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Inter-Tribal Workshops on Climate Change in the Central U.S.

Inter-Tribal Workshops on Climate Variability and Change


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Tribal communities are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change because of their reliance on the natural environment to sustain traditional activities and their limited resources to respond to climate change impacts. At the same time, tribes have valuable traditional knowledge that can aid regional efforts to address climate change. There were two overarching goals of this project: The first was to build partnerships between South Central Climate Science Center (SC CSC) researchers and tribal communities, linking tribes with climate change tools and resources and developing a model that could be replicated in other regions. The second goal was to document tribal viewpoints on climate change impacts and adaptation, so [...]

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“Mountains in New Mexico - Credit: Toni Klemm”
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The establishment of the South Central Climate Science Center (SC CSC) heralded new forms of partnership among Tribal nations and members of the climate science and conservation communities. But communicating key concepts such as risk and vulnerability is a culturally specific practice. So these new relationships call for pluricultural conversations about climate change and variability. To contribute to the goal of mutual understanding, this project developed and implemented a series of five workshops - four in Oklahoma and one in New Mexico - that introduced Tribal members and employees across the region to the SC CSC as a resource for their climate adaptation practices. Not counting members of the research team, 76 individuals participated in the workshops and 66 of them identified with 33 different Tribes. During and in relation to the workshops, the two Indigenous filmmakers on the research team interviewed 49 people. They incorporated this and related footage into a video titled Listening for the Rain: Indigenous Peoples Perspectives on Climate Change. Their 22.5-minute video documents climate impacts on Tribal nations and their Peoples, lands, resources, and economies in the central US. Blending educational outreach with research on how Tribal members know and conceptualize weather and climate, as well as historically grappled with adapting to new climate conditions, Listening for the Rain provides lessons about adaptation that are useful for both Tribal and non-Tribal communities and businesses. Its production and subsequent circulation on the Internet, at conferences, and by DVD, has prompted valuable dialogue that furthers previous relationships among Tribal and research communities while also fostering new ones.

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