St. Croix Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledges in Climate Change Initiatives

Tribes, agencies, and organizations can use this guide as a framework to increase understanding of issues relating to access and protection of traditional knowledges in climate initiatives.

Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledges in Climate Change Initiatives is an informational resource for tribes, agencies, and organizations across the United States interested in understanding traditional knowledges—or TKs—in the context of climate change.

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in northern Michigan

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in northern Michigan.

The 2014 Third National Climate Assessment includes a chapter dedicated to the impacts of climate change on Indigenous Peoples, Lands, and Resources. In light of the increasing recognition of the significance of traditional knowledges in relation to climate change, a self-organized, informal group—known as the Climate and Traditional Knowledges Workgroup (CTKW)—made up of indigenous persons, staff of indigenous governments and organizations, and experts with experience working with issues concerning traditional knowledges felt compelled to develop a framework to increase understanding of issues relating to access and protection of TKs in climate initiatives and interactions between holders of TKs and non-tribal partners.The Guidelines were originally developed to inform the Department of Interior’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science (ACCCNRS) and the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative in May 2014. In July 2015, the CTKW published an essay in the Earthzine online magazine, "The Ethics of Traditional Knowledge Exchange in Climate Change Initiatives," that explores the ethical philosophy behind the Guidelines.

Purpose of the Guidelines

The guidelines are intended to meet multiple goals. First and foremost, the guidelines are intended to be provisional. They are intended to:

  • Increase understanding of the role of and protections for traditional knowledges (TKs) in climate initiatives:
    • Provide foundational information to federal agencies on intergovernmental relationships and science when engaging tribal and indigenous peoples in federal climate change initiatives; and
    • Provide foundational information on the role of TKs in federal climate change initiatives.
  • Provide provisional guidance to those engaging in efforts that encompass TKs:
    • Establish principles of engagement with tribes on issues related to TKs; and
    • Establish processes and protocols that govern the sharing and protection of TKs.
  • Increase mutually beneficial and ethical interactions between tribes and non-tribal partners:
    • Examine the significance of TKs in relation to climate change and the potential risks to indigenous peoples in the U.S. for sharing TKs in federal and other non-indigenous climate change initiatives;
    • Guide the motivation, character, and intent of collaborative climate initiatives undertaken between government agencies, research scientists, tribal communities, and TKs holders;
    • Provide specific measures that federal agencies, researchers, tribes, and TKs holders can follow in conceptualizing, developing, and implementing climate change initiatives involving TKs; and,
    • Promote the use of TKs in climate change initiatives in such a way as to benefit indigenous peoples and promote greater collaboration between federal agencies and tribes and increase tribal representation in federal climate initiatives.

Image credit: Image represents the St. Croix Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Source: Wesley Ballinger, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Last modified
21 June 2022 - 2:11pm