Home » U.S. Politics » Climate Change » Original Conservationists: Native Americans and Climate Change
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On October 11, the federal holiday of Columbus Day is observed; however, in recent years, many Native Americans have revamped the day as Indigenous Peoples day. Many Native Americans along with other climate change protestors gathered around a statue of Andrew Jackson and demanded an end to the usage of fossil fuels. Protestors painted “Expect Us” on Jackson’s statue as a part of the demonstration.

Jackson is known for his push to remove Native Americans from potential homesteading land and relegate them to reservations. This led to the deaths of many Native Americans and resulted in the Trail of Tears. This made the protestors’ presence around that particular landmark even more poignant.

Native Americans are known for being tied to the land. They hunted and fished, but tradition held that they never take more from the land than they could use. Many view Native Americans as the original conservationists for this tradition, and rightfully so. It is not surprising that many Native Americans were present at the protest on the capital on Monday.

Native Americans have been noted for carrying out practices which would actually promote the growth of certain species in order to be able to harvest while still protecting the numbers of the wild game they hunted and fished. One such example involves the Swinomish who would build clam gardens. Tribal members would build walls of rock along the line where the low tide would lay; the result would be a gentler shore line, which actually encouraged growth in these shellfish.

Modern researchers are once again building clam gardens in order to build up the numbers of these marine wildlife. In fact, the Swinomish tribe is participating in the marine wildlife endeavor in an effort to adapt to ongoing climate change. The Swinomish are just the first of many Native American tribes who are working to improve the environment, with others across the country joining in. Perhaps it is the ancient tradition of these people in conserving animals and the nature around them that could really make a difference in climate change.

Nikki Cooley, a member of the Navajo tribe, said, “Tribes have always been adapting to climate change – now we have to adapt even faster.” The Navajo and the Swinomish tribe aren’t the only indigenous people working to adapt in a rapid era of climate change. The Karuk tribe located in Northern California released a plan that involved the controlled burning of woodlands, something done decades ago in an effort to prevent an outbreak of wildfires.

The Tulalip tribe of Washington state are rehoming beavers to places upstream in order to protect salmon populations. The Jamestown S’Klallam tribe is removing invasive species of butterfly bushes that can be harmful to salmon. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes are planing whitebark pine seedlings which are better resistant to blister rust, a disease that is associated with global warming.

So, how are Native Americans adapting to climate change? They are working alongside environmentalists by sharing tried and true traditions that will promote the health of fish and marine life and native trees, while at the same time learning how to conserve in new, scientifically proven ways. Their dedication to the land could make a major difference in how we combat ongoing climate change.

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