Don Sampson, the climate change project director for the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians, addresses the organization's recent winter convention Portland, Oregon. Photo by Eddie Sherman / Courtesy ATNI and We Are Still In

Native Sun News Today: Tribes join coalition to tackle climate change

Northwest tribes support Paris Climate Agreement

By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today
Health and Environment Editor

PORTLAND, Oregon -- On January 25, the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians (ATNI) and eight northwestern tribal nations joined We Are Still In, a coalition of 2,600 U.S. leaders confronting climate change in the face of federal inaction.

The tribes signed declarations of support at the ATNI winter convention. They are among the first tribal nations to join We Are Still In.

The organization said in a media advisory that tribes have been at the vanguard of addressing climate impacts and adopting renewable energy in their communities.

“By joining WASI, they are combining forces with state counterparts and the growing coalition of municipalities, cities, businesses and others to confront the climate crisis,” it said.

In 2017, the National Congress of American Indians passed a resolution recognizing climate change as “one of the greatest threats facing the peoples of the world today,” and joined the We Are Still In network.

The National Indian Gaming Association also passed resolutions standing by the Paris Agreement and joining We Are Still In. The Indigenous Environmental Network is a longtime advocate of climate justice.

“Indigenous people around the world are working to address climate change and it is our duty as Indigenous people of the Northwest to do our part,” the newcomers said.

“Today we are joining the We Are Still In coalition because it’s a critical opportunity for our tribal nations to take a leadership role in climate action efforts,” added Leonard Forsman, president of ATNI and chairman of the Suquamish Tribe of Washington.

When U.S. President Donald Trump announced intentions to excerpt the U.S. government from the Paris Agreement on June 1, the administration’s decision was denounced within 72 hours by more than 1,200 leaders from state and local government, businesses and universities who signed the We Are Still In declaration, according to the advisory. Since then, the coalition has more than doubled in size, includes members from all 50 states, and has expanded beyond its original four sectors to welcome new stakeholders.

“This unprecedented network represents more than 127 million people in the United States and $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy,” the organization claimed, adding, “To date, We Are Still In is the largest cross-section of local leaders in support of climate action in the United States.

The tribes that just joined We Are Still In: Blue Lake Rancheria in California, Nisqually, Quinault, Hoh, Jamestown S’Klallam, and Suquamish tribes of Washington, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon, and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe of Montana.

“The Hoh Tribe of Washington is seeing the negative impacts on the salmon runs each year and the rapid rate of coastal erosion on our traditional lands,” Hoh Tribe Chair Bernard Afterbuffalo said at a news conference.

“We Are Still In is an opportunity to voice our commitment to taking care of our environment and taking an active role in defining our future.”

ATNI is a nonprofit representing 57 Northwest tribal governments from Oregon, Idaho, Washington, southeast Alaska, Northern California and Western Montana.

We Are Still In describes itself as “the broadest cross-section of the U.S. economy ever assembled in pursuit of climate action.


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