When considering climate change, risks to Native American lands, people, and cultures are noteworthy. Impacts on Native lands and communities are anticipated to be both early and severe due to their location in marginal environments. Because Native American societies are socially, culturally, and politically unique, conventional climate change adaptation planning and related policies could result in unintended consequences or conflicts with Native American governments, or could prove to be inadequate if tribal consultation is not considered. Therefore, it is important to understand the distinct historical, legal, and economic contexts of the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of Southwestern Native American communities. The key messages presented in this chapter are:
• Vulnerability of Southwestern tribes is higher than that for most groups because it is closely linked to endangered cultural practices, history, water rights, and socio-economic and political marginalization, characteristics that most Indigenous people share. (high confidence)
• Very little data are available that quantify the changes that are occurring or that establish baseline conditions for many tribal communities. Additional data are crucial for understanding impacts on tribal lands for resource monitoring and scientific studies. (high confidence)
• The scant data available indicate that at least some tribes may already be experiencing climate change impacts. (medium confidence)
• Tribes are taking action to address climate change by instituting climate-change mitigation initiatives, including utility-scale, alternative-energy projects, and energy-conservation projects. Tribes are also evaluating their existing capacity to engage in effective adaptation planning, even though financial and social capital is limited.