Quinault Indian Nation: Living on the Edge

Authors: Steve Robinson

Disciplines: Environmental Studies, Health, Law, Native American Studies, Political Science and Public Administration, Sociology

Themes: Activism, Climate Change, Community Development, Cultural Preservation, Environmental Justice, Environmental Restoration, Land, Leadership, Salmon, Self Determination and Self Governance

Tribes: Quinault

Change and its impacts as well as other non-tribal-caused environmental challenges have affected and endangered Quinault Indian Nation and other Tribes with great intensity. These tribal nations have made it clear they will not stand idly by and watch these impacts endure and/or worsen without a fight. Quinault and its leaders are providing an historic example in this fight, by being true to their legacies and heritage and responding rigorously through adaptive, restorative and proactive measures. The lower village of Taholah, homeland to Quinault ancestors for thousands of years, has been flooded and is threatened by other major climate change-related impacts to the point that their homes and offices must be moved upland to a safer area. Storms, drought, sedimentation, glacial melt and other challenges have threatened their sacred fish runs. Mudslides have cut off roads that provide their only access and forest fire danger has been severe. On top of it all, ocean acidification as well as earthquake and tsunami danger and even a proposed dam on the Chehalis River threaten their well-being. The Tribe has responded with extensive habitat protection and restoration efforts, harvest cutbacks when needed and Tribal Ecological Knowledge-based education and political action at the local, state, national and international levels. Through the strength of their culture, self-governance, treaty and sovereign rights the Quinault Indian Nation has developed wise and effective responses to climate change. As they have proven through the ages, they will endure.

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