In the late 1800s, John Wesley Powell, the second director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), followed his interest in the tribes of the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau and studied their cultures, languages, and surroundings. From that early time, the USGS has recognized the importance of Native knowledge and living in harmony with nature as complements to the USGS mission to better understand the Earth. Combining traditional ecological knowledge with empirical studies allows the USGS and Native American governments, organizations, and people to increase their mutual understanding and respect for this land. The USGS is the earth and natural science bureau within the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and is not responsible for regulations or land management.
Climate change is a major current issue affecting Native lives and traditions throughout the United States. Climate projections for the coming century indicate an increasing probability for more frequent and more severe droughts in the Southwest, including the Navajo Nation. Erosion has claimed Native homes in Alaska. Fish have become inedible due to diseases that turn their flesh mushy. Native people who rely on or who are culturally sustained by hunting, fishing, and using local plants are living with climate change now. The traditional knowledge of Native peoples enriches and confirms the work of USGS scientists. The results are truly synergistic-greater than the sum of their parts. Traditional ecological knowledge is respected and increasingly used in USGS studies-when the holders of that knowledge choose to share it. The USGS respects the rights of Native people to maintain their patrimony of traditional ecological knowledge. The USGS studies can help Tribes, Native organizations, and natural resource professionals manage Native lands and resources with the best available unbiased data and information that can be added to their traditional knowledge.
Wise Native leaders have noted that traditional ecological knowledge includes the connections between Earth and her denizens. From this perspective, it is the connections among these ?relatives? that needs to be nurtured. This perspective on nature is finding new adherents among Natives and non-Natives as understanding of climate change and other environmental conditions deepens. Although this report uses the term ?resources,? the USGS, through its interdisciplinary research, acknowledges the interconnectedness of the Earth and the things that live upon it.