The Rising Voices: Collaborative Science with Indigenous Knowledge for Climate Solutions program facilitates cross-cultural approaches for adaptation solutions to extreme weather and climate events, climate variability and climate change. The program brings social and physical scientists and engineers together with Native American community members to assess critical community needs and to pursue joint research aimed at developing optimal plans for community action towards sustainability. Indigenous communities are particularly adversely affected by weather and climate impacts. They understand the local changes that are occurring and how their societies are impacted; scientists can provide insight on the underlying larger-scale causes and how these might change in the future. NCAR scientists and leading community members established the Rising Voices program to identify and define research and community priorities and to enable and promote important collaboration with Indigenous communities in Colorado and beyond.
Under Rising Voices social and physical scientists work together and in full partnership with community members to follow cultural protocols and understand community needs and priorities. Research collaborations are pursued that would not be possible by physical scientists, social scientists, or communities in isolation. In addition to including diverse disciplines and communities, Rising Voices also emphasizes participation of Indigenous students and early career scientists. This is an important step in rectifying the considerable underrepresentation of Indigenous populations in atmospheric sciences, decision making, and policy efforts in the United States.
Broad public participation in Rising Voices is welcomed through an annual workshop series. Participants came together from across the nation – including Hawai‘i and Pacific Islands, Alaska, Northwest, Southwest, the Plains, Midwest, Gulf states, and Northeast – for a rich and honest discussion regarding the complex climate change challenges facing Indigenous peoples, current adaptation and mitigation strategies, protection of Indigenous knowledge, sustainable Indigenous practices, and political and institutional barriers. Many of the Indigenous communities represented at Rising Voices are already contending with a changing climate, including displacement of Native Alaskan villages and Native Gulf Coast communities due to rising sea levels, loss of sea ice, and/or extreme hurricane activity. Additionally, severe droughts are impacting many tribes, including tribes in the Southwest and the Great Plains, which are resulting in water scarcity for domestic, agricultural, and livestock use.