On October 14-17, participants from tribal, federal, state, higher education and non-profit agencies and organizations came together for the Shifting Seasons: Building Tribal Capacity for Climate Change Adaptation Summit. The program was presented by the Sustainable Development Institute of the College of Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wisconsin. Those attending shared knowledge and discussed resources that will benefit both tribal and non-tribal entities concerned with climate change adaptation, specifically in the Northeast Region.
The four-day event focused on building relationships and increasing involvement in climate change. “We heard a lot of things about what tribes are doing, like adaptation planning,” said Kyle Whyte, professor at Michigan State University (MSU) and one of the event organizers, “and what tribes have been doing and what they plan to do. We shared a lot of information about different networks as well as how to deal with climate change issues. There’s such diversity and richness in tribes for adaptation.”
Pre-summit events included a tour of the Menominee community and forest, and a student information session to help provide better understanding on how to present and network at conferences. The site visits of the Menominee community and forest plots set the stage for climate change discussion and provided a context for participants to generate and share thoughts and provide recommendations on how local resources can be coordinated to build community resilience.
At Wednesday morning’s opening ceremonies, the Smokeytown Singers sang a flag song for posting the colors by Veterans of the Menominee Nation, and then sang a welcome song for the participants. Laurie Boivin, Menominee Tribal Legislature Chairperson, noted that the summit would host unique learning opportunities. “Climate change is here and it’s affecting our Mother Earth,” said Boivin, highlighting the importance of both modern sciences and native wisdom. MTE President, Norman Shawanokasic, also offered a welcome on behalf of Menominee Tribal Enterprises. Shawanokasic talked about factors such as invasive species. “[These] represent some of the dangers that jeopardize the forest,” said Shawanokasic. “It becomes important for us as keepers of the forest.” Shawanokasic noted that it was important to embrace it and prepare the best we can. Dr. Verna Fowler, CMN President, also welcomed summit participants. “It’s a great opportunity for us to learn from you,” said Fowler.
The Sustainable Development Institute video-recorded one-on-one participant interviews during the summit. Tribal decision makers, representatives from federal agencies, indigenous practitioners, land resource managers and climate change scientists took part. Each had the opportunity to individually express his or her views and opinions on the definitions of climate change and if they see it affecting their region.
Over the course of the summit, 140 participants heard from various speakers as well as engaged with one another in small group workshops. Dr. Michelle Staudinger, Northeast Climate Science Center, gave a broad, national perspective on national impacts. Other workshops focused on small-scale climate change impacts and case studies.
“We’re seeing increased variability in precipitation,” said Staudinger, who also showed projected climate change trends, including greater warming in the Midwest and Southwest, more extreme precipitation variability and drought conditions, and sea level rise. “One of our first key findings is that our biodiversity and ecosystems are already more stressed than at any comparable period in human history,” said Staudinger. “The lesson here is that we need think very carefully about how to respond to climate change so that we don’t further stress the ecosystems and resources that we rely on.”
Beth Gibbons, GLISA Program Manager, and B.J. Baule, GLISA Climate Research Associate, presented on tribal adaptation to climate change in the Pacific Northwest. Participants heard tribal climate adaptation planning case studies from Chris Caldwell of the College of Menominee Nation and Mary Arquette, Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.
An Eco-café created an opportunity for summit participants to rotate around 13 tables to talk with one another on how tribes may work collaboratively with a number of federal, state, academic-led and non-profit climate change initiatives. Each table was uniquely represented by various agents who focus on tribal, climate change adaptation, climate science, community organization, or other unique initiatives. Participants then re-convened as a group to tour the Menominee Logging Camp and Cultural Museums, in a social event and welcome dinner. Smokeytown also provided songs for the attendees to learn more about Menominee culture.
Thursday and Friday included plenary addresses, and concurrent breakout sessions. In one breakout session which focused on practices and ethics when working with tribes, 32 participants spoke about their involvement with tribes in their work. A recent graduate of Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence, Kansas, spoke about an immersion school she recently started and the importance of language, while another spoke about her involvement in biology and chemistry in environmental development. “You learn a lot about who each person is and you get a lot of these concepts about what does stewardship mean,” said MSU’s Whyte, “and what does ‘conservation’ mean?”
While workshops continued and participants engaged in climate change adaptation, participants were also invited to interview in a one-on-one setting. In one of the 40 interviews, Gregory Garner, post-doctoral research associate with the Penn State University-led Sustainable Climate Risk Management research network, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, defined climate change through a statistical lens and highlighted the importance of taking action now. “We still have options, but time is getting short,” said Garner. Garner also spoke about his positive experience interacting with summit participants collaborating to deal with climate change. Garner noted, “It’s eye opening and to see the extent to which people are engaged, it’s phenomenal.”
The 2014 Shifting Seasons summit was collaboration between College of Menominee Nation’s Sustainable Development Institute, Northern Arizona University’s Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, and Michigan State University. SDI Director Chris Caldwell, lead planner for the event, said that “Shifting Seasons was an opportunity to follow up on the first two Shifting Seasons held in 2011 and 2012. It helped show how SDI has capitalized on the recommendations from these initial events. We plan on pulling together event recommendations to help us prepare a final report that will outline future steps, for us to share with participants, and what we can do to move forward in helping tribes build capacity to address climate change issues on their own terms.”
Funding was provided by Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs Climate Change Program, the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessment Center and the Northeast Climate Science Center.