A Guide to Understanding The Tribes and Indigenous Peoples Chapter of the NCA4

A Guide to Understanding the
Tribes and Indigenous Peoples Chapter of the NCA4

NCA4 Webinar Series –  Chapter 15


Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) Webinar Series

The Southeast CASC is hosting a six-part webinar series designed to help our partners and stakeholders in the Southeast more readily access the large amount of information synthesized in the Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II (NCA4). We will highlight the key messages contained in the Southeast, Tribes & Indigenous Peoples, and U.S. Caribbean chapters of the NCA4, connect you directly to related elements of the volume, and make connections to relevant research, publications, and data from the Southeast CASC and others.

Below is a brief overview of this week’s webinar topic – Chapter 15:
Tribes and Indigenous Peoples
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 – 12pm ET
Presented by:
Rachael Novak (Bureau of Indian Affairs) and
Casey Thornbrugh (United South and Eastern Tribes)


Figure Downloads from Chapter 15

Note that each figure on the NCA4 website has an eyeball icon associated with it that gives users access to detailed metadata. This can be used to recreate the figures and accurately portray the findings. Some figures have a gear icon that directs the reader to the Climate Resilience Toolkit, a powerful resource with hundreds of case studies and a Climate Explorer tool that allows users to explore dozens of climate parameters at the zip code level. In addition, we have created and linked pdf versions of each figure below for ease of saving the image with the associated legend.


Key Message 1: Indigenous Livelihoods and Economies at Risk

“Climate change threatens Indigenous peoples’ livelihoods and economies, including agriculture, hunting and gathering, fishing, forestry, energy, recreation, and tourism enterprises (very high confidence). Indigenous peoples’ economies rely on, but face institutional barriers to, their self-determined management of water, land, other natural resources, and infrastructure (high confidence) that will be impacted increasingly by changes in climate (likely, high confidence).”


Figure 15.1: Indigenous Peoples’ Climate Initiatives and Plans

Many Indigenous peoples are taking steps to adapt to climate change impacts. You can use the interactive version of this map available here to search by activity type, region, and sector and to find more information and links to each project. To provide feedback and add new projects for inclusion in the database, see here. Thus far, tribal entities in the Northwest have the highest concentration of climate activities (Ch. 24: Northwest). For other case studies of selected tribal adaptation activities, see both the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals’ Tribal Profiles, and Tribal Case Studies within the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit.

Key Message 2: Physical, Mental, and Indigenous Values-Based Health at Risk

“Indigenous health is based on interconnected social and ecological systems that are being disrupted by a changing climate (high confidence). As these changes continue, the health of individuals and communities will be uniquely challenged by climate impacts to lands, waters, foods, and other plant and animal species (likely, high confidence). These impacts threaten sites, practices, and relationships with cultural, spiritual, or ceremonial importance that are foundational to Indigenous peoples’ cultural heritages, identities, and physical and mental health (high confidence).”


Figure 15.2: Infrastructure and Economic Vulnerabilities

Figure 15.2: Communities’ economic potential and livelihoods rely on infrastructure and the essential services it delivers, and many tribes and Indigenous communities already face acute infrastructure challenges that make them highly vulnerable to climate impacts.22 Indigenous peoples along the coasts and in the islands, the Southwest, and Alaska have experienced the most extensive infrastructure-related impacts thus far. Source: USGCRP.
(Link to Figure 15.2 | Downloadable PDF)


Key Message 3: Adaptation, Disaster Management, Displacement, and Community-Led Relocations

“Many Indigenous peoples have been proactively identifying and addressing climate impacts; however, institutional barriers exist in the United States that severely limit their adaptive capacities (very high confidence). These barriers include limited access to traditional territory and resources and the limitations of existing policies, programs, and funding mechanisms in accounting for the unique conditions of Indigenous communities. Successful adaptation in Indigenous contexts relies on use of Indigenous knowledge, resilient and robust social systems and protocols, a commitment to principles of self-determination, and proactive efforts on the part of federal, state, and local governments to alleviate institutional barriers (high confidence).”


Relevant case studies from the Southeast chapter of the NCA4

– Case Study: Mountain Ramps
– Case Study: A Lesson Learned for Community Resettlement: Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe

Isle de Jean Charles, LA, and Kivalina, AK

Figure 15.3: These photos show aerial views of (left) Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, and (right) Kivalina, Alaska. As projections of sea level rise and coastal inundation are realized, many impacted communities are confronting political, ecological, and existential questions about how to adapt.
Photo credits: (left) Ronald Stine; (right) ShoreZone (CC BY 3.0).


Upcoming Events
  • USET SPF Impact Week 2020 has been rescheduled to September 27 – October 1, 2020. More information.
  • The 38th Annual Native American Fish & Wildlife Society National Conference, originally scheduled for May 4 – 7, 2020, has been postponed. More information.
  • The 21st National Tribal Preservation Conference, hosted by the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, will be held from May 11-15, 2020. More information.
  • USET and the Penobscot Indian Nation will be hosting a Tribal Climate Resilience Camp from July 12-17. 2020 in Winter Harbor, ME. Learn more.
  • The 2020 National Tribal & Indigenous Climate Conference will be held from August 31 – September 3, 2020 in St. Paul, MN. More information.
  • The National Tribal Leadership Climate Change Summit will be held in Seattle, WA from October 12-14. More information.
Important Links

SE CASC Publications relevant to this Key Message from the SE CASC Publications Database include:

SE CASC researchers have implemented projects relevant to this Key Message:

  • The Future of Culturally Important Species in North America. Project Details.
  • Intergenerational research on Indigenous agricultural knowledge, climate resilience, and food security in the Caribbean. Project Details.