VIVIAN DELGADO COLUMN: All people must work together to address climate change
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a recent Rising Voices Workshop. The title of the workshop was "Converging Voices: Building Relationships and Practices for Intercultural Science at the National Center for Atmospheric Research." In case you are not familiar with NCAR, you might find their interactive exhibits informative as well as exceptional as you explore weather, climate, the Sun-Earth connection, and the sharing of people around the country about their personal experiences with the impacts of climate change. NCAR is located in Boulder, Colo.
This workshop brought together many Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples: students, scientists, educators, elders and traditional people from across the country, including Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico. We heard many first-hand accounts of land, community ecologies and animal depletions as a result of climate change. In addition, the training included approaches, responsibilities and accountabilities in mentoring and education for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, with a particular focus on how to support their cultural, Indigenous identity, ethics and responsibilities in mainstream universities and institutions. If you were present at Bemidji State University's recent commencement ceremony and heard the keynote speaker Alan Page, you would be able to connect many similarities in the discussions around integrity, truth/honesty, ethics and morals.
When we look at building relationships for intercultural science collaborations, such as for water, phenology, health and livelihoods, energy and relocation—now known as site expansion—then you know that human character is essential in the foundation for holding everything together. What we found in the smaller breakout groups is that there is a lot of work that needs to be done, and that the challenges facing Indigenous people are monumental. Support on numerous levels will be necessary to communicate the dangers associated with encroachment of pristine lands, especially those found on tribal lands and the impacts of land and water exploitation.
I realize that some of these comments are not new to Indigenous people who still live in a cultural manner, as the information about our relationship to the environment is coming from the Indigenous communities. Learning in such a way is a decolonization process, it means valuing traditional knowledge equally with and to Western science. Traditional knowledge has many definitions. One that I share is knowledge that is oral and passed down from generation to generation about our observations of the world around us. Keep in mind that invisible colonial practice is seen as a form of violence to all people and the environment and that scientists from all backgrounds take caution to this.
At BSU we have such a great opportunity to learn from our Indigenous students and faculty, and their communities because they are the local living material that we as Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars develop some, if not most, of our environmental and thus sustainable wisdom. This knowledge requires balance, thus we must also be aware of the anti-Indigenous sentiment and marginalization of Indigenous peoples so that we can be respectful and aware of diverse experiences and histories as current relationships and collaborations are shaped by colonial histories.
All human and sentient beings want to eliminate suffering and with the rapid climate changes that we are experiencing globally; we know that all people must work together in a meaningful way. For further examples of good practices for intercultural collaborations see, the "Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledge in Climate Change Initiatives."
Vivian Delgado is a professor of Native American studies at Bemidji State University.