Tribes of the Southwest have historically adapted to their environment, yet today they face unique challenges linked to climate change due to their deep connection to the natural environment within which their livelihoods, cultural identity, and ceremonial practices are rooted. Changes to water systems, landscapes, and ecosystems, in combination with socio-economic and political factors, amplify tribal vulnerabilities to climate change.
In the Southwest, tribes are already experiencing a range of impacts that can be associated with climate change. These effects include:
- Major water supply and water quality issues in the context of prolonged drought;
- Loss of ecosystem services and reduced ability to grow or collect important traditional foods, plants, and other raw materials;
- Increased impacts to forest resources from large and landscape-transforming wildfires due to drought, aridity, and insect infestations;
- Health impacts from heat waves, dust storms, and smoke from wildfires; and the potential spread of infectious diseases from geographic shifts in disease vectors.
The SW CASC acknowledges that tribes not only in the Southwest, but across the nation are leading the way in addressing climate change through adaptation planning and mitigation efforts. The innovative strategies influenced by traditional knowledge will advance the actions taken to address climate change and the SW CASC continuously works to collaborate, partner, and support tribes in their efforts.
The SW CASC not only continues to engage with tribal stakeholders, but also provides support through funding opportunities that help support tribal communities mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts. The SW CASC is partnering with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to support a Tribal Climate Liaison that serves as an important resource to tribal nations and tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) within the SW CASC service area (Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah) by providing information, technical assistance, and access to subject matter experts necessary to support local climate resilience research, planning, and implementation efforts.
The Baithaj, a ripe cactus fruit, is harvested from the Saguaro cactus each year just ahead of the O’odham new year, when the seasons change and summer is in full swing.
Desert Foraging finds of creosote flowers, Palo Verde, brittlebush, barrel cactus, and mesquite leaves.