Understanding Native cultural dimensions of climate change in the Great Basin

Photo of tribal canoe hanging in a building

Project Overview

Tribes are disproportionately affected by climate change because their economies, traditions, and even identity are heavily reliant on place-based natural resources. Changes in these resources may result in associated shifts and adaptations in tribal cultural traditions. Observations by tribal elders should lead to better understanding of how the nuances and dimensions of tribal culture in the Great Basin are affected by climate change, what contributes to vulnerability to a changing climate, and the adaptive capacity of these communities to ecological shifts.

To address these challenges, the project team will:

  • Explore tribal cultural relationships and practices connected to resources and other aspects of nature that are potentially affected by climate change, specifically the Duckwater Shoshone and the Paiute tribes.
  • Interview elders with two tribes in the Great Basin in order to learn how a changing environment has affected aspects of tribal culture.

One Year Project Update

Researchers visited both the Duckwater Shoshone and Paiute tribes in early summer, and interviewed 13 tribal members, eliciting Traditional Ecological Knowledge to shed light on tribal cultural dimensions of climate change that complements western science. The team is currently transcribing and analyzing the interviews. The anticipated results are vital to both understanding Great Basin tribal cultural identities, and to tribes’ understanding of how climate changes have already impacted traditional cultural resources and practices or how they may do so in the future.

The study provides a novel perspective that examines tribal cultural traditions where the traditional behaviors and patterns are possibly being impacted by climate change. The natural resources for tribal communities are being exposed to shifts in climate. This provides an opportunity for enhanced communication among tribes and possible coordination of inter-tribal efforts to safeguard valuable cultural practices.

Project Documents

Theme: Climate Change, Cultural Resources

Project start date: 1/1/2015

Fiscal year funded: 2014

Project status: Active

Project managers: Dr. Phillip Mote, Oregon State University