Climatic Change

, Volume 135, Issue 1, pp 111–126 | Cite as

Engagement with indigenous peoples and honoring traditional knowledge systems

  • Julie Maldonado
  • T. M. Bull Bennett
  • Karletta Chief
  • Patricia Cochran
  • Karen Cozzetto
  • Bob Gough
  • Margaret Hiza Redsteer
  • Kathy Lynn
  • Nancy Maynard
  • Garrit Voggesser


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.


Indigenous People Climate Change Impact Indigenous Community Traditional Knowledge Sustained Assessment 
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.

Supplementary material

10584_2015_1535_MOESM1_ESM.docx (27 kb)
ESM 1 (docx 23.3 kb)


  1. Bennett TMB, Maynard NG, Cochran P, Gough R, Lynn K, Maldonado J, Voggesser G, Wotkyns S, Cozzetto K (2014) Ch. 12: Indigenous peoples, lands, and resources. In: Melillo JM, Richmond TC, Yohe GW (eds) Climate change impacts in the United States: the third national climate assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, pp 297–317Google Scholar
  2. Buizer JL, Fleming P, Hays SL, Dow K, Field CB, Gustafson D, Luers A, Moss RH (2013) Report on preparing the nation for change: building a sustained national climate assessment process.
  3. Chapin FS III, Trainor SF, Cochran P, Huntington H, Markon C, McCammon M, McGuire AD, Serreze M (2014) Ch. 22: Alaska. In: Melillo JM, Richmond TC, Yohe GW (eds) Climate change impacts in the United States: the third national climate assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, pp 514–536Google Scholar
  4. Climate and Traditional Knowledges Workgroup (CTKW) (2014) Guidelines for considering traditional knowledges in climate change initiatives.
  5. Coastal Louisiana Tribal Communities (2012) Stories of change: coastal Louisiana tribal communities’ experiences of a transforming environment. Workshop report input into the national climate assessment. Pointe-aux-Chenes, Louisiana.
  6. Cochran P, Huntington OH, Pungowiyi C, Tom S, Chapin FS III, Huntington HP, Maynard NG, Trainor SF (2013) Indigenous frameworks for observing and responding to climate change in Alaska. Clim Chang 120(3):557–567CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cozzetto K, Chief K, Dittmer K, Brubaker M, Gough R, Souza K, Ettawageshik F, Wotkyns S, Opitz-Stapleton S, Duren S, Chavan P (2013) Climate change impacts on the water resources of American Indians and Alaska Natives in the U.S. Clim Change 120(3):569–584CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dalton MM, Mote P, Snover AK (2013) Climate change in the Northwest: implications for our landscapes, waters, and communities. Island Press, Washington, DCCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Field CB, Barros VR, Dokken DJ et al. (2014) Technical summary. In: Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part A: global and sectoral aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Field, CB, et al (Eds), Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, pp. 35–94Google Scholar
  10. Garfin G, Jardine A, Merideth R, Black M, LeRoy S (eds) (2013) Assessment of climate change in the southwest United States: a report prepared for the national climate assessment. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  11. Grossman Z, Parker A (2012) Asserting native resilience: Pacific Rim indigenous nations face the climate crisis. Oregon State University Press, CorvallisGoogle Scholar
  12. Houser S, Teller V, MacCracken M, Gough R, Spears P (2001) Chapter 12: Potential consequences of climate variability and change for native peoples and homelands. In: Climate change impacts on the United States: the potential consequences of climate variability and change. National Assessment Synthesis Team, Cambridge University Press, UK.
  13. Huntington HP (2000) Using traditional ecological knowledge in science: methods and applications. Ecol Appl 10(5):1270–1274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. IPCC (2014) Fifth Assessment Report: Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability.
  15. Johnson JT, Louis RP, Kliskey A (2013) Weaving indigenous and sustainability sciences: diversifying our methods workshop. National Science FoundationGoogle Scholar
  16. Karl TR, Melillo JM, Peterson TC, eds. (2009) Global climate change impacts in the United States. Cambridge University Press, UK.
  17. Larsen JN, Anisimov O, Constable A, Hallowed A, Maynard N, Prestrud P, Prowse T, Stone J (2014) Chapter 28: Polar Regions. In: Climate change 2014. Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Contribution of working group II to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press. UKGoogle Scholar
  18. Lynn K, Daigle J, Hoffman J, Lake F, Michelle N, Ranco D, Viles C, Voggesser G, Williams P (2013) The impacts of climate change on tribal traditional foods. Clim Chang 120(3)Google Scholar
  19. Maldonado JK, Shearer C, Bronen R, Peterson K, Lazrus H (2013a) The impact of climate change on tribal communities in the US: displacement, relocation, and human rights. Clim Change 120(3):601–614CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Maldonado JK, Pandya R, Colombi B, eds. (2013a) Climate change and indigenous peoples in the United States: impacts, experiences and actions. Clim Chang 120(3). Reprinted 2014, Springer International Publishing, Cham, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  21. Maynard NG, ed. (2002) Native peoples-native homelands climate change workshop report. U.S. national assessment on climate Change. U.S. Global Change Research Program, NASA Goddard Space Flight CenterGoogle Scholar
  22. Maynard, NG, ed. (2014) Native peoples-native homelands climate change workshop ii final report: an indigenous response to climate change. November 18–21, 2009. Prior Lake, MNGoogle Scholar
  23. McLean KG, Ramos-Castillo A, Gross T, Johnston S, Vierros M, Noa R (2009) Report of the indigenous peoples’ global summit on climate change. April 20–24. United Nations University—Traditional Knowledge Initiative, AnchorageGoogle Scholar
  24. Melillo JM, Richmond TC, and Yohe GW, eds. (2014) Climate change impacts in the United States: the third national climate assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC.
  25. Moser SC, Davidson MA, Kirshen P, Mulvaney P, Murley JF, Neumann JE, Petes L, Reed D (2014) Ch. 25: coastal zone development and ecosystems. In: Melillo JM, Richmond TC, Yohe GW (eds) Climate change impacts in the United States: the third national climate assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, pp 579–618Google Scholar
  26. Nakashima DJ, McLean KG, Thulstrup HD, Ramos-Castillo A, Rubis JT (2012) Weathering uncertainty: traditional knowledge for climate change assessment and adaptation. UNESCO, ParisGoogle Scholar
  27. Native Peoples Native Homelands (2009) The mystic lake declaration. Native Peoples Native Homelands Climate Change Workshop II: Indigenous Perspectives and Solutions. Prior Lake, Minnesota, November 21, 2009.
  28. White House Office of Management and Budget (2002) Guidelines for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information disseminated by federal agencies. Fed Regist 67(36):8452–8460Google Scholar
  29. Redsteer MH, Kelley KB, Francis H (2012) The observations of Navajo elders and the refining of our understanding of conventional scientific records: planet under pressure. International meeting on climate change, LondonGoogle Scholar
  30. Redsteer MH, Bemis K, Chief K, Gautam M, Middleton BR, Tsosie R (2013) Chapter 17 unique challenges facing southwestern tribes. In: Garfin G, Jardine A, Merideth R, Black M, LeRoy S (eds) The assessment of climate change in the southwestern United States: a report prepared for the national climate assessment. Island Press, Washington, DC, pp 385–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Reo NJ, Parker AK (2013) Re-thinking colonialism to prepare for the impacts of rapid environmental change. Clim Chang 120(3)Google Scholar
  32. Riley R, Blanchard P, Peppler R, Bennett TMB, Wildcat D (2011) Oklahoma inter-tribal meeting on climate variability and change: meeting summary report. Norman, Oklahoma.]
  33. Shafer M, Ojima D, Antle JM, Kluck D, McPherson RA, Petersen S, Scanlon B, Sherman K (2014) Ch. 19: Great Plains. In: Melillo JM, Richmond TC, Yohe GW (eds) Climate change impacts in the United States: the third national climate assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, pp 441–461Google Scholar
  34. Shifting Seasons (2011) Shifting seasons Great Lakes tribal climate change summit. College of Menominee Nation Sustainable Development Institute. Keshena, WI. August 23–25, 2011.
  35. Souza K, Tanimoto J (2012) PRiMO IKE Hui technical input for the national climate assessment, tribal chapter. PRiMO IKE Hui meeting, January 2012, Hawai’i.
  36. Wildcat DR (2009) Red alert!: saving the planet with indigenous knowledge. Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, COGoogle Scholar
  37. Wildcat DR (2013) Introduction: climate change and indigenous peoples of the USA. Clim Change 120(3):509–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie Maldonado
    • 1
  • T. M. Bull Bennett
    • 2
  • Karletta Chief
    • 3
  • Patricia Cochran
    • 4
  • Karen Cozzetto
    • 5
  • Bob Gough
    • 6
  • Margaret Hiza Redsteer
    • 7
  • Kathy Lynn
    • 8
  • Nancy Maynard
    • 9
  • Garrit Voggesser
    • 10
  1. 1.Livelihoods Knowledge NetworkSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Kiksapa Consulting, LLCMandanUSA
  3. 3.University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  4. 4.Alaska Native Science CommissionAnchorageUSA
  5. 5.Institute for Tribal Environmental ProfessionalsFlagstaffUSA
  6. 6.Intertribal Council on Utility PolicyMinneapolisUSA
  7. 7.United States Geological SurveyFlagstaffUSA
  8. 8.Pacific Northwest Tribal Climate Change NetworkEugeneUSA
  9. 9.National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbeltUSA
  10. 10.National Wildlife FederationDenverUSA

Personalised recommendations