Climate Change

Climate change portends many challenges that could threaten the very existence of the Quinault because of its location on the coast of Washington and its dependence on natural 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.

In 2012 the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) co-hosted the First Stewards Symposium  (VISIT)  in Washington, DC, to bring attention to the effects of climate change on coastal indigenous cultures. 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 snowpack. 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 QIN policies and programs related to the environment, infrastructure, culture and economy. The long-term goal 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.


The Noskiakoʹs Initiative is a capital improvement project to gradually relocate the QIN’s key services to higher, safer ground. “Noskiakoʹs” is the Quinault language phrase for “water coming.” Climate change, sea rise, and the imminent threat of tsunami menace 70% of Taholah citizens. A lack of roads for emergency access to and from the village compounds public safety issues. Funding is being sought to move the schools, daycare, Elder housing and emergency response services to higher ground. For more information, contact the Quinault Planning Department at 360-276-8211.


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