As world leaders discuss ways to advance climate action during this week’s UN Climate Summit, we must consider one group that has a long history of understanding changing climates – Native American tribes. Many tribal groups have been observing the ebb and flow of rivers and harvests for thousands of years, and understand how to adapt for survival. This knowledge is often called Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and it holds a tremendous amount of value not only for indigenous groups, but for scientists and policymakers.
We are looking at how we can integrate TEK into EPA’s work, and the federal government is also making TEK an important part of the decision-making process. In November 2013, the White House Council on Native American Affairs was formed to improve coordination of federal programs and resources to support and assist tribal communities. Since then, a number of subgroups have been established focusing on specific issues, including a Climate Change Subgroup that Administrator McCarthy is leading in partnership with Secretary Sally Jewell of the Department of Interior. The Climate Change Subgroup will be looking at the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, which included the leaders of two Native American communities who, in turn, held multiple engagements with tribal members across the country about their goals and needs.