"Tribes Tell Senate How Environmental Change, Rules Affect Their Lands

"WASHINGTON — Climate change is sweeping indigenous villages into the sea in Alaska, flooding the taro fields of native Hawaiians and devastating the salmon population from which Washington state Indian tribes draw their livelihood, tribal leaders testified Thursday at a Senate hearing."

"'The ocean is important to all of us,' said Billy Frank Jr., chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, a group of 20 Washington state tribes with treaty rights to salmon fishing. 'It’s dying. And who the hell is in charge? Nobody that I see.'

Frank was among several witnesses at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs who called on the federal government to fight climate change and help tribes cope with its effects. They suggested strategies such as renewable energy programs, land-swap plans for communities displaced by rising sea levels, and better coordination among the government agencies with which they interact.

These adjustments must be made immediately, said Mike Williams, chief of the Yupiit Nation in Alaska. At least three tribes in Alaska already have been told by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that they must relocate, he said. Williams’ own birthplace is now underwater."

Rebecca Cohen reports for McClatchy Newspapers July 19, 2012.

Source: McClatchy, 07/20/2012