National Tribal Leadership Climate Change Summit begins with virtual session on tribal climate change policy

(Photo: Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Facebook Page)

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With national, state, and local elections this fall, tribes, and climate advocates seize the opportunity to advance a progressive set of policies to help solve the climate crisis

News Release

Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians

Today, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI), National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), United South and Eastern Tribes (USET), and partner organizations convened Tribal leaders and climate change advocates for the first virtual session of the National Tribal Leadership Climate Change Summit. The session kickstarts national efforts to develop a progressive set of policies that will reflect the priorities, values, and traditional knowledge of American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal governments and Indigenous communities worldwide.

Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians’ Climate Change Program, which is leading organizing efforts, was established to guide in developing and implementing administrative and legislative actions related to Indigenous Peoples and climate change. “Our first virtual session was a success! We had over 650 registrants representing 161 Tribes from across the country and beyond. Despite all the challenges we collectively face this year, Tribal leaders and climate advocate allies are pushing forward with developing progressive Tribal climate change policies in preparation of this year's crucial elections,” says Don Sampson (Umatilla), Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Climate Change Project Director. “Moving forward, our Summit will be broken into a series of virtual sessions featuring internationally renowned plenary speakers covering climate resiliency, youth advocacy, and traditional knowledge.” 

The Summit comes at a precarious time as many Tribes, First Nations, and Indigenous communities see first-hand in their communities the impacts of climate change. From dramatic shifts in seasonal patterns that impact the size and effects of wildfires in their territories to changing temperatures in oceans and waterways that have resulted in historically low salmon runs in traditional fishing areas.   

Today's session featured Kyle Whyte, Ph.D. (Citizen Band of Potawatomi) from Michigan State University, who presented a Tribal analysis and review of the key pillars of the recently released Climate Action Plan from the House Select Committee on Climate Crisis. The session also highlighted the inter-generational responsibilities of fighting climate change by featuring seasoned elder Tribal leaders like Frank Ettawageshik (Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians) alongside youth leaders like Coral Avery (Shawnee Tribe) and Sam Schimmel ( Siberian Yupik and Kenaitze Indian). 

Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians President Leonard Forsman (Suquamish Tribe) moderated many discussions and National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp (Quinault Nation) provided an inspirational keynote. In addition to Tribal leaders, the session opened with a welcome from Washington Governor Jay Inslee and featured U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1) as a keynote speaker as well. 

“It was an honor to join hundreds of Tribal leaders and activists for the National Tribal Leadership Climate Change Summit for a meaningful, productive, and substantive conversation,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “I’m grateful for the leadership and engagement of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, the National Congress of American Indians, and Tribal leaders from across the country for their Tribal Review of the Climate Action Plan authored by the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. As we work together to address the climate crisis, I am committed to supporting Tribal sovereignty, formally and meaningfully consulting with Tribal leaders, supporting the priorities of Tribal Nations, and respecting Indigenous and Traditional Knowledges.” 

As the original stewards of this land since time immemorial, Tribes and Tribal leaders are carefully considering how decisions made now will impact the seven proceeding generations. Today’s session represents another step in working united and collaboratively across Indian Country to ensure that future generations will continue to have a livable future and benefit from these lands. 

About Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians

In 1953 farsighted tribal leaders in the Northwest formed the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and dedicated it to tribal sovereignty and self-determination. Today, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians is a nonprofit organization representing over 50 Northwest tribal governments from Oregon, Idaho, Washington, southeast Alaska, Northern California, and Western Montana. Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians is an organization whose foundation is composed of the people it is meant to serve — the Indian peoples. Through its conferences, forums, networks, and alliances, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians intends to represent and advocate for the interests of its member Tribes to national Indian and non-Indian organizations and governments. 

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(Image: Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians)
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