The Climate Crisis, the Renewable Energy Revolution, and Tribal Sovereignty

Like the other indigenous peoples of the world, American Indian and Alaska Native tribes will suffer, and are suffering, from the impacts of climate change in ways that are different from the cosmopolitan peoples that inhabit most of the centers of political and economic power. Impacts will be experienced differently, in large part, because the material cultures of indigenous peoples tend to be woven into the ecosystems where they live and because their religious cultures also tend to be rooted in the particular places where they live.

The roots of their cultural identities reach back into mythic time, with countless generations of traditional ecological knowledge. The kinds of impacts that we expect global warming to bring, the kinds of impacts that we are already witnessing, will stress indigenous cultures in ways that will threaten their survival as distinct peoples.1 As the plant and animal communities on which indigenous cultures depend drastically change, it will be increasingly difficult for indigenous peoples to maintain their ways of life. The traditional knowledge of the elders will seem less and less relevant in the lives of children and younger adults.