Climatic Change

, Volume 120, Issue 3, pp 557–567 | Cite as

Indigenous frameworks for observing and responding to climate change in Alaska

  • Patricia Cochran
  • Orville H. Huntington
  • Caleb Pungowiyi
  • Stanley Tom
  • F. Stuart ChapinIIIEmail author
  • Henry P. Huntington
  • Nancy G. Maynard
  • Sarah F. Trainor


Despite a keen awareness of climate change, northern Indigenous Peoples have had limited participation in climate-change science due to limited access, power imbalances, and differences in worldview. A western science emphasis on facts and an indigenous emphasis on relationships to spiritual and biophysical components indicate important but distinct contributions that each knowledge system can make. Indigenous communities are experiencing widespread thawing of permafrost and coastal erosion exacerbated by loss of protective sea ice. These climate-induced changes threaten village infrastructure, water supplies, health, and safety. Climate-induced habitat changes associated with loss of sea ice and with landscape drying and extensive wildfires interact with northern development to bring both economic opportunities and environmental impacts. A multi-pronged approach to broadening indigenous participation in climate-change research should: 1) engage communities in designing climate-change solutions; 2) create an environment of mutual respect for multiple ways of knowing; 3) directly assist communities in achieving their adaptation goals; 4) promote partnerships that foster effective climate solutions from both western and indigenous perspectives; and 5) foster regional and international networking to share climate solutions.


Indigenous People Indigenous Community Traditional Knowledge Western Science Bowhead Whale 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Julie Maldonado and the U.S. National Climate Assessment for organizing this special issue and the Alaska Native Science Commission for its leadership in indigenous science in Alaska since 1993.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia Cochran
    • 1
  • Orville H. Huntington
    • 2
  • Caleb Pungowiyi
    • 3
  • Stanley Tom
    • 4
  • F. Stuart ChapinIII
    • 5
    Email author
  • Henry P. Huntington
    • 6
  • Nancy G. Maynard
    • 7
  • Sarah F. Trainor
    • 8
  1. 1.Alaska Native Science CommissionAnchorageUSA
  2. 2.Wildlife and Parks, Tanana Chiefs ConferenceFairbanksUSA
  3. 3.SavoongaUSA
  4. 4.Newtok Village CouncilNewtokUSA
  5. 5.Institute of Arctic BiologyUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  6. 6.Eagle RiverUSA
  7. 7.Cryospheric Sciences Branch, NASA Goddard Space Flight CenterGreenbeltUSA
  8. 8.Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and PolicyUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA

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