Engagement with indigenous peoples and honoring traditional knowledge systems
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- Maldonado, J., Bennett, T.M.B., Chief, K. et al. Climatic Change (2016) 135: 111. doi:10.1007/s10584-015-1535-7
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The organizers of the 2014 US National Climate Assessment (NCA) made a concerted effort to reach out to and collaborate with Indigenous peoples, resulting in the most comprehensive information to date on climate change impacts to Indigenous peoples in a US national assessment. Yet, there is still much room for improvement in assessment processes to ensure adequate recognition of Indigenous perspectives and Indigenous knowledge systems. This article discusses the process used in creating the Indigenous Peoples, Land, and Resources NCA chapter by a team comprised of tribal members, agencies, academics, and non-governmental organizations, who worked together to solicit, collect, and synthesize traditional knowledges and data from a diverse array of Indigenous communities across the US. It also discusses the synergy and discord between traditional knowledge systems and science and the emergence of cross-cutting issues and vulnerabilities for Indigenous peoples. The challenges of coalescing information about climate change and its impacts on Indigenous communities are outlined along with recommendations on the types of information to include in future assessment outputs. We recommend that future assessments – not only NCA, but other relevant local, regional, national, and international efforts aimed at the translation of climate information and assessments into meaningful actions – should support integration of Indigenous perspectives in a sustained way that builds respectful relationships and effectively engages Indigenous communities. Given the large number of tribes in the US and the current challenges and unique vulnerabilities of Indigenous communities, a special report focusing solely on climate change and Indigenous peoples is warranted.