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United for the Climate

American Indians from various groups meet at climate camps to share ideas on how to address the climate crisis.

A group of people stand on a rocky beach with evergreen trees along the coast.

Courtesy of Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians

Indigenous people are among the most heavily affected by climate change. That is why, since 2016, American Indians from more than 70 nations have come together at climate camps to share solutions and support one another.

People from at least 28 American Indian nations and intertribal organizations gathered at a camp in Port Angeles, Washington, in August 2023. They discussed the many ways in which the effects of climate change are harming their livelihoods—plants have died due to excessive heat, a landslide has damaged a fish habitat (and food source for one community), and much more. Climate change affects everyone but particularly American Indians. Indigenous peoples rely on fish and other wildlife for food, medicine, and the survival of their cultures.

One of the topics of discussion was how to use millions of dollars the U.S. government set aside for Indigenous people in 2022 so that they can fund ways to adapt to climate change. Scientists presented information, and people from different groups shared projects they are working on. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana has already developed a climate response plan. Michael Durglo, Jr., head of this group’s climate change advisory committee, shared the details of the plan at the camp and invited others to use it. 

“You don’t have to steal it. It’s yours,” Durglo said. “Everything I have is yours.”

“[What] this camp has done for us is to help us know that there is the network, there is a supporting web out there, that we can help one another,” Jonny Bearcub Stiffarm told the Associated Press. Bearcub Stiffarm, of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes in Montana, attended the Port Angeles camp. “So we make new songs. We make new stories. We make new visions that we embrace for the positive outcome of our people. We make new warrior societies, new climate warrior societies.”

Check out the slideshow for more photos from the Port Angeles conference.

Annaliese Ramthun, Courtesy ATNI; Chas Jones, Courtesy ATNI; Jen Santry, Courtesy ATNI

The attendees of the 2023 Tribal Climate Camp in Port Angeles, Washington, discussed challenges, shared ideas, and spent a lot of time in nature.

Did You Know?

© Ashley Cooper—Corbis/Getty Images

American Indian and Alaska Native cultures are tied directly to homelands. This idea is called the “power of place.”

Can This Cedar Be Saved?

© eppicphotography—iStock/Getty Images

Climate change is affecting Indigenous peoples by endangering resources on which they rely. 

The Western red cedar tree is important to the culture of the S’Klallam people of the northwestern United States. For more than 10,000 years, the S’Klallams have made canoes, clothing, mats, rope, baskets, boxes, utensils, and ceremonial masks from these local trees.

Today, the Western red cedar is endangered because of the effects of the climate crisis. Scientists say the tree needs abundant water and has not been able to adapt to drought conditions brought on by climate change.

“For the S’Klallam people, the cedar, or x̣páy in our language, is considered the tree of life,” Laura Price, cultural resources director for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, said at a recent conservation talk, as reported by the Jefferson Land Trust. “Every single piece of the tree is important. Cedar is a life-giving resource to our people and we look for opportunities to honor this gift.”

Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Three photos show people in traditional clothing celebrating by dancing and blowing into a conch shell.

Jessica Rinaldi—The Boston Globe/Getty Images, Joseph Prezioso—AFP/Getty Images

In the United States, the second Monday of October is Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The photos above show just a few of the celebrations that have taken place. In the top left photo, Cheyenne Fox Tree-McGrath of the Arawak Nation dances a communal dance. On the top right, a man blows into a conch shell. In the bottom photo, Indigenous dancers from a group called Cetiliztli Nauhcampa perform.

You can learn more about Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and why it’s celebrated, at Britannica.

WORD OF THE DAY

Indigenous

PART OF SPEECH:

adjective

Definition:

: of or relating to the earliest known inhabitants of a place

Definitions provided by
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