Drought, flooding and erosion resulting from climate change are forcing Native Americans to leave their villages and find more habitable lands, according to The New York Times.
Antiquated government policies and a lack of proper infrastructure have meant Native communities — already relocated to some of the country’s poorest land — are among the most vulnerable. Tribal officials hope the Biden administration will offer assistance to relocate communities or to mitigate the impact of climate change, particularly since President Biden appointed Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous cabinet member, as secretary of the Department of the Interior.
For villages suffering drought, some municipal water line projects are under way, but they are far from complete. A federal project to direct water from the San Juan River to a portion of the Navajo Nation, for instance, won’t be finished until 2028.
President Biden did address both issues of relocation and water projects in his $2 trillion infrastructure plan, but the White House and Secretary Haaland declined to respond to the New York Times’ request asking if these provisions would be protected.
Cultural traditions are also being threatened by climate change. Warming waters have made it more difficult for Native communities to continue subsistence hunting and fishing in Alaska. Additional rainfall and flooding in Oklahoma are threatening traditional crops, and wildfires in California have threatened burial sites.
Drought also is making it harder for the Cherokee people to grow traditional and medicinal plants and distribute their seeds.