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Southwest CASC-supported researchers highlight Indigenous leaders' approach to climate adaptation and justice through community organizing and traditional practices.

Indigenous communities are often at the frontlines of climate change impacts. A new article by Southwest CASC-funded researchers highlights three examples of Indigenous leadership in California focused on climate adaptation and climate justice. These case studies highlight efforts in emergency preparation, cultural burning, and community organizing: 


Case Study 1: The Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, led by Indigenous women in the San Francisco Bay Area, promotes climate justice through inclusive community care. They address urban disinvestment and emergency needs by establishing disaster preparedness centers and Himmetka (“in one place, together”) sites. These spaces help strengthen community relationships and resilience while addressing food insecurity, environmental issues, and climate impacts.  


Case Study 2: Historically suppressed cultural burning practices are used to improve ecosystem resilience and support the growth of culturally important plants that rely on fire. Indigenous-led workshops, in collaboration with the Southwest CASC, have built trust-based relationships to increase community capacity for inclusive climate adaptation with traditional practices. Workshops transfer intergenerational knowledge, support food sovereignty, and protect plants that are integral to health, culture, and land stewardship. 


Case Study 3: The Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s Run4Salmon annual event raises awareness about protecting the McCloud River and its fish. It creates a space to strengthen community ties and support collective action ensuring that community voices are central to adaptation planning.  


Multiple challenges slow climate adaptation efforts, such as difficulties accessing data, setting priorities, and securing resources. Drawing from these case studies, Southwest CASC-supported co-authors offer ways that climate scientists can better support community efforts and how funders can support community engagement. They also emphasize the importance of aligning climate narratives with the real experiences of communities to achieve a climate-just future. 


This work was supported by the Southwest CASC Project titled “Cultural Burning as a Climate Adaptation Strategy.” 

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