NC CASC Leads Climate Workshops with Tribes of the Lower Missouri River

NC CASC Leads Climate Workshops with Tribes of the Lower Missouri River


by Noah Williams, NC CASC Intern

Members of the North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center (NC CASC) organized and facilitated the Building Resilience with Tribal Technical Teams workshop hosted by the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska on June 18 and 19, 2019. The workshop is the first of six funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Tribal Resilience Program that will take place under the Lower Missouri Tribes Adaptation Planning grant. The goal of the grant is to assist tribal leaders, program coordinators, planners and managers develop and utilize skills that will allow them to competently address the threat of extreme events and harmful environmental trends. Tribal resource managers from a total of eight tribes participated in the Building Resilience with Tribal Technical Teams workshop: Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska, Meskwaki Nation, Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, Prairie Band of Potawatomi, and the Santee Sioux Tribe. Other participants and representatives were from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA’s-National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), High Plains Regional Climate Center (HPRCC), and Kansas State University.

This workshop provided an opportunity for the NC CASC to connect directly with tribal resource managers of eight tribes along the lower Missouri River basin. In attendance were four members of NC CASC, each of whom presented on their expertise and resources available for building tribal resilience. Members in attendance included Stefan Tangen the Tribal Resilience Liaison, Brian Miller, USGS Research Ecologist, Jenny Palomino, a Course Developer and Trainer with CU Boulder and the NC CASC, and James Rattling Leaf Sr, Consultant with Great Plains Tribal Water Alliance (GPTWA). Engaging with tribal resource managers is a priority for the NC CASC which allows for greater understanding of needs and concerns in planning for climate adaptation.

The tribal resource managers in attendance expressed concerns over extreme weather events. They stated that extreme events are occurring more frequently and are often overlapping such as prolonged drought followed by intense flooding, which occurred in 2018 through 2019. In his presentation of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, NOAA Climate Scientist, Doug Kluck stated, “historic drought periods are being followed by major flooding.” Extreme hydrological events on the region’s tribal reservations are happening in quick succession, such as the 2011 floods followed by severe drought and fire in 2012. 1,2,3,4 Weeks prior to the conference, the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska experienced major stormwater flooding which negatively impacted housing and infrastructure of critical administrative buildings. All the 8 tribes present were affected by this year’s flooding of the Missouri River. In several cases, the flooding shut down nearby highways and bridges leading to increased impacts on tribal roads and infrastructure as traffic sought to bypass flooded areas. In one incident, tribal members were trapped in their vehicle due to flooding and required rescuing.  

During the workshop, NC CASC members presented to tribal resource managers regarding extreme weather events, drought adaptation, vulnerability assessment, and the process of climate adaptation planning. Brian Miller’s presentation focused on scenario planning and vulnerability assessment for tribal resource managers to evaluate the extent a cultural site, species habitat, or ecosystem might be susceptible to impacts of climate change. Stefan Tangen introduced his role at the NC CASC by connecting tribes with resources available through partnerships with USGS, BIA, GPTWA, and NC CASC consortium partners. Tangen then presented on the process of climate adaptation planning including best practices, barriers, and examples from other tribes. James Rattling Leaf Sr. shared his experience in drought adaptation planning with GPTWA, highlighting the technical capacity of tribal water departments. Additionally, Jenny Palomino presented feedback generated from a survey of workshop participants with the goal of developing future training programs for tribal resource managers in data management and technical literacy. 

There are five more workshops planned as a part of the Lower Missouri River Tribes Adaptation Planning grant. The next workshop, presented by the High Plains Regional Climate Center, is titled Climate Summaries and will be hosted by the Omaha and Winnebago Tribes of Nebraska this coming winter of 2020.