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Exploring the Fire Within at the 3rd Southwestern Tribal Climate Change Summit

The 3rd Southwestern Tribal Climate Change Summit brought together 250 attendees representing 32 Tribes from across the Southwest and North America for a successful three-day convening focused on the kinship with fire and its role in community, conservation, and climate change adaptation.

The Southwestern Tribal Climate Change Summit brought together 250 attendees representing both Tribal and non-Tribal communities to focus on the kinship with fire and its role in community, conservation, and climate change adaptation efforts throughout the Southwest and North America.

The 2022 Summit, which was back for a third time after the second event in 2019, was held in the homelands of the Kuupangaxwichem (Cupeño) and Payómkawichum (Luiseño) peoples. We were honored to gather as friends and relatives on their homelands, and sincerely appreciate the time, space, and knowledge shared.

Summit Hosts

This year's Summit was co-hosted by the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, Pala Band of Mission Indians, Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, and the Climate Science Alliance. The co-hosts, partners, and friends acknowledge the Indigenous peoples whose traditional territories we all work and live on.

Summit Program

By having a decolonized agenda, the Summit created a foundation that provided attendees a different way to engage with content and speakers. Instead of set times and activities, the Summit focused on relationship building and knowledge sharing.

The Fire Within Us Opening Celebration on Monday, May 16th kicked off the Summit with cultural presentations, food prepared by community cooks, and twenty booths featuring artisan vendors, cultural activities, and regional resources. A fire was lit that was then tended throughout all three days of the Summit, providing a space for attendees to step away, reflect, recharge, and reconnect during the days’ activities. As the sun began to set, attendees gathered around the fire for a traditional California Indian community game of Peon, which involves singing and utilizes pieces of white and black bones, sticks, and blankets for playing the game.

“This was by far the best conference I’ve attended and the knowledge and connections I gained will help me in my climate change work and help me in working with Tribes.”

Throughout the Summit, real time translations were provided, creating an inclusive space for Baja partners to engage in conversations and share their own Traditional Knowledge with the community. Additionally, the Reflection Table provided a space for attendees to express themselves and their thoughts on the fire within them through a group art project. Participants input is now being stitched together to reflect the future of how we want to relate to fire and to bring awareness to climate change impacts in Indigenous communities.

“It was an amazing gathering with honest, helpful and sincere sharing to the end result of creating more climate change awareness, problem solving.”

On Tuesday, May 17th, the second day of the Summit, Indigenous elders and knowledge holders shared vital information about having kinship with fire and building resilience against the impacts of climate change, and hopeful remarks about the role Indigenous peoples are playing in climate change adaptation. Attendees took part in four different rotating talking circles to share how they approach fire within their own Tribal communities and/or organizations. This was also a time to learn from the panel of elders who shared their knowledge with the group.

“The sharing done in smaller group circles was so helpful and inspirational!”

For the final session on day three of the Summit, Wednesday, May 18th, Elders shared reflections, ideas, and guidance for taking this work forward and supporting each other beyond the Summit. Two of the speakers, Elders from Baja California, were supported with live translation. The Summit concluded with aTraditional feast highlighting foods that were harvested and gathered locally by Tribal partners.

“It was a truly beautiful and rejuvenating experience!”

The Summit planning team is grateful to the leadership of the Pala Band of Mission Indians and to the community for welcoming us to their land and all of their efforts to create a beautiful space for us to gather and learn together. Special thanks to Eric Ortega for his guidance and involvement, and to Chris Nejo for his vision and community connections that brought so many people into our planning and implementation of the event. We thank the local cooks and the Pala Cultural and Environmental Departments and Pala Kitchen crew. We appreciate and acknowledge the long standing dedication of the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians for their sustained commitment to this bi-annual intertribal event. So many people contributed in so many ways that it is impossible to name them all. Just know that you all rose to the occasion to make this summit a special and memorable experience and there are not enough words to express the extent of our gratitude.

"Helping people from all over the Southwest and beyond to understand and use native practices and knowledge when dealing with the climate crisis we all face!”

Continue the Conversation

Visit the Southwestern Tribal Climate Change Summit webpage here:

Check out our Summary Deck here.

Follow #SWTCCSummit and the Climate Science Alliance for updates:

Twitter: @CSAinAction


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