of the Department of the Interior.
The CASC network creates spaces for Tribal Nations (including Tribal resource agencies), Tribal organizations, and Indigenous communities to interact with federal, Tribal, and university scientists and other conservation organizations to support their climate adaptation priorities. Tribal Nations and Tribal organizations are integral partners in CASC consortiums; for example, the Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma are both consortium members of the South Central CASC, the Great Plains Tribal Water Alliance is a member of the North Central CASC, and the College of the Menominee Nation and Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission are part of the Midwest CASC consortium. The CASCs also work closely with organizations supporting regional management needs such the Indigenous Observation Network (Alaska CASC). Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities also help inform CASC research priorities by participating in regional CASC Stakeholder Advisory Committees.
CASC research supports Indigenous peoples through:
Assessing information needs by measuring communities’ current adaptive capacity and identifying knowledge gaps needed to facilitate future adaptation,
Building capacity within Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities by supporting their ability to adapt to climate change,
Understanding climate change effects on Tribal and Indigenous resources, such as food, water, plants, animals, land, and other culturally significant beings and places.
Incorporating traditional knowledge into Tribal and Indigenous adaptation planning.
Learn more about CASC-funded science projects with Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities.
CASCs Support Education and Training Opportunities
The CASC network supports education, training, and professional development opportunities for Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities to help build capacity around climate change adaptation. The CASCs work directly with Indigenous students, resource managers, community leaders, and youths in programs including but not limited to:
Graduate research fellowships, such as the Tribal Climate Leaders Program through the North Central CASC.
Conferences, such as the Southwest Adaptation Forum hosted by the Southwest CASC.
Trainings and workshops, such as the Looking Forward, Looking Back: Building Resilience Today workshop series jointly hosted by the Alaska CASC and the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association; the annual Tribal Climate Camps jointly hosted by the Northwest CASC and various Tribal and university partners; and the Shifting Seasons Summit hosted by the College of Menominee Nation Sustainable Development Institute and supported by the Northeast and Midwest CASCs.
Youth outreach activities, such as the 2019 Native Youth Community Adaptation and Leadership Congress that the South Central CASC helped plan and participated in.
Developing educational materials for Tribal colleges, such as the partnership between the Northeast CASC and the College of Menominee Nation Sustainable Development Institute.
Engaging Indigenous professional networks, such as the Pacific Island CASC’s Manager Climate Corps, which builds local adaptive capacity by identifying existing professional networks in Hawai’i and expanding them through manager-driven research projects and collaborative forums.
Hosting Tribal interns through mechanisms such as the BIA Pathways Internship Program.
Find a full summary of the 90+ training opportunities for Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities funded by the CASC network through 2019 here.
Partnerships Facilitated by BIA Tribal Liaisons
The CASCs support a network of Tribal Resilience Liaisons, a program funded largely by the BIA Branch of Tribal Climate Resilience and the USGS. The Liaisons connect Tribal Nations, Tribal Nation agencies, Tribal organizations and other Indigenous communities to information, data, resources, and expertise that facilitate culturally appropriate research and planning. CASC Tribal Liaisons have worked with over 100 Tribal Nations on adaptation plans and vulnerability assessments and have supported nearly 200 Tribal climate camps, summits, trainings, workshops, retreats, and presentations.
Learn more about the Tribal Climate Resilience Liaison Network and meet the current CASC liaisons.