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 the land. And, while Indigenous peoples contribute the least to climate change and have the smallest ecological footprints on earth, they are disproportionately affected due to their close relationship with the environment and dependence upon its resources.
In the U.S., there are 567 federally recognized tribal entities, comprised mainly of American Indian peoples and Alaska Native peoples. NOAA’s 2019 Arctic report card 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 disrupted seasons; these are only a few examples.
In response, 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.