Advancing Climate Adaptation Initiatives for Indigenous Tribes within the Great Lakes Region


Frank Marsik - U-M College of Engineering, Climate and Space Sciences Engineering
Maria Carmen Lemos - U-M School for Environment and Sustainability


Robin Clark - Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan

Project Summary

Climate refers to the slowly varying aspects of the natural environment: the integrated atmosphere-hydrosphere-land surface system. For Indigenous peoples, this natural environment has been a common thread woven through all aspects of Tribal life. The sovereignty and jurisdiction of Tribal governments, Tribal economic capacity, and cultural/spiritual considerations must be applied in any strategy that seeks to protect the Indigenous ways of life in the face of a changing climate.
In light of our changing climate, the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan (ITCM) and its member Tribes recently performed a two-year analysis of projected climate conditions at mid-century, followed by an assessment of Tribal resource vulnerabilities to such conditions, and the identification of climate adaptation strategies which could be collaboratively applied across reservation boundaries and treaty ceded territories. Through these strategies, the ITCM and its member Tribes sought to protect natural features, traditional ways, public health, and infrastructure.
Since the completion of the ITCM assessment, member Tribes have expressed a desire to gather once again and share stories of the progress and challenges their individual Tribal communities have faced in their efforts to apply adaptation strategies, including the challenges faced in communicating these strategies within their Tribal, and to the surrounding, communities. In addition, the Tribes have also expressed the need for a better understanding of the susceptibility of Tribal communities to extreme precipitation events, such as the July 2016 storm which led to a State of Emergency declaration for the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
In collaboration with the ITCM, this project will:
  • develop tools and training to assist Tribal leaders in understanding the potential impact of extreme precipitation events, and
  • host a workshop for the Tribes to determine potential future steps to address current and future challenges to their collaborative efforts.
This project received a $10,000 Catalyst Grant in 2017.