High Plains Regional Climate Center


Date of this Version


Document Type



Stiles, Crystal J.; Umphlett, Natalie A.; and Cottenoir, Mitch (2020) "Building Adaptive Capacity in Tribal Communities of the Missouri River Basin to Manage Drought and Climate Extremes: A Case Study from the Wind River Indian Reservation," Journal of Indigenous Research: Vol. 8 : Iss. 2020 , Article 3. Available at: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/kicjir/vol8/iss2020/3


Published by DigitalCommons@USU, 2020


Native American peoples of the Northern and Central Plains have long endured harsh climate conditions, such as floods and droughts, and they possess valuable traditional knowledges that have enhanced their resilience to these extreme events. However, in recent times, limited capacity to adapt to a rapidly changing climate combined with a lack of resources have increased tribes’ vulnerability to climate extremes and their associated impacts. In response, a number of projects have been developed to assist tribes with their self-identified climate- and drought-related needs, particularly in the context of on-reservation decision-making. In this case study, we present an engagement strategy that was piloted for the tribes of the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming and replicated for other tribes across the Northern and Central Plains. We found that frequent, face-to-face interactions between tribal and scientific communities builds relationships and trust between these two groups. We also found that climate capacity-building projects that include a diverse team of physical and social scientists, as well as tribal members, provide the greatest benefit to tribes. Finally, we found that these capacity-building projects can help reinforce tribal sovereignty.