Native Americans make up about one percent of the United States population, but they manage more than 95 million acres of land. Their reservations lie in some of the most diverse ecosystems in the country, ranging from Alaska to the coasts of Florida. That diversity – both geographically and culturally – makes them a sort of demographic microcosm of the United States. That means the climate shifts that they are feeling now could give clues to what other Americans can expect might see in the near future.
Recent studies, including those from the National Wildlife Federation ,the EPA, and the USDA, highlight the disproportionate vulnerability of tribes to climate-related hazards such as coastal erosion, rising temperatures and extreme weather. Tribes depend on the land and natural resources for their culture and livelihood. What’s more, reservations often have high rates of poverty, unemployment and a lack of resources that would allow them to adapt to long-term climate changes.
Relocating to adapt to environmental threats or disasters declines is not always a viable option for tribes, both because of the connection to their origins but also because they may lack the resources needed to move.
“Rather than being a mobile society that can move away from climatic changes, they need to think about how do they stay on this piece of ground and continue to live the lifestyle that they’ve been able to live, and how can their great-great-great-grandchildren do that.” – Larry Wasserman, environmental policy manager for the Swinomish tribe
Read more: PBS.org >>
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