Justice forward: Tribes, climate adaptation and responsibility

Abstract

Federally-recognized tribes must adapt to many ecological challenges arising from climate change, from the effects of glacier retreat on the habitats of culturally significant species to how sea leave rise forces human communities to relocate. The governmental and social institutions supporting tribes in adapting to climate change are often constrained by political obstructions, raising concerns about justice. Beyond typical uses of justice, which call attention to violations of formal rights or to considerations about the degree to which some populations may have caused anthropogenic climate change, a justice framework should guide how leaders, scientists and professionals of all heritages and who work with or for federally-recognized tribes understand what actions are morally essential for supporting tribes’ adaptation efforts. This paper motivates a shift to a forward-looking framework of justice. The framework situates justice within the systems of responsibilities that matter to tribes and many others, which range from webs of inter-species relationships to government-to-government partnerships. Justice is achieved when these systems of responsibilities operate in ways that support the continued flourishing of tribal communities.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    For a rich articulation of collective continuance as “environmental heritage,” see (Figueroa 2001).

  2. 2.

    Collective continuance is a concern to all communities, though this paper focuses on tribes. See Schlosberg and Carruthers (2010) for an account of Indigenous peoples and capabilities theories of justice.

  3. 3.

    See Cuomo 2011 for an important, and related, account of climate justice and responsibility.

  4. 4.

    See Tuana 2013 for a related conversation and key insights into gender and climate science.

References

  1. (1941) Seminole Nation v. United States. U.S., p. 286

  2. Alessa L, Kliskey A, Williams P, Barton M (2008) Perception of change in freshwater in remote resource-dependent Arctic communities. Glob Environ Change-Human Policy Dimens 18:153–164

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Alfred GR (1999) Peace, power, righteousness: An indigenous manifesto. Oxford University Press, Don Mills

    Google Scholar 

  4. Anaya SJ (2004) Indigenous peoples in international law. Oxford University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  5. Campbell K, De Melker S (2012) Northwest ‘Salmon People’ Face Future Without Fish. PBS

  6. Cochran P, Huntington OH, Pungowiyi C, Tom S, Chapin III FS, Huntington HP et al (2013) Indigenous frameworks for observing and responding to climate change in Alaska. Clim Chang. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0735-2

  7. Cuomo CJ (2011) Climate change, vulnerability, and responsibility. Hypatia 26:690–714

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Davis L (ed) (2010) Alliances: Re/Envisioning Indigenous-Non-Indigenous Relationships. University of Toronto Press, Toronto

    Google Scholar 

  9. Dittmer K (2013) Changing streamflow on Columbia basin tribal lands- climate change and salmon. Clim Chang. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0745-0

  10. Ebbin SA (2009) Institutional and ethical dimensions of resilience in fishing systems: perspectives from co-managed fisheries in the Pacific Northwest. Mar Policy 33:264–270

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Figueroa RM (2001) Other faces: Latinos and environmental justice. In: Lawson BE, Westra L (eds) Faces of environmental racism: Confronting issues of global justice. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Boston, pp 167–186

    Google Scholar 

  12. Figueroa RM (2011) Indigenous peoples and cultural losses. In: Dryzek JS, Norgaard RB, Schlosberg D (eds) The Oxford handbook of climate change and society. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 232–250

    Google Scholar 

  13. Frye M (1983) The politics of reality: Essays in feminist theory. Crossing Press, Trumansburg

    Google Scholar 

  14. Gautam M, Chief K, Smith WJ Jr (2013) Climate change in Arid Lands and Native American socioeconomic vulnerability: the case of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Clim Chang. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0737-0

  15. Grah O, Beaulieu J (2013) The effect of climate change on glacier ablation and baseflow support in the Nooksack River Basin and implications on Pacific Salmon species protection and recovery. Clim Chang. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0747-y

  16. Grossman Z (2008) Indigenous Nations’ Responses Climate Change Am Indian Cult Res J 32:5–27

    Google Scholar 

  17. Harris G (ed.): (2011) Northwest Forest Plan - The First 15 Years [1994–2008]: Effectiveness of the Federal-Tribal Relationship, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, Portland

  18. Holmes E, Lickers H, Barkley B (2002) A critical assessment of ten years of on-the-ground sustainable forestry in eastern Ontario s settled landscape. For Chron 78:643–647

    Google Scholar 

  19. LaDuke W (1999) All our relations: Native struggles for land and life. South End Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  20. Leonetti C (2010) Indigenous Stewardship Methods and NRCS Conservation Practices. United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, Anchorage, Alaska, USA

  21. Lynn K, MacKendrick K, Donoghue E (2011) Social vulnerability and climate change: Synthesis of literature. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland

    Google Scholar 

  22. Lynn K, Daigle J, Hoffman J, Lake FK, Michelle N, Ranco D et al (2013) The impacts of climate change on tribal traditional foods. Clim Chang. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0736-1

  23. Maldonado JK, Shearer C, Bronen R, Peterson K, Lazrus H (2013) The impact of climate change on tribal communities in the US: displacement, relocation, and human rights. Clim Chang. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0746-z

  24. McGregor D (2008) Linking traditional ecological knowledge and Western science: aboriginal perspectives from the 2000 State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference. Can J Nativ Stud XXVIII:139–158

    Google Scholar 

  25. McGregor D (2009) Honouring our relations: An anishnaabe perspective on environmental justice. In: Agyeman J, Cole P, Haluza-Delay R (eds) Speaking for ourselves: Environmental justice in Canada. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver, pp 27–41

    Google Scholar 

  26. Mears J (2012) A Climate Change Focused Organization. First Stewards Symposium: Coastal Peoples Address Climate Change. First Stewards Symposium, Washington, DC

  27. Merculieff L (2007) Native Perspectives on Sustainability: Larry Merculieff (Aleut) Native Perspectives on Sustainability. Interviewed by David Hall

  28. Nelson DR, Adger WN, Brown K (2007) Adaptation to environmental change: contributions of a resilience framework. Annu Rev Environ Resour 32:395–419

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Nesper L (2002) The Walleye war: The struggle for Ojibwe spearfishing and treaty rights. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln

    Google Scholar 

  30. Ortiz SJ, Chino M (1980) Fight Back: For the Sake of the People, for the Sake of the Land. [Albuquerque]: Institute for Native American Development, University of New Mexico

  31. Pardilla J (2011) Testimony on FY 2012 Appropriations House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment & Resources

  32. Ranco D, O’Neill CA, Donatuto J, Harper BL (2011) Environmental justice, American Indians and the cultural dilemma: developing environmental management for tribal health and well-being. Environ Justice 4:221–230

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Ross A, Sherman R, Snodgrass JG, Delcore HD (2010) Indigenous peoples and the collaborative stewardship of nature: Knowledge binds and institutional conflicts. Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek

    Google Scholar 

  34. Runstrom A, Bruch R, Reiter D, Cox D (2002) Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) on the Menominee Indian Reservation: an effort toward co-management and population restoration. J Appl Ichthyol 18:481–485

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Schlosberg D, Carruthers D (2010) Indigenous struggles, environmental justice, and community capabilities. Global Environ Polit 10:12–35

    Google Scholar 

  36. Shearer C (2011) Kivalina: A climate change story. Haymarket Books, Chicago

    Google Scholar 

  37. Shearer C (2012) The social construction of Alaska native vulnerability to climate change. Race Gend Class 19:61–79

    Google Scholar 

  38. Shockley K (2012) Human values and institutional responses to climate change. In: Thompson A, Bendik-Keymer J (eds) Ethical adaptation to climate change: Human virtues of the future. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 281–298

    Google Scholar 

  39. Silvern SE (1999) Scales of justice: law, American Indian treaty rights and the political construction of scale. Polit Geogr 18:639–668

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Suagee D (2009) Tribal Sovereignty and the Green Energy Revolution. Indian Country Today

  41. Tinker GE (2004) Spirit and resistance: Political theology and American Indian liberation. Fortress Pr

  42. Trosper RL (2007) Indigenous influence on forest management on the Menominee Indian Reservation. For Ecol Manag 249:134–139

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Trosper RL (2009) Resilience, reciprocity and ecological economics: Northwest Coast sustainability. Routledge, New York, NY, USA

  44. Tsosie R (2010) Indigenous peoples and global climate change: intercultural models of climate equity. Environ Law Litig 25:7–18

    Google Scholar 

  45. Tuana N (2013) Gendering Climate Knowledge for Justice: Catalyzing a New Research Agenda. in Alston M, Whittenbury K (eds.) Research, Action and Policy: Addressing the Gendered Impacts of Climate Change. Dordrecht, Netherlands, pp 17–31

  46. Vennum T (1988) Wild rice and the Ojibway people. Minnesota historical society Press

  47. Voggesser G (2013) The tribal path forward: confronting climate change and conserving nature. Wildl Prof 4:24–30

    Google Scholar 

  48. Voggesser G, Lynn K, Daigle J, Lake FK, Ranco D (2013) Cultural impacts to tribes from climate change influences on forests. Clim Chang. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0733-4

  49. Wildcat DR (2009) Red alert! saving the planet with indigenous knowledge. Fulcrum, Golden

    Google Scholar 

  50. Wilkinson CF (2005) Blood struggle: The rise of modern Indian nations. Norton, New York

    Google Scholar 

  51. Willow AJ (2011) Indigenizing invasive species management: native North Americans and the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Beetle. Cult Agric Food Environ 33:70–82

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Young OR, Agrawal A, King LA, Sand PH, Underdal A, Wasson M (1999) Institutional dimensions of global environmental change. Science Plan. IHDP, Bonn

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

I wish to thank the blind referees, Kristie Dotson, Becky Neher and Julie Maldonado for their dedication, time and insightful comments.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kyle Powys Whyte.

Additional information

This article is part of a Special Issue on “Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in the United States: Impacts, Experiences, and Actions” edited by Julie Koppel Maldonado, Rajul E. Pandya, and Benedict J. Colombi.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Whyte, K.P. Justice forward: Tribes, climate adaptation and responsibility. Climatic Change 120, 517–530 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-013-0743-2

Download citation

Keywords

  • Climate Change Impact
  • Wild Rice
  • Traditional Ecological Knowledge
  • Political Order
  • Ecological Challenge