Climate Change Report: American Indian Tribes Hit Hardest

Whether it's a storm, wildfire or drought, the study found American Indian Tribes are always hit the hardest.

By Jorge Rivas Aug 22, 2011

American Indians and Alaska Natives are the most impacted by climate change in the United States, according to a recent study by the National Wildlife Federation.

The report notes that American Indian Tribes are hit hardest largely due to dependence of their natural resources to sustain their economic and cultural practices, the relatively poor state of their infrastructure, and the great need for financial and technical resources.

The study, "Facing the Storm: Indian Tribes, Climate-Induced Weather Extremes, and the Future for Indian Country," points out the federal government provided some of the of the worst real estate for American Indian communities and they’re often facing natural disasters that are triggered by human neglect:

Multiple climate-related threats can further challenge Tribal resiliency. Climate and weather extremes can interact to cause more severe impacts for communities and nature. The combination of extreme heat and drought can increase plant and wildlife mortality, cause electricity shortages, and heighten the risk of wildfires. These climate and weather extremes often occur in the context of other problems facing Tribes, from other sources of environmental degradation to limited economic resources.

"As usual, we’re the most vulnerable groups of people," Nikke Alex, youth organizer for Navajo Green Jobs and the Black Mesa Water Coalition tells the Navajo Times. "It’s not just America. I’ve traveled all over the world for climate change forums, and it’s the same story with indigenous people everywhere."

The study asks Congress to increase funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ efforts to address  climate adaptation, along with to providing equitable tribal access to federal funds and a repeal of the Tribes’ exclusions from federal environmental programs. It also stresses the need for the federal government to enforce tribal rights to natural and cultural resources.