Climate Adaptation in Indigenous lands

Climate Adaptation in Indigenous lands

Alex Score
Time Slot: 
Luncheon Sessions Day 2
Session Type: 
Tools and Posters

Adapting to climate change in Indigenous lands brings a unique set of challenges, including overcoming a legacy of environmental injustice. This session will bring together perspectives from Pueblo de San Ildefonso, Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe as well as the Na’ah Ilahee Fund to discuss examples of climate change adaptation through three innovative projects. Each project addresses climate change along with community needs to encourage a resilient future.


Pueblo de San Ildefonso climate change adaptation planning, with a focus on LANL legacy contamination
Michael Chacon, Pueblo de San Ildefonso
  • Kaylene Ritter, Abt Associates
  • Raymond Martinez, Pueblo de San Ildefonso
  • Heather Hosterman, Abt Associates
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Native Americans are often disproportionately affected by environmental contamination, and this may be further compounded by climate change. Tribal communities may be at greater risk of exposure to contamination than the general population because of dependence on the environment for sustenance (hunting, gathering, fishing); fixed boundaries of reservations (compounding the effects of shifting biological populations); and confounding equity issues (such as social and health inequalities). Climate change impacts like drought and flash floods may exacerbate contaminant transport, human exposure and health risks, and impacts to natural resources upon which Native Americans depend for traditional lifeways. The Pueblo de San Ildefonso is located adjacent to the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), New Mexico. Historical laboratory activities, including development of the atomic bomb, have left a legacy of plutonium and other radionuclides in the local environment. Here, we first describe the impacts of cycles of wildfires and flooding on plutonium transport and deposition on Pueblo lands. In particular, we describe recovery efforts from two extreme fires and subsequent flash floods, and lessons learned that may assist with “bouncing forward” from future extreme events. We then describe the Pueblo’s adaptation planning process, which involves community engagement across all sectors (resource and infrastructure managers, government, community elders, youth) to develop 1)a community vision and identify natural resources and places that are key to sustaining that vision; and 2)community-driven equitable adaptation solutions for those vulnerable resources, based on best available science, the traditional knowledge of local community elders, and confirmed though long-term monitoring.

Developing a Cross-Sectoral, Public-Private, Regional Resilience Campus
David Narum, Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe
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The Blue Lake Rancheria (BLR), a federally-recognized Native American tribe along the northern California coast, is developing the Toma Resilience Campus (TRC), to build regional resilience. Resilience involves economic and technical factors, but social inclusion and trust have also been identified as important components of resilience. An important purpose of the TRC will be to bring people together to help create the new and diverse connections that can strengthen regional resilience. BLR combines traditional indigenous resilience thinking with 21st Century approaches. The tribe’s innovative, resilient power microgrid and its focus on whole community preparedness have won regional, statewide, national, and international acclaim.
Through co-located startups at a business incubator, co-work spaces, trainings, workshops, community networking events, engaging and collaborative makerspaces, and through the TRC’s resilience retail store and café, the TRC is designed to create the connections that will help people and businesses in the region create a more vibrant and resilient economy while being better prepared for climate change, natural disasters and other disruptive events.
BLR has worked for decades with regional partners on sustainable economic development. Much of the tribe’s efforts have been in STEM education and in creating pathways for learners to succeed. As such, TRC offerings will be coordinated with regional partners and programs as part of an entrepreneurial adaptation ecosystem that builds a pipeline of resilience entrepreneurs and adaptation professionals who have the creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial mindsets needed to respond effectively to ongoing, and uncertain, change.

Pacific Northwest Just Transition Listening Sessions: Reclaiming Regenerative Economy and Climate Resiliency
Pah-tu Pitt, Na'ah Illahee Fund
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Na’ah Illahee Fund partnered with Native community member organizers to co-host a Just Transition, which is transitioning to low-carbon, regenerative economy, and Climate Resiliency listening sessions in the Pacific Northwest. It is widely known that Native communities are at the forefront of Environmental and Climate Justice, however Native voices and experiences tend to be marginalized in Environmental literature with minimal consultation by the public and private sector. Mainstream organizations are engaged in Just Transition work, however, frequently solutions may not actually benefit Native communities, although that is the assumption. Diversity within Native communities warrants further inquiry and space to discuss their particular concerns and avenues for action. Climate science and Just Transition information is shared in a culturally relevant way. Bridging the socio-ecological dimensions contributes to gaps within climate science where often-times localized information is lacking. These sessions utilize tribal participatory research methodologies, highlight different experiences and identify areas for potential collaboration. Na ‘ah Illahee Fund’s mission is to is to support and promote the leadership of indigenous women and girls in the ongoing regeneration of indigenous communities. Native women, girls, and two-spirit, LGBTQI communities are some of the most impacted by capitalism, whereas climate change is acting as another disruptor. By working at the community level, we encourage supporting and centering tribal and community-based efforts. Native peoples of the Pacific Northwest are leaders in spite of multiple settler-colonial policies and practices aimed at changing their communities.