Quinault Tribal President Fawn Sharp. The Quinault Nation must soon relocate a village because of climate change. (Photo by Larry Workman of Quinault Nation.)
Tribes and climate change regulations
President Donald J. Trump announced last week that the United States was pulling out of the Paris agreement on climate change. That agreement includes every country in the world except Nicaragua, Syria … and now the United States.
The problems related to climate change are enormous — so the thinking goes — and the best course is a planetary response.
But nearly every government will be involved, including tribal governments.
This is Trahant Reports.
Shortly after the president’s announcement four Native Nations announced their plans to support the Paris agreement.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Quinault Indian Nation, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska said they will fill the vacuum and take aggressive action to protect the places we call home. The tribes said in a news release that climate change touches all aspect of life, from those who have no voice, the salmon, buffalo, seals and polar bears, to those who are suffering the impacts of water loss, shoreline erosion, drought and loss of homelands and waters.
Across North American tribes see climate change, or global warming, as real, human-caused, and something that is changing life right now.
The Quinault Nation is already experiencing an increase in ocean storm surges that requires the Lower Village of Taholah be relocated because of flooding and a potential catastrophe if there were to be a tsunami.
Tribal President Fawn Sharp said: “We are talking about human lives here, and regardless of who is in office the fact is the federal government is our trustee … This responsibility is constitutionally mandated, and it’s not something the President or anyone else can wriggle out of.”
Last year the Bureau of Indian Affairs awarded $8.7 million for tribal climate change projects for 63 tribes. But more than 200 tribes applied for the program and the Trump administration says it is ending all federal spending on climate change programs.
The president said that withdrawing from the agreement will support more energy resource development, including a revival of the coal industry. And a couple of weeks ago Vice President Mike Pence toured a working coal mine on the Crow Reservation promising new jobs. But that might be an impossible dream. The job losses in the coal industry have more to do with the low price of natural gas and changing global markets.
Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II says his tribe is actively moving away from fossil fuels and “we will continue to battle those who disregard our efforts to protect our water and lands.”
I am Mark Trahant.