Jun 5, 2017 - Quinault Nation: We Will Continue to Combat Climate Change
“We must save the land for our children; it is part of them; they are part of it.” Quinault President Joe DeLaCruz
“Salmon and Indian people evolved together over centuries, but climate change is happening in the blink of an eye. It’s happening too quickly for salmon — and us — to keep up. What can we do? We can try to save as much habitat as we can.” Billy Frank, Jr.
TAHOLAH, WA (6/3/17)– “Climate Change is real. It’s happening now and it’s a huge challenge. It is primarily man-caused and we cannot abandon the effort to minimize it,” says Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation.
Sharp, who is also president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and vice president of the National Congress of American Indians, has been an active leader in the effort to fight climate change for several years at the local, state, national and international levels.
“Here at Quinault we have experienced a number of impacts which do hurt and endanger our people, lands and natural resources,” she said. “Regardless of President Trump’s ill-advised abandonment of the Paris Agreement, we will carry on. We just have too much at stake.”
One of the greatest impacts the tribe has been experiencing over the past several years is the encroachment of the ocean on the Lower Village of Taholah. Combined with intensified winter storms, portions of the village have flooded several times and the residents and homes there are considered to be in jeopardy, particularly with tsunami risk. As a result the Tribe has made plans to move the village to higher ground on the Quinault Reservation.
“We are talking about human lives here, and regardless of who is in office the fact is the federal government is our trustee, with a responsibility to help our tribal government provide for the needs and safety of our people. This responsibility is constitutionally mandated, and it’s not something the President or anyone else can wriggle out of,” said Sharp.
“Climate change is the definite direct cause of many other challenges as well, not just for us here at Quinault but for all citizens,” she said.
“When a critically important glacier that’s thousands of years old totally disappears in a matter of a few years, it’s a sure sign that something’s wrong. And that something is man-caused climate change. The same goes for the massive algal blooms and the, warm areas and acidification problem in the ocean, the increased forest fire danger, slide and erosion problems, invasive species and low flows in our area rivers. These are very serious problems,” she said.
“Tribes and other indigenous nations from across the globe are vying for official representation in the United Nations, and there has been progress in that effort,” said Sharp. “When we get a seat at that table people in this country who understand the climate change problem might be able to convey their concerns through us at the international level. We might also be able to sign on to the Paris Agreement. We are looking into that possibility.”
“So it is possible that even though the US has backed out of that historic agreement, the tribal governments from throughout the country could help fill the void,” said President Sharp.
“Quinault Nation has cared for the ocean and her resources as well as the land, the rivers and our lake from time immemorial. Our cultural values are intertwined in laws that govern our nation. We find balance and harmony in decisions that sustain a way of life and ensure that not only is the future of our children sustained; the future of all children of this country are sustained in a healthy and safe way,” she said.