How to Start and Conduct a Tribal/Indigenous Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment

How to Start and Conduct a Tribal/Indigenous Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment

Shannon McNeeley
Colorado State University, North Central Climate Science Center
Time Slot: 
Tuesday 2:50pm - Concurrent Session 2
Session Type: 
Symposium (Individual Presentations)

This symposium will focus on indigenous climate change vulnerability assessment identification of need, finding a partner, design, implementation, and oversight for tribes and indigenous communities. In addition to common climate vulnerability data needs, tribes and indigenous peoples have a range of adaptation management concerns for understudied species and cultural use resources. This session will feature speakers with experience in tribal/indigenous climate change vulnerability assessment design, contracting and process oversight. The speakers will share lessons learned, challenges, and best practices to guide tribal staff and potential assessment providers to produce high quality vulnerably assessments that incorporate unique tribal concerns. Speakers will also discuss how the analysis process informed the development of effective adaptation options to reduce their vulnerabilities to enable tribal managers to prioritize climate resilience considerations and management investments. Speakers will discuss approaches used, incorporation of traditional ecological knowledge, partnerships with academic, tribal organization, or agency partners, and tips for starting and conducting assessments. They will also discuss how vulnerability assessment contract design should include analysis of current appropriate adaptation management options in order to inform climate adaptation planning and implementation.


Introduction on Climate Vulnerability Assessment Approaches
Shannon McNeeley, Colorado State University/North Central Climate Science Center
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This will be an introduction to the session and describe some of the general common themes and approaches across the tribal and indigenous vulnerability assessments that will be presented by in the session.

Climate Change Adaptation in the 1854 Ceded Territory
Tyler Kaspar, 1854 Treaty Authority
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The 1854 Treaty Authority completed the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan, which included the Bois Forte, Fond du Lac and Grand Portage Reservations located in Northeastern Minnesota. Funding was obtained to contract Adaptation International, who partnered with the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessment Center at the University of Michigan. They facilitated meetings for data sharing to provide the latest available climate change science, and construct the final document. Tyler Kaspar, Environmental Biologist and Tansey Smith, Climate Change Specialist of the 1854 Treaty Authority will present the process used to develop the plan, key partnerships and the status of implementation.

  • Tansey Smith, 1854 Treaty Authority
Shared Concerns, Collaboration, and Merging Local Knowledge with Western Science
Sascha Petersen, Adaptation International
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We know that everything is connected and that climate change will likely impact a wide range of natural and cultural resources that are important to tribes. Yet, you can't possible assess the impacts to everything at the same time and need a place to start.
In Idaho, the Upper Snake River Tribes Foundation and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes both recently partnered with Adaptation International, the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington, and the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute to complete a vulnerability assessment. Sascha will describe the process the team used to identify "Shared Concerns" and focus the vulnerability assessment. Note: It involved a road trip of more than 1,000 miles. He will then cover how the team combined western science with local and traditional knowledge to assess the vulnerability of those shared concerns.

Challenges to Implementing Climate Change Initiatives on the Navajo Nation
Gloria Tom, Navajo Nation
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Why wouldn’t all the Navajo Nation Division of Natural Resources Department get together to begin addressing climate change? There’s no money. There’s no time. I’m already overloaded with projects. I don’t have staff available. Climate change? Its already been happening. Our elders told us With these common responses, the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife continues to strive towards integrating more and more of the Navajo Nation Division of Natural Resources Departments in addressing climate change. Over the past six years the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife has been at the forefront for the Navajo Nation in establishing partnerships and networks, initiating planning via through NDFWs strategic planning, hosting of workshops, and providing climate change public outreach presentations across the entire Navajo Nation. With all these complexities, we are slowly turning inaction to action in addressing climate change on the Navajo Nation.

  • Leanna Begay, Navajo Nation
Sea Island Adaptation Based in Cultural Heritage Retention
Queen Quet, Gullah/Geechee Nation
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"Sea Island Adaptation Based in Cultural Heritage Retention" will be presented by Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation ( She will provide information on community engagement methods used by the Gullah/Geechee Sustainability Think Tank which has increased community capacity in dialogues about sustainability and retention. Centering on the cultural traditions of the Gullah/Geechee Nation has helped to mitigate the harm to the coastal environment of the Sea Islands in the southeastern United States and the outcomes of such practices are now being incorporated in adaptation discussions in the region.