Shifting Seasons Summit Brings Indigenous Community Together to Discuss Climate Adaptation Planning

Sunday, May 9, 2021

More than 350 members of the Indigenous and climate adaptation science communities participated in the 3rd installment of the Shifting Seasons Summit, which was organized by the College of Menominee Nation Sustainable Development Institute and took place virtually from April 19-21, 2021.

Focused on sharing adaptation and resilience knowledge across Indigenous communities, the event featured a wide array of programming, including two workshops designed to build skills in the area of Indigenous climate adaption planning and eight discussion panels focused on topics such as “Food Sovereignty and Traditional Agriculture”,  “Forest, Fires, and People,” “Plant Relatives,” and “Climate Activism and Communication.”

One particularly memorable panel discussion took place when co-authors and users of the Tribal Adaptation Menu assembled to reflect on the impact of this groundbreaking climate adaptation planning resource, which was published in 2019 and shifts Western paradigms for understanding climate adaptation planning. The first document of its kind, the Menu uniquely integrates Tribal and Indigenous culture, language and history into the climate adaptation planning process. Over the past two years, the Menu has been introduced to Tribal entities via a series of workshops spanning the Midwest and Northeast and is helping to shape the future of climate adaptation planning for Indigenous communities in these regions. 

Other event highlights included the plenary addresses given by the Summit's four keynote speakers:

  • Robin Wall Kimmerer, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants
  • Winona LaDuke, an international thought leader in the areas of climate justice, renewable energy, and environmental justice
  • Bazile Panek, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and a student at Northern Michigan University
  • Daniel Wildcat, a Yuchi member of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma and author of Red Alert: Saving the Planet with Indigenous Knowledge

Summit participants came from more than 60 Indigenous communities/First Nations. Many attendees also represented various Inter-Tribal organizations such as the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc., the Tribal Alliance for Pollinators, and the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance.  

“The Shifting Seasons Summit was an incredibly inspiring event, both because of the terrific turnout our program attracted and because of the stories the speakers and attendees shared about implementing climate adaptation plans within their communities,” said Sara Smith, NE CASC Tribal Liaison and an event organizer. “The implementation of climate adaptation plans is often challenging due to lack of funding and capacity, but the many success stories we heard from a variety of Indigenous communities was motivating and exciting, especially for the numerous audience members in the early stages of climate adaptation planning. The Summit gave everyone in attendance an idea of what successful implementation can look like and let us all know that these successes are really possible.”  

Note: Sessions from the Shiftting Seasons Summit were recorded and are available for viewing here. More information on the Tribal Adaptation Menu, which was co-authored by a team including Chris Caldwell, an NE CASC Affiliated Investigator, and Sara Smith, NE CASC Midwest Tribal Liaison, is available here.