A colleague recently told me that climate justice is about building ties between people, their land, and their traditional, ancestral ways. In all my years of doing environmental work, this is one of most succinct ways I’ve heard to describe what climate justice means for Indigenous People and communities: Reconnecting to our land is an integral piece of addressing climate change, for both our Nations and our wider communities.
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According to Lenape Indian Chief Dennis Coker, Delaware’s Native Americans have been dealing with the impacts of environmental changes such as sea level rise for thousands of years. When the grassed plains of the outer continental shelf began to fill with sea water, Native Americans moved to higher grounds, he said.
Environmental justice and climate change are historically multi-dimensional for America’s indigenous people
Dr. Kyle Whyte, White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council member, spoke to the Oceti Sakowin Caucus about environmental injustice, environmental equity, consultation, tribal regulatory authority, and President Joe Biden’s initiative to combat climate change. Whyte is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and has written numerous articles about environmental justice and settler colonialism.
In Navajo Nation v. U.S. Department of the Interior, 2021 WL 1655885 (9th Cir. 2021), the Navajo Nation sued the Department of the Interior (Interior), the Secretary of the Interior (the Secretary), the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (collectively, the Federal Appellees) for breach of trust based on the government’s failure to consider the Nation’s as-yet-undetermined water rights under the Winters doctrine in managing the Colorado River. Several parties, including Arizona, Nevada, and various state water, irrigation, and agricultural districts and authorities (Intervenors), intervened to protect their interests in the Colorado’s waters.
The year 2020 illustrated to the world that the overlapping issues of climate and racial justice can no longer be ignored. A pandemic that disproportionately killed people of color and record-breaking wildfires that displaced thousands unfolded amidst international protests for racial justice spurred by George Floyd’s killing and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. We are living through the climate emergency every single day.
According to recent research, indigenous peoples make up fewer than 5% of the global population, but they manage or hold land tenure over 25% of the planet’s land surface and sustain roughly 80% of global biodiversity. Last Monday, I boarded a flight from Cape Town to Bloemfontein, then drove for about three hours to EarthRise Mountain Lodge near Ficksburg.
The study, “Participatory Modeling of Water Vulnerability in Remote Alaskan Households Using Causal Loop Diagrams” was published in the journal Environmental Management. “High income countries affected with water insecurity is a reality,” co-author Antonia Sohns, a PhD Candidate at Canada’s McGill University in Montreal, said in a phone interview. “Water scarcity and access is an under-told story in the North and it hasn’t been discussed enough in my opinion.”
At any moment, on any school day, the entire future of the Quileute Tribe is at risk. The Quileute tribal school is within a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean, which has been a source of life for the Quileute people since the beginning of time. The Quileutes regularly harvest fish and shellfish off the coast of northwest Washington, and their ancestors hunted whales and traveled in oceangoing canoes from Alaska to California for trade.
Tribal communities are directly affected by the impacts of climate change, and many are deeply involved in addressing this global crisis. We speak with indigenous representatives about the challenges presented by a changing climate, and what is being done to ensure the health and well-being of Native American people and lands.
The climate crisis is having adverse effects on many communities; however, Native and Indigenous people are feeling these effects even more due to centuries of settler colonialism and racial capitalism that have added to the interconnected nature of the climate crisis and are threatening Indigenous ways of life.