Haley Case-Scott is a research assistant with the Tribal Climate Change Project, with a research focus on supporting tribal governments and communities in asserting their sovereignty through tribal-led policy and legislation, especially when it comes to climate policy.
A Siletz tribal member, and Klamath Tribal descendant, she grew up in Chiloquin, Oregon on a family owned ranch, where she developed an understanding of the environmental issues facing rural Oregon. Many of the trees on her family’s ranch were logged, and Klamath County has experienced a water crisis for much of her life, creating conflicts between various water users.
Case-Scott has always considered her identity to be partly defined where she grew up, on land where her ancestors once lived. Climate change has affected her connection to that land, and the consequent desire to take action and get involved brought her to the Tribal Climate Change Project, located in the University of Oregon Environmental Studies Program.
The Tribal Climate Change Project came into being in 2009, in response to needs of the tribes to have more information about climate change and ensure that the government to government responsibilities between state and tribal leadership were strong. The project is a way for the tribes to exchange information and make sure that tribal voices are heard in the climate policy decision-making process, with a weekly newsletter, monthly conference call, and online resource guide.
In Case-Scott’s experience, tribes are taking the lead on addressing climate change by contributing an extensive knowledge as to how to take care of the land and being proactive in leveraging resources and using their capacity to understand the issues at stake.
Though tribes are doing as much as they can to prepare for climate change, including preparing vulnerability assessments and adaptation plans, the Northwest chapter of the National Climate Assessment outlines some of the unique and devastating impacts of climate change on tribes.
Changing climate conditions will threaten First Foods, game species, and salmon populations, all of which are both culturally significant to tribes and vitally important as natural resources. In Case-Scott’s experience, scarce water resources in Klamath County have made it more difficult to protect and maintain fish populations including the Lost River Suckerfish, or C’waam (Klamath translation) as well as the cultural practices that surround them.
For Case-Scott, it’s important to highlight that indigenous people are disproportionately impacted by climate change because of deep ties to their land and the histories that are bound up within that relationship. However, it’s not a one-way relationship: because of the specific knowledge that has been passed down from generation to generation, tribes have a unique perspective on climate and environmental changes and are thus uniquely prepared to lead in responding to these changes. Including and centering tribal perspectives on climate change “allows everyone to move forward in an equitable way” in mitigating emissions and adapting to a changing world.
Haley is the daughter of Tori Scott and Granddaughter of the late Edward L. Case, and Betty Case of Chiloquin, Oregon.