Indigenous People Demand to be Heard at Intergovernmental Level on Climate Change


By Uyanga Bazaa
Winter 2008

A Tribal College Forum jointly organized between NativeView Inc., and the American Indian/Alaskan Native Climate Change Working Group was held in August at Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence, Kansas. Tribal elders representing the native people signed a letter to be sent to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) saying, “The inclusion of indigenous voices and most importantly their very real stories must be strengthened and extended into the future.”

The group of Native American leaders and scientists believe that their empirical knowledge about nature and climate change has been ignored. They state in the letter, “Long before international scientific institutions, the northern tribes of Canada and Alaska noted the unprecedented changes in their land.” Dr. Daniel Wildcat, Haskell Indian Nations University was instrumental in writing the letter, he added, “Indigenous people are local sensors, as satellites and radars are remote sensing tools for climate change.” During the three day workshop, tribal colleges emphasized students’ participation in research and one full day was dedicated to presentations of student research.

Future opportunities for students were also discussed. Ernie Stevens Jr., National Indian Gaming Association, said, “Tribal casinos need to donate more money to fund the student researchers.” A future video project entitled “Where Words Touch the Earth” was discussed. Led by Dr. Wildcat, it will focus on climate change impacts on American Indians and Alaska Natives. A President’s panel discussed successful partnerships and future opportunities for increased collaboration.

Associate Director Dr. Victoria Lytle represented CReSIS on the panel. Faculty, staff and students from CReSIS also talked to students and participants at a booth where CReSIS information was displayed.