One of the greatest challenges facing tribal resource managers is engaging tribal leaders and members in climate-related science and adaptation efforts and translating that information into relatable examples for them. High impact outreach, communication, and workshops about the value of ecosystems, a changing climate, adaptation projects, and mitigation efforts can motivate tribal leaders, staff, and membership to act in ways that protect and sustain the environment and their cultural resources. Climate-based decision making requires engaging people with diverse, conflicted, and/or limited perspectives in dialogues about what is at stake, who benefits, and who stands to lose without mitigation action. Collaborative learning and discussion can reduce conflict and contribute to the development of shared meaning amongst tribal leaders, members, and natural resource managers. These discussions can facilitate the development of actions and planning of future projects that sustain and create resilience for ecosystem services and cultural resources that support and sustain tribal lifeways.
In 2019, USRTS Community Outreach and Education Program developed education and outreach materials using adult and youth learning techniques and conducted engagement workshops for tribal leadership, staff, and membership. This interactive and multi-faceted engagement process helps disseminate climate-based knowledge, builds support for actions that reduce the risk that extreme weather events and harmful environmental trends pose to the member tribes, and informs tribal members of USRT’s existing and continuing Climate Adaptation and Resilience projects. The approaches and materials can also be shared with tribes across the Pacific and Inland Northwest to help build climate literacy and resilience across the regions.
There are four different target audiences: 1) tribal leaders, 2) tribal staff, 3) tribal membership, and 4) tribal youth (6-18 age group). Materials focus on how a changing climate is affecting tribal cultural resources, and what they can do to sustain those resources, or adapt, should those resources become non-sustainable under new climate scenarios. USRT continues to attend regional/national conferences showcasing materials produced.
The education materials USRT produced was in motion across Tribal schools and communities in early 2020. However, due to the unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic, most tribal schools and reservations closed, many of which did not reopen until spring of 2022. In response to a new virtual learning environment, USRT’s Education Coordinator worked to transition the once in person, hands-on materials into an online learning format. Although keeping students engaged via zoom is no easy task, USRT offered students who completed the online program a gift card. In 2020, USRT had ten students complete the program.
Tribal Youth Outreach and Engagement
USRT understands that involving tribal youth is critical in truly helping tribes adapt to extreme conditions and sustaining the momentum of future resilience efforts. Therefore, a Climate-focused youth camp will be developed to engage tribal students and allow for discussion between project staff and tribal youth from USRT’s four member tribes.
Tribal Youth Climate Camp
In August of 2022, USRT completed its first ever Tribal Youth Climate Camp. Through collaboration with the City of Boise, the Foothills Learning Center, Boise River Outdoor Opportunities, and Bogus Basin Recreation Mountain, USRT was able to host a three-day Climate Camp.
The Camp successfully brought twenty tribal students from USRT’s member tribes to their ancestral homeland, the Treasure Valley of Boise, ID. Through an immersive three-day climate camp, the students participated in hands-on, engaging activities and lessons surrounding the topics of climate change, drought, water quality/quantity, ecosystem protection, and more!
Students participated in an open discussion about climate change and its impact on water quantity. We asked the students to pick a quote from a historical water management figure and stand by the one that resonated with them most. We then posted the question: “In a perfect world, what would water resource management look like to you?”
During a guided ecology hike with the Foothills Learning Center, students collected plants, sketched what they found, and discussed the difference between the plants, habitats, and wildlife they saw. The students then compared two different habitats and plant species, discussing why water might have such an impact on plant growth and exploring how drought actively impacts different plant and wildlife species in the Treasure Valley.
Through a guided demonstration with the Intermountain Bird Observatory, the students discussed the importance of resilience against drought and a changing climate. Many students offered insights on why preserving certain cultural plants for medicinal and ceremonial purposes is important to their tribe. We discussed how drought and other factors may worsen due to climate change and encouraged the students to ask their parents, tribal leaders, and elders about building resilience to climate change.