The Swinomish Tribe is undertaking a study, thanks partly to a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to gauge the physical and social impacts of climate change.
The study is an outgrowth of the $17 million the tribe has invested in its natural resources over the past 10 years, according to a report in the Skagit Valley Herald and is made possible by a $756,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in June. The study will look at indigenous health indicators, Swinomish Environmental Health Analyst Jamie Donatuto told the Skagit Valley Herald. This takes cultural, family and emotional aspects of climate change impacts into account.
The three-year-long study will entail monitoring waves and winds on the shore during winter—a good 95 percent of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community reservation abuts the water—keeping careful note of storm surges, the Skagit Valley Herald said. Sediment, wood debris and eelgrass cover will also be measured. Including these angles ensures that culture and tradition will also be studied in the context of climate change, which many scientific studies don’t factor in.
“It’s important when you look at overall health to look at not just the foods and the resources, but the gathering,” said Swinomish Tribal historic preservation officer Larry Campbell to the newspaper. “There’s a process of gathering these things that’s traditional in nature.”
In addition, the Skagit Valley Herald said, the Swinomish Tribe is among 18 finalists for the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development’s Honoring Nations Program, given for governance, based on its Climate Change Initiative.
The study will last three years and carries several components. The EPA, in awarding the grant in June, said the money would go toward “develop a model showing projected coastal erosion due to sea-level rise, storm surge, and wave energy through Year 2100 on the shores of the Swinomish Reservation,” plus map Swinomish coastal ecosystem habits’ vulnerability, especially for first foods and culturally signifianct sites, support the Swinomis Climate Change Innitiative and create educational and outreach tools for the Swinomish.
“We’re protecting the universal resource rather than the tribal resource. We’re doing a lot more for the state and the county, and then in the end the tribe benefits by taking care of the whole,” Campbell told the Skagit Valley Herald. “We’re a very aggressive tribe when it comes to our environment.”