Advocacy & News, Climate Action

The Quileute Nation & Climate Action

The effects of climate change are measurable and being felt today. It’s not a theoretical or distant cataclysm that can be put off being dealt with — we have to act now. And we have to start listening to the Indigenous communities who are on the front lines of protecting our natural world because they are among the first to feel its impact. We must help them safeguard what should be sacred to us all.

Indigenous peoples around the world have long had a profoundly intricate understanding of nature, the environment and how all life is interconnected based on a relationship of reciprocity (if we take care of something it will take care of us) — the complete opposite to the exploitative, extractive plundering of natural resources so far perpetrated by the Western colonial complex.

It is a close relationship with the environment, and deeply spiritual, cultural, social, and economic connections with that environment, that makes Indigenous peoples uniquely positioned to anticipate, prepare for, and respond to the impacts of climate change. | Climate Home News

One such community that’s facing the potentially devastating ramifications of climate change is the Quileute Nation of La Push on the northwest Washington coast. Their community is situated in an area that is prone to flooding and storms that are being made worse by rising temperatures (increasing glacial melt and winter rainfall) and rising sea levels. For their community, culture and way of life to continue, they need to move their housing and other crucial amenities to higher ground and away from the risks of flooding and ocean encroachment that climate change is bringing to their territory.

the quileute nation + climate change 1
the rocky coast of La Push, Washington

These are real people, not just the fictional representation of them that were used in the ’Twilight’ book and film series. They have a rich and diverse, pre-colonial connection to the region they live in and they need help to protect their heritage and way of life — if you want to learn more or donate, you can do so here. It’s a fight we should all be paying attention to because an increase in ocean water temperature creates current shifts, loss of marine breeding grounds and deoxygenation in the water (which decreases biodiversity and reduces fishery resources). This isn’t just a threat to the Quileute Nation and their treaty fishing rights, although the consequences of this, for them, is direct, immediate and significant, it’s a warning signal to the rest of the world of what may come if nothing is done.

The Quileute Nation rely on treaty fishing rights to safeguard ceremonial, subsistence and commercial fishing. If they continue to lose access to these vital lifeways because of climate change impact on the sea waters surrounding their community, not only is the passing on of essential cultural practices and traditional knowledge at risk, but access to an important food source and economic revenue is endangered too. There are many places around the United States and the wider world that rely on the fishing industry to provide economic stability, job creation and food. We should all be learning from the Quileute Nation, and all pledge help because the issues they are facing will spread beyond their shores, especially if decisive action from those in power is not forthcoming.

the quileute nation + climate change 2
The Quileute Nation photo via Seeding Sovereignty

Action alongside the Quileute Nation and all other Indigenous communities who are at the forefront of responding to climate change must come from a place of recognition and respect for their heritage, cultural practices and wealth of (lived) knowledge about the environment. We must support the work they’ve been doing and make sure that elected officials and policymakers bring Indigenous groups into the climate action decision-making process so that their voices and rights are upheld.

Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate Change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon. | Excerpt from Sir David Attenborough’s speech at the 2018 UN Climate Change Summit

Fighting climate change has to be done, and quickly, but that urgency must not come at the cost of the original custodians of this land. We must create a balance between utilizing any traditional ecological knowledge that’s gifted to us with not commodifying it. Modern science is finally catching up with what Indigenous knowledge has known for millennia about the natural world, it’s imperative that we do not allow the strides in our own understanding to further marginalize any group of Indigenous people. We must make sure that any climate change organization, network, conference or seminar we are a part of, or that’s working on our behalf, has mandated Indigenous representation.

This is the way forward. Let’s make it so.

Further Info:

Sea Level Rise Explained – National Geographic

Northwest Tribes: Meeting the Challenge of Climate Change – Northwest Indian Applied Research Institute

The Indigenous Environmental Network – IEN

If you enjoy reading Transatlantic Notes and would like to show your support for the work being done, please consider making a small donation. Thank you.

20 thoughts on “The Quileute Nation & Climate Action”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing! Climate change is affecting a lot of people around the world and I feel like we don’t hear much about it, here in the US. So I think your post is really important information everyone should know

    Grislean |


  2. Climate justice is an integral part of climate action. It’s so awesome that you’re bringing light to the Quileute Nation. The climate crisis affects minorities and the underprivileged more than the rest. In fact, coal plants and pipelines are often built closer to the underprivileged simply because they don’t have the representation needed to oppose these decisions. So I agree with you! The indigenous people, or any minority group for that matter, need representation!


    1. Indigenous people are key to climate action and I just hope that more people in positions of power realize this and do something about what is going on. Thank you so much for reading and being someone so aware of all the challenges the natural world faces.


  3. Such an important blog post of yours. Thank you for taking the time to write this and enlighten us with some more information about this problem.


  4. Washington is my home state, and this is a big issue! The tribes on the cost of Washington are really suffering with the disappearance of Salmon as well. Of course this is also a man-made problem. Thank you for writing about this important topic!


  5. Thank you for bringing all of this information to light. I feel like most people turn a blind eye to the struggles of the indigenous people simply because it doesn’t impact them directly. However, it is ALL of our responsibility to stand up, spread the facts, and end injustice.


  6. This is such an informative post, thank you for taking the time to share the message. I think the key thing to take away from this is that we all need to do a lot more listening to the people on the ground who can truly tell it as it is. It’s all of our responsibility to help, even if we’re not being directly impacted yet x



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s