Published on Apr 23, 2021
WASHINGTON D.C. -- National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp joined world leaders at the White House Leaders Summit on Climate yesterday to highlight the dramatic effects of climate change on Tribal Nations and the importance of tribal sovereignty and traditional knowledge in combating those effects.
President Sharp, Indigenous leaders from Brazil and Chad, and local government leaders from Mexico, France, Japan, and the U.S. discussed holistic responses to the climate crisis while at the same time creating opportunities for economic growth and respecting tribal sovereignty in a breakout session titled “Climate Action at All Levels.” The session was moderated by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan.
President Sharp emphasized the grave impacts of climate change on Tribal Nations, and the specific climate challenges she has navigated as a leader of the Quinault Indian Nation since taking office 15 years ago.
“In 2006, I faced a harsh reality. While millions of sockeye salmon returned to the mighty Quinault River each year for millennia, only 4,000 returned that year. I had to declare multiple states of emergency, witnessing sea level rise inundate our main village, flood our courthouse, community center, jail facility and our only store in town. I stood on our shores along the beautiful Pacific Ocean and witnessed miles of coastline littered with dead marine life due to oxygen depletion on the ocean floor,” President Sharp said. “Every one of these front-line impacts has taken a significant toll and traumatized our entire nation. Sadly, my Tribal Nation is not alone. All across the country and around the world, Indigenous communities share our tragic, true, and very harsh reality, story, and narrative.”
Her remarks further stressed the importance of traditional knowledge and multi-lateral partnerships to develop creative solutions to address climate change.
“Tribal Nations and communities are truly a brain trust of millennia-old ideas and practices. We share centuries of timeless and ancient wisdom and knowledge on how to best confront the impacts of climate change,” Sharp said. “I look forward to a robust discussion leading to full, creative, holistic, and inclusive actions that respect our communities, respect and honor tribal sovereignty and propel our economies into a bright, prosperous, and sustainable future, a future that our ancestors dreamed of and a future that generations to be born to deserve.”
President Sharp highlighted four key principles to move the discussion forward. First, all federal and international climate-based planning must continue to include Tribal Nations. Second, Tribal Nations’ involvement must meet the standards of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Third, tribal co-management of lands and resources can support intergovernmental approaches to climate responses. Lastly, there must be parity for Tribal Nations in climate action funding provided at the state, national, and international levels.
“All across Indian Country, with our vast and precious natural resources, we are unlocking new and emerging opportunities for economic growth and justice,” Sharp said. “We stand poised and ready to engage in bilateral and multilateral conversations to partner with a global community in an aggressive, inclusive, strategic, and global climate action agenda.”
About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org.