Climate Adaptation in Partnership with California Native American Tribes

Tribal Climate Adaptation Strategies that we have been given permission to share are available on the state’s Adaptation Clearinghouse. We are constantly updating the Adaptation Clearinghouse so if there is an important an important adaptation strategy or plan that should be added, please suggest a resource.

Since time immemorial, tribal nations and California Native Americans have stewarded, managed, and lived interdependently with the lands, waters, and natural resources that now make up the State of California. Tribal nations are critical leaders and key knowledge holders in land stewardship, habitat restoration, and natural resource management. In recognition of this truth and the critical importance of partnership with California’s many Native American tribes to strengthen climate resilience, this Strategy commits to incorporating and supporting tribal expertise and traditional ecological knowledge into this work at all levels.

The state also acknowledges its history of violence, exploitation, discrimination, and attempted destruction of California Native American tribes and the dispossession of lands and environments they depend upon. In the spirit of truth and healing and Governor Newsom’s apology to California Native American tribes through Executive Order N-15-19, the State of California will strive to be a stronger partner with California Native American tribes and incorporate the priorities, expertise, and ideas of tribal nations into the planning and implementation of adaptation strategies. This Strategy strives to reflect the priorities of California Native American tribes in adapting to climate change, and to serve as a useful resource to tribal nations as they carry out their own adaptation efforts.

Many species and natural and working lands hold cultural importance to tribal nations and California Native Americans, in addition to being critical to life and wellbeing. For many tribes, native plants and animals serve as natural materials and traditional foods. Certain lands and waters are significant to identity, culture, and belief systems. Threats to these species, lands, and waters will not only have an ecological impact, but a cultural impact to many California Native American tribes.

In addition to climate change threats to natural and working lands, built infrastructure, and communities and economies, tribal cultural resources are significantly threatened by climate change impacts. Historic, cultural, and tribal cultural resources include material culture (such as artifacts, archaeological sites, and museum collections), cultural landscapes, ethnographic resources, buildings, and structures. A number of these sacred sites, objects, and heritage sites, in addition to natural resources, are a critical aspect of living culture for many Californians, especially California Native American tribes. Cultural resources are elements of cultural continuity and identity that provide a connection to the land and inspire practices today.

California Native American tribes are also not monolithic; rather, each tribal nation has a unique history as well as distinct cultural, spiritual, and political structures. The Strategy commits to providing individual tribes with the opportunity to represent themselves and be recognized as individuals with distinct planning and climate adaptation needs. The Strategy also commits to further exploring co-management and co-ownership priorities with the understanding that individual tribal nations have unique and differing perspectives on how co-management and co-ownership initiatives could best serve their communities.

Efforts to preserve and connect with historic and cultural resources must be interwoven with initiatives to address climate change impacts to the built and natural environments, and communities.