Quinault Climate Change Project
The Quinault Climate Change Project foretells many challenges that could threaten the very existence of the Quinault Indian Nation because of its location on the coast of Washington and its dependence on natural resources.
American Indian and Alaska Native tribes have contributed little to the causes of climate change, and yet face disproportionate risks. Tribes have unique rights, cultures, and economies that are, or could be, vulnerable to climate change impacts. For indigenous peoples, the environmental impacts of climate change and some of the proposed solutions threaten ways of life, subsistence, lands rights, future growth, cultural survivability, and financial resources.
The natural environment and its resources are deeply intertwined with the culture and economy of the Quinault. The traditional tribal worldview is that the people are a part of nature, not apart from nature. “Place-based” people have developed an intimate relationship with their specific natural environment through history. Their physical, mental, social and spiritual health is directly and uniquely related to the health of the ecosystems of the lands and waters they inhabit.
The Quinault Climate Change Project believes that impacts on indigenous people, and Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, specifically include:
- Terrestrial Ecosystems and Wildfire: Warmer temperatures and declining snowpack/water will increase stress on forests resulting in increased risk of wildfire and new insect/disease outbreaks. Ecosystems will change as species shift ranges.
- Coastal Ecosystems: Ocean acidification severely impacts shellfish as well as pteropods that make up a significant percentage of the salmon diet. QIN culture was built around salmon which have already declined to mere remnants of their historic remarkable abundances.
- Food Security, Subsistence and First Foods: Traditional hunting and gathering areas will be impacted. Changes in species composition and habitats are likely. Impacts are likely on salmon and other fish, shellfish, big game animals, berries, roots, medicinal plants.
- Community Relocation: Storm surge, coastal erosion and sea level inundation will force relocation of communities such as reservation villages of Taholah and Queets and will force changes in livelihoods and diets. Risk of losing traditional lands and burial grounds.
- Water: Increased winter precipitation will not make up for summer flows drastically reduced by lack of glaciers and snow pack. Warmer water will impact salmon habitat. Flooding is expected and will result in loss of 50% of salmon habitat over the next 40-80 years. Safe drinking water and sanitation systems may be jeopardized.
Climate change is being incorporated into many Quinault Indian Nation policies and programs related to the environment, infrastructure, culture and economy. The long term goal of the Quinault Climate Change Project is a healthy, resilient environment and a community of Elders, families and children with the capacity to adapt to climate change with flexible management options, economic opportunities and Quinault cultural continuity.
Environmental Protection Manager, Daniel Ravenel » 360.276.8215 x7301
Climate Change Coordinator, Carolyn Kelly » 360.276.8215 x7310
Additional Quinault Climate Change Resources: