New website highlights tribal voices on climate change

Washington tribal map found on This Is Indian Country website.

The Indigenous Climate Project has launched a newly designed website that highlights oral histories and traditional ecological knowledge of Northwest tribal leaders.

According to news release, the website also unveils a connected middle school curriculum and a new documentary highlighting tribal leaders talking about the impacts of climate change and potential solutions. The project is a partnership between This Is Indian Country (TIIC), an indigenous-led nonprofit; Washington Wild, a statewide conservation nonprofit; and the Pacific Education Institute (PEI). The project is funded primarily by the BECU Foundation and can be viewed at

“Tribes didn’t cause climate change, but they have been leading the way in responding to it,” said Leonard Forsman, chairman of the Suquamish Tribe and president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, which serves 57 Northwest tribes. “There has been a growing realization that the experience and traditional knowledge tribes generated over thousands of years, combined with their contemporary science, have much to offer in terms of sustainable environmental management.”
“Since August 2022, we have conducted 25 interviews with tribal leaders in the Northwest,” said Michael Harris, TIIC president. “The Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) they have shared with us has been life-changing. From a true sense of place and ancestry guiding them, and an emerging position of political and economic power, the tribes are battling climate change head-on and inspiring us all.”
Added Tom Uniack, executive director of Washington Wild: “Iit has been an honor to be affiliated with this program, and we are dedicated to working with tribes in our efforts to support the restoration of natural resources impacted by climate change.”
“Natural riches flourished under thousands of years of tribal stewardship,” said Willie Frank III, former chair of the Nisqually Tribe. “But in the few hundred years since, the harrowing impacts of non-tribal society have caused immense water pollution problems, climate change and other dramatic changes in our ecosystem. Obviously, there are lessons to be learned about the sustainability tribes have achieved,” he said.

The oral histories can be viewed here.

The middle school curriculum, written by long-time tribal advocate Steve Robinson, will provide the basis for a teachers’ workshop in August.
“It is more important than ever for students, teachers, and people in general to learn about and practice long-term environmental management principles of the tribes,” Forsman said. “There is a huge gap between environmental sustainability and the management practices in mainstream society.”
  1. This is great. Thank you to the tribes who supported this and thank you for this coverage.

    The middle school curriculum looks great. It has 10 suggestions about what you can do. I especially love these:

    1. Get to know your local Tribe(s): Tribal environmental scientists, etc. are busy people…

    3. Transform your transport: … Walk or bike whenever possible. Choose public transport. Encourage carpooling so fewer cars will be the road. Encourage your family to buy an electric car.

    4. Rein in your power use: Encourage your family to Install solar panels on your roof… Is your house well insulated?

    9. Read, read, read, and stay in school!

    Yes. Read read read. If this was easy, we would have solved it 50 years ago.

  2. I’m curious. Maybe the tribal leaders can explain the long term ecological benefits of the massive casino/hotel complexes on about every reservation ?

    1. Interesting question. Personally, I’m very supportive of buying my discounted gasoline at tribal stations.

    2. I don’t gamble nor get much of a kick out of any of the Casino entertainment scene, here or Nevada, but my first and only experience with the Tulalip facility was going in to use as a rest stop and almost choking on the cigarette smoke which wasn’t banned at the time. Haven’t been back since. I also don’t buy fireworks from Boom City or anywhere else. That said, I have no objections at all to their commercial endeavors and more power to them. They had a culture and way of life literally stolen from them. I appreciate that they are doing their part for the climate and seeking better knowledge for us all but I also think it’s fair to say their small population numbers in the past had a lot to do with low impact of their culture on the environment and the climate. A few thousand people smoking fish and hunting fruit, fish and small game is different than thousands of people driving cars, catching tons of fish from industrial vessels with Gil nets and damning up rivers for electricity and shipping grain from miles inland. We are trying to unring the bell I’m afraid.

  3. I used to go to the Tulalip Casino once every week. I quit going before the cigarette ban. It did smell you are correct so the majority of gamblers preferred the nonsmoking so the Tribes were wise enough to see it was a good idea to ban smoking. I personally enjoyed Blackjack only for cards and slots with large progressive bets to get to bonus rounds. Then the machines went to such a high max bet (which you must do to get into the bonus rounds) I didn’t like that so much, so I quit going. I found there that most just had fun and some yeah spent their last dime. The casinos advertised at the cages help and phone numbers for folks with addiction issues. I worked with the Tribes out on the Reservation, and they were so nice. I loved them and still do. I didn’t see any emphasis on what to drive etc. I did see busses from Senior citizens housing that they brought in for a bit of fun and music and laughter. I haven’t purchased any fireworks for over 20 years. Too many trees around here in my opinion. And Yeah, our Salmon are dying in those damned up for electric rivers, right now. You are right but ya can’t unring a bell, but you can get a new bell!

  4. The tribes had issues with alcohol and fetal alcohol syndrome back then and maybe now I don’t know but I do think that was because those communities were not respected as they should have been. When they opened and started really getting into big time commerce, they had more jobs and they offered college too. So much they have done to help themselves it’s just wonderful. They had or have their issues with illicit drugs too, but I think they are doing centers of some sort that are helping or they want to anyway. Will the state give any money for that as it is now, I doubt it! I am sure the Tribes are wise enough to know that revolving door drug withdrawal doesn’t work nor does come on in and get a shot any time you need it ha. That doesn’t work either. I hope our Tribes once again show us how to respect and help our people with problems and our environment too. But what ever you do buy an electric car ha. Worry about the battery and the electric and the leaching of those batteries later. This later doesn’t work and neither does the guilting of people who simply cannot afford most of these environmental dreams. Windows and insulation first. Less trips in your car. No plastic. etc.

  5. Plastic is a big pet peeve of mine. I think the best idea for those who really promote environmental solutions should start unwrapping the hard plastic containers from the box stores and our grocery stores and tell the management You want it a different way. Maybe take your own bowls in. If that doesn’t work leave the containers and let them dispose of them. Contact their main headquarters while you’re at it. Also, to Nick or whoever, are the tires you mentioned that don’t give off toxic tire dust available to us locally now? If so, it would be nice for people to know. I would buy them. I don’t need tires as I seldom drive but I would buy them anyway to help with that issue. The same ole same ole isn’t working so maybe the baby steps should be encouraged until many can afford some of the things suggested. Or let’s say are truly affordable for the majority of our population worldwide. Also encourage your legislator’s statewide to zoom instead of flying (the worst of the worst) and take a bus when you run around the state too. Put your environment first Also is the Capital in Olympia all heated with electric or thermal or nuclear or solar? Or is it too all natural gas? Ck Boise out it is filled with thermal.

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