The University of Arizona is recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in the science of adaptation to climate change, and associated research and outreach to understand climate change, its observed and potential impacts, and possible responses.
Salmon and the Adaptive Capacity of Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) Culture to Cope with Abrupt Change Project
Abrupt change refers to natural disturbances and disasters, population growth, economic crises, and environmental and climate change. Rapid change and transformation also involves complex relationships between sovereign tribes, resources, and the global system. This paper will explore, (1) how salmon and the Nimiipuu people (Nez Perce) who depend upon them survive in an ever-expanding universe, and (2) how Nimiipuu culture tied to salmon occurs alongside the idea that social and political well-being and salmon survival are not mutually exclusive. Nimiipuu people revere salmon as a cultural keystone species, which, for the Nimiipuu, are those species that they rely upon “most extensively to meet their needs…are the species that become embedded in cultural traditions and narratives…and [are] the ones on which they focus in their immediate activities and conversations.” As cultural keystones, Nimiipuu and salmon have forged long-standing relationships, both material and ideological and have coped with abrupt and unforeseen change for 400 generations and 2500 salmon generations, suggesting that local knowledge, environmental values, place attachments, and cultural landscapes are all functionally interdependent. Such interactions provide the power and energy for the development of Nimiipuu survival and attachments to salmon. In short, the central assertion of this paper is twofold, (1) that nothing is forever and that change is constant; and, (2) that Nimiipuu people have always had adaptive capacity and that indigenous culture is the strength from which adaptive capacity emerges. Nimiipuu survival is not about trying to sustain some condition from a changing state but rather about constant adaptation to the changing needs of society and culture as a dynamic system. The main interest in adaptive capacity is that neither resilience nor sustainability necessarily provides adaptive capacity, culture does.
Thus, what are the features of Nimiipuu culture that makes it adaptive?
Colombi, Benedict J. (submitted/in review). Salmon and the Adaptive Capacity of Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) Culture to Cope with Abrupt Change. American Indian Quarterly.