The Quinault Nation faces dangerous long-term currents. Taholah barely inches above the ocean and the sea-level is rising. On top of that there are a growing number of storm surges, where flood waters are propelled by high winds.

What makes the Quinault story so powerful is that it’s a window into our future: It’s the idea that a changing climate will determine where and how we will live, what we will eat, and how much it’s going to cost.

The Quinault Nation has been deliberate in its response, debating for the past couple of decades about how to protect its lands, its fish, people and property. After many community meetings the conclusion was reached in a 2017 tribal master plan, a move to higher ground.

That plan included a new village, about a half-mile uphill, that will protect residents from storm surges or even a potential catastrophic tsunami. Relocation will “incorporate smart growth techniques including low-impact development and green infrastructure to better prepare the community for the future climate.”

The easy part of relocation is already done. The nation has constructed what’s needed for a new community. The streets are paved. The sewers are in. And only a couple of things are missing: houses and residents.

The new village “must be designed to be as resilient as possible,” the master plan said. “Even small events, such as windstorms, close roads and down power lines, isolating the village. Thus, planning for safe havens in case of disaster and alternative energy sources is a must when determining facility siting, sizing, orientation and programming.”

In a reflection of Indigenous values, the first building opened by the nation was the Generations House, a 30,000 square-foot building serving elders, Head Start, day care, and adult education.

“This was our most modern effort to relocate our most vital citizens with all of our next generations,” Hendricks says. “This is a shared building with all of our most valuable resources, our children. And then, all of our most valuable information holders are our elders on the other side (of the building).”

Read the full article about Quinault Nation's plan by Mark Trahant and Stewart Huntington at Indian Country Today.