Monday, June 26, 2017

Many Native Communities Are Being Forced to Relocate Due to Climate Change

[The Planet] Fawn Sharp grew up in Taholah village, a small community on the Quinault Reservation nestled between the mouth of the Quinault River and the Pacific Ocean. She spent her childhood summers surrounded by water, splashing in Lake Quinault on the eastern edge of the reservation, and hiking along the local beaches near the village, scouring the rocks for starfish and other treasures. In the mornings, she was often up before the sun, out fishing with her grandparents on the river.
Decades after she left home for college, Sharp is back on the reservation, this time living near the lake, some 35 miles from her childhood home in Taholah. Now she goes by President Sharp, and leads both the Quinault Indian Nation and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.
Since returning, Sharp has faced the kinds of tough issues that might have seemed outlandish, or even inconceivable, during her childhood. She’s seen the tribe’s salmon runs in sharp decline. She’s observed the rapid retreat of nearby glaciers. And she’s watched her childhood home, Taholah, endure dangerous flooding during increasingly harsh storm surges.
Given the growing threat that climate change poses to the “lower village,” as tribal members refer to the lower portion of Taholah, paired with ongoing concerns about the village’s vulnerability to earthquakes and tsunamis, Sharp and the Quinault leadership were forced to make an almost unthinkable decision: to leave home.
The Quinault have lived on the Olympic Peninsula for centuries, since long before the 1855 Quinault River Treaty established the Quinault Reservation and ceded vast tracts of lands to Washington State. The reservation is wedged between the towering mountains and dense temperate rainforest of Olympic National Park to the east and beaches and oceans to the west. It’s bisected by the swift Quinault River, and is home to black bear, Roosevelt elk, and bald eagles. The tribe’s ties to the land are strong. As it proudly claims on its website: “We are among the small number of Americans who can walk the same beaches, paddle the same waters, and hunt the same lands our ancestors did centuries ago.” Read More