Indigenous People


Indigenous peoples’ general worldview is to live in harmony with nature, and to steward and preserve their land. Native Americans did just this — preserving their natural landscape for 14,000 years until the European settlers came and cleared much of the land.

The cultural legacy, wellbeing, and way of life of the 567 federally recognized tribal groups in the U.S., comprised mainly of American Indian peoples and Alaska Native peoples, are currently disproportionately threatened by a number of climate-related issues while leaving the lowest ecological imprint.

How does climate change affect their way of life?

In many indigenous households, anywhere from 60 to 80% of households depend on wildlife for food. As a result, when climate changes the land where they live, that becomes compromised.

  • In Alaska, for example – where 40% of American tribes live- “the distribution, quality, thickness, and timing of ice on the ocean, lakes, and rivers drive nearly every aspect” of their life, says a recent NOAA report, “from boating to whaling and seal hunting to the safety of fishing and foraging.” The report details a major loss of sea ice in Alaska’s Bering Sea — that has led to dying wildlife, food scarcity, and animal migration — profoundly affecting over 70 local indigenous communities.
  • In Louisiana, sea-level rise and coastal erosion are drowning burial sites and threatening their source of food.
  • In northern Arizona, the Hopi tribesmen have seen their traditional indigenous farming practices fail in the face of climate change disrupting their ageold weather forecasting. Dependent in many cases on millennia-old trial and error, their fields are now withering as the conditions on which the calendars are predicated change. Without that accumulated wisdom to fall back on—bird migrations, wind direction, stars, and more—farmers are feeling particularly defenseless just as other consequences of climate change complicate their lives.

Native Americans are doing battle on other fronts too, pipeline projects crossing their lands, for example and water rights. Some battles are lost. Some are won. Others are still in court.

  • Originally constructed in 1953 by the Canadian company Enbridge, The Line 5 Pipeline,  runs 645 miles from western Canada to eastern Canada, passing through northern Wisconsin and  Michigan under the Straits of Mackinac. On June 16, 2023, a federal judge gave Enbridge 3 years to close the section of the pipeline (12 miles)  that crosses reservation land in northern Wisconsin, in response to a lawsuit filed in 2019 by the Bad River Band tribe. The judge also ordered compensation to be paid.
  • First built in the 1960s, The Line 3 Pipeline starts in Alberta, Canada, and comes to a stop in Superior, Wisconsin. It runs through land (the 337-mile segment across Minnesota) which, in the 1800s, was ceded by Indigenous groups to the U.S. under the condition that they're guaranteed the right to hunt, fish, and gather wild rice. Activists say the pipeline infringes on those rights, worsens climate change and risks spills in waters where they harvest wild rice. After years of protests and legal battles, the pipeline turned on in October of 2021. Opponents have challenged the pipeline's permits in court to no avail so far. They've also unsuccessfully sought to persuade Biden to intervene.
  • The takedown of Keystone XL Pipeline will, however, go down as one of this generation’s most monumental environmental victories. After more than ten years of protests and legal battles, it was officially abandoned in the summer of 2021 after Biden denied a key permit on his first day in office.
  • The Dakota Access Pipeline is still provoking protracted protests from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, as they bring attention to the potential contamination of water supplies from oil spills and the vandalizing of sacred sites. The pipeline still , in July, 2023, lacks a key permit from the Corps to cross under Lake Oahe in South Dakota. The Corps is currently working to update the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
  • The 303-mile-long fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia was approved in the recently passed debt limit deal (Spring, 2023) but a federal court in Richmond halted construction on July 11, 2023, setting off a battle with Congress that ended up at the Supreme Court who agreed on July 27 that Congress had, indeed greenlighted the project as part of a behind-the-scenes deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.A separate but related pipeline, the proposed MVP Southgate Project, plans to extend to North Carolina cutting through the Jefferson National Forest and crossing hundreds of waterways and wetlands jeopardizing Indigenous communities, particularly the ancestral lands of the Occaneechi.
  • Leaders of tribes are pushing for more involvement in the negotiations taking place concerning the over-tapped Colorado River, saying they want to be at the table in the discussions among the federal government and the seven states that rely on the river. The 30 tribes in the Colorado River Basin have rights to use roughly one-fourth of the river’s average supply. The Interior Department on June 15 initiated the process of developing new long-term rules for operating reservoirs and apportioning water cuts during shortages. New rules will need to be in place by the end of 2026, when the current 2007 guidelines expire.

Native American tribes are developing and implementing climate adaptation plans. At least 50 tribes have created plans which are available in a database via the Tribal Climate Change Project. And, with tribes controlling over 50 million combined acres nationally, these climate plans could be a crucial resource for their uniquely deep ecological knowledge and community-based approach.

Why All Americans Should Care About 'Environmental Racism’ | NowThis



Investor Nuns’ Shareholder Resolutions Aim to Stop Wall Street Financing of Fossil Fuel Development on Indigenous Lands

By Keerti Gopal 05/06/24
Sister Susan Francois didn’t expect to get emotional discussing her congregation’s shareholder resolution at Citibank last week, but as she spoke to a room full of supporters about the role of the Catholic Church in…
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An Oil Company Is Trespassing on Tribal Land in Wisconsin, Justice Dept. Says

By Rebecca Halleck and Dionne Searcey 04/10/24
The Department of Justice has weighed in on a court battle over an oil and gas pipeline in Wisconsin, saying that a Canadian oil company has been willfully trespassing on tribal lands in the state…
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This epic slice of Arizona feeds their souls but lacks a basic necessity: Water

By Tyrone Beason 04/07/24
Gilarya Begaye looks out across the brush-blanketed pastures, red-dirt plains and flat-topped mesas that surround her home in the Navajo Nation. “Everywhere I’ve ever moved, it never felt like home,” says Begaye, 36. “My heart’s…
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Tribes urge U.S. to weigh in on Line 5 case as appeal sits in court

By Izzy Ross 03/15/24
Twelve miles of the Line 5 pipeline cross the lands of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in northern Wisconsin. In some places, the pipeline is just feet from the banks of the…
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Biden Administration Divvies Up $120 Million For Tribes To Adapt To Climate Risks

By Chris D'Angelo 03/14/24
The Biden administration on Thursday awarded more than $120 million to dozens of Native American and Alaska Native tribes to prepare for and adapt to the mounting effects of climate change, including sea level rise,…
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Climate change, cost and competition for water drive settlement over tribal rights to Colorado River

By Felicia Fonseca and Suman Naishadham 02/29/24
A Native American tribe with one of the largest outstanding claims to water in the Colorado River basin is closing in on a settlement with more than a dozen parties, putting it on a path…
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Biden administration taps $366M to fund clean energy for Native American tribes and rural areas

By Sophie Austin 02/28/24
The federal government will fund 17 projects across the U.S. to expand access to renewable energy on Native American reservations and in other rural areas, the Biden administration announced Tuesday. The $366 million plan will…
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Native American tribes gain new authority to stop unwanted hydropower projects

By Michael Phillis 02/23/24
Federal regulators have granted Native American tribes more power to block hydropower projects on their land after a flurry of applications were filed to expand renewable energy in the water-scarce U.S. Southwest.
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Kicking Native People Off Their Land Is a Horrible Way to Save the Planet

By Robert Williams 02/20/24
Over 600,000 tourists travel to Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area each year, and many will catch a glimpse of the Great Migration: the famed trek of more than one million wildebeests and thousands of zebras, gazelles…
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Enbridge Wants Line 5 Shutdown Order Overturned on Tribal Land in Northern Wisconsin

By Phil McKenna and Noel Lyn Smith 02/20/24
Eleven years after easements for a pipeline buried beneath the Bad River reservation in northern Wisconsin expired, five years after the tribe first sounded alarms over the risk of an imminent oil spill into their…
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How can Indigenous knowledge mitigate climate change? Watch Journal Sentinel event live

By Madeline Heim 02/19/24
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporters Caitlin Looby, Frank Vaisvilas and Madeline Heim will host a conversation Monday at the Oneida Hotel about how Indigenous knowledge can mitigate climate change. The stream will begin about 7 p.m.…
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How the US government began its decade-long campaign against the anti-pipeline movement

By Adam Federman 02/14/24
On the morning of March 5, 2012, Debra White Plume received an urgent phone call. A convoy of large trucks transporting pipeline servicing equipment was attempting to cross the Pine Ridge Reservation near the town…
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A Report From The National Tribal Air Association And Moms Clean Air Force

The total numberof Indigenous people in the United States is between 2.5 and 6 million, of which 20% live on Tribal lands or in Alaska Native villages. There are 574 federally recognized Tribes, but this…

Addressing Links Between Climate and Public Health in Alaska Native Villages

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Decolonize climate adaptation research

Climate-forced population displacement is among the greatest human rights issues of our time, presenting unprecedented challenges to communities and the governments responsible for protecting them. Sea level rise, heat, drought, and wildfires will cause people…

Climate Change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that Indigenous peoples of North America are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change. The most vulnerable industries, settlements, and societies are generally those in coastal and river flood plains;…

Climate Change and the Health of Indigenous Populations

Understanding the threats that climate change poses to human health can help us work together to lower risks and be prepared. Climate change threatens human health, including mental health, and access to clean air, safe…

Climate change threatens traditional ways of life

Climate change threatens indigenous peoples’ livelihoods and economies. Its impacts are projected to be especially severe for many of the 567 federally recognized tribes in the United States that depend on traditional places, foods, and…

Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: A Synthesis of Current Impacts and Experiences

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Climate Change Vulnerability of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe in the Southwest

Native Americans are one of the most vulnerable populations to climate change in the United States because of their reliance upon the natural environment for food, livelihood, and cultural traditions. In the Southwest, where the…


To partner with indigenous and traditional communities to build a more sustainable, empowered, and just future through community-based projects, outreach, and technical assistance.

Indigenous Environmental Network

Established in 1990 within the United States, IEN was formed by grassroots Indigenous peoples and individuals to address environmental and economic justice issues (EJ). IEN’s activities include building the capacity of Indigenous communities and tribal…


Ignoring Indigenous rights is making the green transition more expensive

By Anita Hofschneider   02/02/24  
In December, a federal judge found that Enel Green Power, an Italian energy corporation operating an 84-turbine wind farm on the Osage Reservation for nearly a decade, had trespassed on Native land. The ruling was…
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Native-led EV initiative launches by distributing millions of dollars worth of vehicles to tribal communities

By Mathew Holding Eagle 111   01/25/24  
In the coming weeks Electric Nation will deliver 10 Ford F-150 Lightning pickup trucks, and a Ford Mustang Mach E, all EVs, to six tribal fleets across the Red Lake Nation in Minnesota and the…
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Climate-friendly homes offer Grand Ronde’s tribal elders affordability and comfort against climate change

By Monica Samayoa   01/17/24  
In a corner lot between Highway 22 and Grand Ronde Road sit 24 newly built single-family homes. These homes look like many that are being built in Oregon right now as the state tries to…
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Two PNW tribal nations sue oil companies over costs of climate change

By Isabella Breda   12/21/23  
Major oil companies for decades deliberately sought to downplay and discredit scientific warnings about the central role of fossil fuels in causing climate change, alleges two lawsuits filed this week by the Makah and Shoalwater…
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Association calls for sustainable CCS development

By Mella McEwen   12/16/23  
As carbon capture and sequestration projects begin to spread across the US, some want to ensure fair and equitable use of that land.
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New Mexico extends ban on oil and gas leasing around Chaco park, an area sacred to Native Americans

By Susan Montoya Bryan   12/15/23  
New oil and natural gas leasing will be prohibited on state land surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park, an area sacred to Native Americans, for the next 20 years under an executive order by New…
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White House pledges $1B to restore Pacific Northwest salmon, steelhead

By Jennifer Yachnin   12/14/23  
The White House announced a $1 billion settlement agreement in its legal battle over 14 dams in the Pacific Northwest — including provisions geared toward the eventual removal of four of those structures — as…
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A Native American tribe is about to put solar panels over its canals

By Michelle Lewis   11/21/23  
The Gila River Indian Community signed a project partnership agreement with the US Army Corps of Engineers to put solar panels over its canals.
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Judge rules against tribes in fight over Nevada lithium mine they say is near sacred massacre site

By Scott Sonner   11/17/23  
A federal judge in Nevada has dealt another legal setback to Native American tribes trying to halt construction of one of the biggest lithium mines in the world.
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Clean Energy, Cherished Waters and a Sacred California Rock Caught in the Middle

By Lauren Sloss   10/24/23  
My paddle slips gently through calm ocean water as the kayak glides toward the mouth of Morro Bay Harbor. I approach a sandbar covered in resting cormorants, as sea otters float in nearby kelp, inky-eyed…
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Western States Opposed Tribes’ Access to the Colorado River 70 Years Ago. History Is Repeating Itself.

By Mark Olalde and Anna V. Smith   10/17/23  
In the 1950s, after quarreling for decades over the Colorado River, Arizona and California turned to the U.S. Supreme Court for a final resolution on the water that both states sought to sustain their postwar…
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One of the best climate solutions is giving Indigenous People their land back

I’m also incredibly excited to introduce our artist-in-residence Laila Arêde, who lives in Rio de Janiero, Brazil and is particularly interested in slightly surreal scenes of nature, inspired in part by threatened species in the…
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Biden memo directs US agencies to restore ‘healthy and abundant’ salmon runs in the Northwest

By Matthew Daly   10/05/23  
In a move that conservationists and tribes called a potential breakthrough, President Joe Biden has directed federal agencies to use all available authorities and resources to restore “healthy and abundant” salmon runs in the Columbia…
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How to Take out a Pipeline

By Greg Mikkelson   09/22/23  
The speed of economic growth hinges to a large extent on the supply of fossil fuel, especially of oil and gas, which depends in turn on pipeline capacity. Thus, if we are to turn the…
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EPA bolsters states’ control of water, infrastructure permitting

By E.A. Crunden   09/14/23  
The Biden administration is restoring significant state and tribal authority over water resources and expanding their leverage on infrastructure permitting decisions, including for pipelines.
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From Dams to DAPL, the Army Corps’ Culture of Disdain for Indigenous Communities Must End

One of the privileges of being a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe is that I can travel the world knowing that whatever happens to me out there, I have a place to call…
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Company gets $2.6 million to relinquish oil lease on Montana land that’s sacred to Native Americans

By Matthew Brown   09/01/23  
A Louisiana company will receive $2.6 million to relinquish the last remaining oil and gas lease on U.S. forest land near Montana’s Glacier National Park that’s sacred to Native Americans, government officials and attorneys involved…
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Clean Energy Could Rival Gaming as Economic Engine for US Tribes

By Naureen S Malik   08/16/23  
Tribal lands have some of the best potential for solar and wind energy in the US, but it’s largely unmet. That may be about to change.
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Grand Canyon Monument Won’t Stop Mining Companies’ Thirst for US Uranium

By Bobby Magill   08/10/23  
Five weeks before President Joe Biden announced a historic new ban on new uranium mining around the Grand Canyon, Sarana Riggs approached the barbed-wire fence surrounding an inactive mine in an Arizona national forest, a…
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Supreme Court refuses to block ban on Okla. city fines for Native Americans

By Ann E. Marimow   08/04/23  
The Supreme Court on Friday refused to block a lower court ruling that would revoke the authority of Oklahoma officials to enforce certain laws against Native Americans amid legal confusion over the justices’ 2020 declaration…
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Supreme Court clears the way for pipeline construction favored by Manchin

By Robert Barnes and Rachel Weiner   07/27/23  
The Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the way to complete a controversial Mid-Atlantic natural gas pipeline, agreeing that Congress greenlighted the project as part of a behind-the-scenes deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
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Mountain Valley pipeline turns to Supreme Court

By Niina H. Farah   07/19/23  
The Supreme Court may soon step into a legal brawl over whether Congress violated the Constitution when it passed a law ensuring completion of the Mountain Valley pipeline — a fight that could have important…
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EPA Proposes to Streamline Requirements for States and Tribes, Strengthen Co-Regulator Partnerships to Protect Nation’s Waters

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed rule that would streamline and clarify the requirements and steps necessary for states and Tribes to administer programs protecting waterways from discharges of dredged or…
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9th Circuit upholds Interior approval of massive lithium mine

By Niina H. Farah   07/18/23  
A federal appeals court on Monday upheld the Interior Department’s approval of a contested lithium mine in northern Nevada, angering environmentalists even as supporters said it was a victory for batteries in electric vehicles.
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Federal Government Evades Responsibility for Cleaning up Alaska Native Lands

Today, Federal District Court Judge Holland dismissed the State of Alaska and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)’s case against the United States for the Department of Interior (DOI)’s failure to clean up Alaska…
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Tribes object. But a federal ruling approves construction of the largest lithium mine

By Kirk Siegler   07/17/23  
In a blow to tribes, a U.S. appeals court has denied a last ditch legal effort to block construction of what's expected to be the largest lithium mine in North America on federal land in…
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Alaska Governor Dunleavy Turns to Courts to Compel Feds to Address Contaminated Lands Conveyed under ANCSA

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy said Alaska has exhausted all options before filing a complaint today in U.S. District Court to compel the U.S. government to take responsibility for and address contaminated sites that it conveyed…
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Groups formally oppose hydro-storage proposals on Navajo Nation

By Knau Staff   07/14/23  
A coalition of tribal and environmental groups has submitted resolutions to federal regulators opposing three pumped hydro-storage projects proposed for Black Mesa on the Navajo Nation.
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Mountain Valley Pipeline Halted as Legal Wrangling Heats Up

By Coral Davenport   07/12/23  
A federal court in Richmond has halted construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, setting off a battle with Congress that could end up at the Supreme Court.
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Army Corps limits scope of Line 5 tunnel environmental review

By Jon King   07/12/23  
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has announced they will not be considering the entirety of the controversial Line 5 oil pipeline in the scope of their environmental review process for a proposed tunnel…
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Court Halts Section of Construction on Mountain Valley Pipeline

A federal appeals court has ordered a halt to construction of a section of the Mountain Valley Pipeline that runs through the Jefferson National Forest, as it reviews a challenge by environmental groups. Last month’s…
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In Arizona Water Ruling, the Hopi Tribe Sees Limits on Its Future

By Umar Farooq   07/07/23  
In September 2020, the Hopi Tribe’s four-decade effort to secure its right to water culminated in a court proceeding. The outcome would determine how much water the arid reservation would receive over the next century…
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The Colorado River Flooded Chemehuevi Land. Decades Later, the Tribe Still Struggles to Take Its Share of Water

By Mark Olalde, Umar Farooq and Anna V. Smith   07/05/23  
The Chemehuevi’s reservation fronts about 30 miles of the Colorado River, yet 97% of the tribe’s water stays in the river, much of it used by Southern California cities. The tribe isn’t paid for it.
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Supreme Court rules against Navajo Nation in Colorado River case

By Adam Liptak   06/22/23  
The Supreme Court ruled against the Navajo Nation on Thursday in a water rights case, rejecting the tribe’s suit against the federal government in a dispute over access to the drought-depleted Colorado River system.
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Tribes seek greater involvement in talks on Colorado River water crisis

By Ian James   06/16/23  
As the federal government starts negotiations on long-term plans for the overtapped Colorado River, leaders of tribes are pushing for more involvement in the talks, saying they want to be at the table in high-level…
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Haaland’s ‘freeze’: As Interior secretary bans oil and gas on lands around Chaco, naat’áanii frustration bubbles

By Kianna Joe   06/08/23  
The Navajo Nation celebrated Treaty Day on June 1st. The next day, its treaty was thrown out the window.
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Indigenous Women Leaders & over 150 Groups Urge the Biden Administration to Immediately Shut Down Line 5 Due to Imminent Threat of Rupture

Today, Indigenous women leaders from the Indigenous Women’s Treaty Alliance, joined by over 150 organizations, representing millions nationwide, submitted a letter to the Biden Administration with an emergency request to decommission Enbridge Line 5 pipeline…
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Biden administration pauses copper mining project on Oak Flat, a sacred Apache site

By Lyric Aquino   05/24/23  
The Biden administration has put a pause on plans to erect a copper mine in Arizona on land known as Oak Flat, a site sacred to the San Carlos Apache and other Indigenous nations in…
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Tribe signs pact with California to work together on efforts to save endangered salmon

By Ian James   05/04/23  
A California tribe has signed agreements with state and federal agencies to work together on efforts to return endangered Chinook salmon to their traditional spawning areas upstream of Shasta Dam, a deal that could advance…
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Want to protect your health? Start by protecting Indigenous land.

By Lyric Aquino   04/12/23  
By protecting Indigenous territories in the Amazon, more than 15 million respiratory and cardiovascular-related illnesses, like asthma and lung cancer, could be avoided each year and almost $2 billion dollars in health costs saved. That’s…
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Tensions emerge as a top Arizona official discusses tribes’ unresolved water claims

By Ian James   03/15/23  
Many of Arizona’s Native tribes have long-standing claims to water rights that haven’t yet been settled, and a discussion of efforts to negotiate possible agreements took center stage at a meeting of Gov. Doug Ducey’s…
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Supreme Court Case Could Reshape Indigenous Water Rights in the Southwest

By Virginia Gewin   03/15/23  
Tucked away on the northern New Mexico portion of the 27,000-square-mile Navajo Nation is a green oasis in an otherwise arid, often overgrazed landscape. The region, which received only 3.8 inches of rain in 2020,…
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Why Greta Thunberg is protesting wind farms in Norway

By Kelsey Ables and Rick Noack   03/01/23  
When Swedish climate advocate Greta Thunberg and other activists protested at several Norwegian government ministries this week, they weren’t demonstrating against new petroleum refineries or tax incentives for Big Oil. Instead, they were standing against…
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Environmental Groups and Native Leaders Say Proposed Venting and Flaring Rule Falls Short

By Autumn Jones   02/15/23  
Oil companies collect crude in tanks by their pumps but often vent the methane gas that also comes up out of the ground into the air, unwilling to invest in the infrastructure to capture it. …
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Legalizing Nature’s Rights: How Tribal Nations are Leading the Fastest Growing Environmental Movement in History

By Thomas Linzey and Others   02/15/23  
The Rights of Nature movement launched internationally in 2006 and is growing fast. Driven primarily by tribes and citizen-led communities, more than three dozen cities, townships and counties across the U.S. have adopted such laws…
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‘A living spirit’: Native people push for changes to protect the Colorado River

By Ian James   01/30/23  
On a bluff overlooking the Lower Colorado River Valley, the ground bears an image of two giant figures. Known as the Twins, these ancient figures are revered by members of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe,…
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Tired of being told to ‘adapt,’ an Indigenous community wrote its own climate action plan

By Carly Graf   01/26/23  
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes live among some of the most spectacular landscapes in the country. Their home, the Flathead Reservation, covers 1.2 million acres dotted with soaring mountains, sweeping valleys, and lush forests.…
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Ancient Indigenous practice could curtail today’s wildfires

By Ayurella Horn-Muller   12/08/22  
A study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances found that historical Indigenous "cultural burning" curtailed wildfire patterns on local scales over a period of roughly 400 years in the southwestern U.S.Driving the news: As…
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Biden pledges to designate Avi Kwa Ame monument in Nevada honoring tribes

By Daniel Rothberg and Others   11/30/22  
For more than two years, leaders of Native American tribes, local environmentalists and Nevada lawmakers have called on the Biden administration to protect about 450,000 acres of land as a national monument at the southern…
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Interior: Oil ban around Chaco Canyon would block 47 wells

By Heather Richards   11/17/22  
The Interior Department is considering a 20-year moratorium on new oil development around Chaco Canyon National Historical Park in New Mexico, an area important to many Indigenous communities.
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