Indigenous peoples, like Ritte, both bear the weight of climate change’s impacts and carry knowledge that may help lessen its burden. That’s according to the latest National Climate Assessment, published Tuesday—a federal, interagency report published by the U.S. Global Change Research Program every five years. The report’s authors emphasize that American land theft and colonization have made Indigenous peoples more vulnerable to climate change as shrinking coastlines and more frequent extreme weather events threaten historic sites, cultural practices, and food supplies.

“Historical abuses of Indigenous rights have significant responsibility for the heightened severity of climate disruption,” the report concluded.

The report cites a 2021 study that concluded that Indigenous peoples in the United States lost 99% of their territories through colonization, and that the lands that they were forced to move to face higher wildfire risk and worse drought than their traditional homelands. According to the authors, Indigenous peoples across the continental U.S. and its island holdings hail from more than 700 tribes and communities, and while each community has a different relationship with the federal government, all share similar experiences of colonization through stolen land, cultural assimilation, and persistent marginalization.

For example, the study noted that, on average, relocated Indigenous people endure two extra days of extreme heat. Nearly half saw an increased wildfire risk. More than a third of tribes studied are experiencing more frequent drought than they would if they were still living in their historical homelands.

More flooding is another challenge. According to a 2022 study referenced in the report, 70 out of 200 Alaska Native villages are at risk of “severe impacts” from flooding, erosion, and permafrost melt, according to one 2022 federal report. The problem prompted the Biden administration to launch a new federal program last year to pay tribes to move away from rivers and coastlines threatened by flooding and other climate change effects.

The report also detailed problems with the National Flood Insurance Program, a federal insurance program managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that helps homeowners insure against the risk of flooding, something that many insurance companies won’t cover. The program is supposed to help communities mitigate flood risk, but the report found that its implementation in Native communities has been flawed and ineffective: The program is mandatory for homeowners who live in flood-risk areas—even if they are Indigenous people who were forcibly moved to a danger zone—and premiums are costly. Tribes end up spending lots of money on floodplain managers and must shoulder the costs of creating and enforcing floodplain management ordinances, the report said.

Read the full article about Indigenous peoples and climate change report by Anita Hofschneider at YES! Magazine.