Step 1: Center the Tribe’s Adaptation Efforts

Initiate and embed the climate adaptation planning process within the Tribe’s community vision and goals.

Step 1 Content

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Step 1 Checklist

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Step 1 tribal Examples

Click the icon above to see examples from Tribal climate initiatives across the US specific to Step 1.

This step is about embedding the climate adaptation planning process within the Tribe’s community vision and goals. Climate change is already impacting the land, water, animals, plants, and the built environment, leading to far reaching impacts on tribal culture, community health, subsistence, economies, ways of life, and sovereignty. Acknowledging that everything is important, it may be necessary to limit the scope of the adaptation planning process, at least initially, based on available resources and tribal staff capacity. Over time and with additional resources, the scope may be expanded to include all the potential concerns related to climate change and develop adaptation actions for every potential concern.

Activity 1: Select Climate Change Planning Approach

Because climate change affects nearly every aspect of the Tribal community, there are many opportunities to begin building climate resilience rooted in the Tribe’s values and priorities.

“Our lands and resources are the basis for our spiritual life. That’s been our way since time began. By preparing for further environmental change, we can mitigate threats to our way of life.”

Guiding Questions

Helpful questions to consider during this activity.

Considerations for integrating and protecting
Traditional Knowledges during this activity.

Many Tribes choose to start adaptation planning because of notable changes in the natural environment and a desire to maintain Tribal culture, community health, and ways of life for future generations. Each Tribe is unique, having its own land base, population, history, culture, spirituality, language, government, societal organization, knowledge system, values, economies, traditions, and relationship with the natural environment. Likewise, the key vulnerabilities around changing climate conditions, and the adaptation planning process itself, will be unique to each Tribe.

Common among many adaptation planning efforts are: an analysis of climate change impacts to and vulnerability of key concerns; and development of adaptation strategies to reduce that vulnerability. However, climate change planning efforts vary from conducting distinct vulnerability analyses and adaptation plans for a given sector, species, group, or a comprehensive set of concerns to integrating climate change into existing planning efforts, such as:

  • Emergency response planning;
  • Drought, heat, and flood planning; and
  • Natural resource management planning.[1]


Planning resources to assist Tribes in addressing climate-related disasters.

Consider whether there are any existing planning processes or management plan updates that have flexibility in the scope of work to include climate change. If there is an established relationship with the person leading the existing planning process or management plan update and there is the potential to support additional work to include climate change, it may be a great opportunity for mainstreaming—an approach to adaptation planning that involves integrating climate adaptation into existing management functions and planning efforts.[2]

Planning for climate change and building resilience is a process, not the outcome of a single project. Consider the potential approaches (Table 2) and choose the best fit for the Tribe knowing that the Tribe can continue to build on these efforts over time. Monitoring and evaluating the success of the approach and actions will allow the Tribe to make the best use of additional resources and opportunities as they become available.

Table 2. Potential Approaches for Climate Change Planning

This table outlines approaches Tribes can take to begin planning for climate change. Some advantages and disadvantages are given for each approach along with examples of Tribes that have taken each approach.

Community Engagement Checkpoint

Consider talking with other staff members, Elders, and members of Tribal leadership to identify and build support for the best place to begin the adaptation planning process.

Activity 2: Assemble the Climate Change Planning Team

Build a diverse climate change planning team to ensure that all voices are heard in the planning process.

“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”

Guiding Questions

Helpful questions to consider during this activity.

Considerations for integrating and protecting
Traditional Knowledges during this activity.

The climate change planning team will guide the Tribe’s adaptation efforts from start to finish and beyond. The team will help establish or refine visions, goals, and objectives (Step 1: Activity 3). The team will provide critical insights into assessing vulnerability and risk, selecting adaptation actions, and tracking and evaluating the success of those actions. The team will be important in reaching out to other members of the community and championing the Tribe’s climate resilience work. The planning team could consider pursuing diverse participation from as many sections of the Tribal community as possible to ensure that all voices are heard in the planning process.

The size of the planning team depends on the scope of the planning process and should strike a balance between ensuring adequate representation—from different Tribal departments, Elders, and community members—and ensuring effective participation from all planning team members. Beyond the planning team, others can be involved as contributors, subject matter experts, and interested community members.

Tribal staff and other planning team members are often responsible for multiple duties and may have limited time to devote to climate change adaptation planning unless there is specific funding. While it may be advantageous for some Tribes to secure funding for a dedicated staff person to lead climate change planning, this need not always be the case. Among 15 Tribes in the Columbia River Basin as of 2015, eight have a dedicated staff person to work on climate change planning, but most of these staff members are only able to spend less than half of their time on climate planning activities.[3] Consider building an effective climate change planning team and using their time efficiently.

Considering the selected planning approach (Step 1: Activity 1), identify potential Tribal staff and community members who may have integral roles and could serve on the climate change planning team. Also consider including external partners (Step 1: Activity 8).

Potential planning team members could include: 

  • Tribal leadership (e.g., chief, Elders, Tribal council);
  • Community board or association members (e.g., health board, regional board, corporation board);
  • Tribal hunters, trappers, fishers, gatherers, farmers;
  • Community health representatives (e.g., health center, AmeriCorps member, local health aide, social services, traditional medical practitioners);
  • Emergency response and natural hazard managers;
  • Community development and planning groups (e.g., environmental, economic, housing);
  • Community services representatives (e.g., waste manager, water operator, transportation infrastructure, safety officers);
  • Educational community (e.g., school officials, education department, youth council);
  • Interested community members (e.g., Elders, adults, youth);
  • Tribal youth;
  • Business owners;
  • Natural resources managers (e.g., lands department, forestry, coastal);
  • Culture and heritage preservation representatives;
  • Neighboring Tribes;
  • Neighboring local jurisdictions (e.g., city, county);
  • State and federal agency representatives of co-managed or utilized resources;
  • Regional entities (e.g., air districts, landscape planning organizations); or
  • Regional science organizations, universities, or non-governmental organizations.[4]

Tribal Examples

The table provides examples of Tribal departments and groups represented on the climate change planning teams for different Tribes.

After brainstorming a list of potential planning team members, select individuals and invite them to join the climate change planning team. Consider the following criteria:

  • Ability to participate;
  • Knowledge of climate change and planning;
  • Length of time in community;
  • Depth of knowledge of the community;
  • Job position and organizational affiliation;
  • Involvement in planning/programs;
  • Good local knowledge of specific sectors, resources, or programs;
  • Connectedness to core Tribal audiences (i.e., Elders, youth); and
  • Representative of a diverse cross-section of the community.[5][6]


Additional resources to help form the climate change planning team.

When inviting potential planning team members to participate, describe the types of activities they may be asked to participate in and how much time may be needed for their contribution to the team. Activities could include:  

  • Gathering information;
  • Regular planning team meetings to identify and organize key areas of concern, assess vulnerability, and identify and evaluate potential adaptation actions;
  • Community engagement (e.g., informal and planned events);
  • Networking with external partners (e.g., neighboring jurisdictions, consultants);
  • Monitoring or evaluating the success of selected actions; and
  • Documenting the plan or process.

To keep the planning team members engaged and excited about participating in the adaptation planning process, consider the following strategies:

  • Ask Tribal council or leadership to officially form a climate change planning team and/or direct Tribal department staff to participate;
  • Provide food and a small gift at the first meeting;
  • Provide a small stipend to each planning member following each meeting, if funding is available (thereby keeping funding in the community rather than hiring an external contractor); and
  • Share details about your planning team members publicly so they get recognition for the time and energy they are dedicating to the process.

Appoint one or two people to serve as team leader(s) of the climate change planning team who can build rapport and advocate for the process both internally and externally. Some potential criteria for selecting a team leader include: 

  • A local Tribal community or staff member;
  • Good understanding of the Tribe’s responsibilities and objectives;
  • Ability to communicate well in both Tribal and non-Tribal contexts;
  • A person with some level of authority who is well-respected by the community;
  • Working relationship with Tribal leadership and connections across Tribal departments;
  • Managerial and facilitation skills;
  • Adequate time and resources to dedicate to the process; and
  • Basic understanding of climate change and impacts (prospective leaders and planning team members can build this capacity by attending trainings). 


Training resources to build capacity in understanding climate change impacts and leading a climate adaptation planning process.

Community Engagement Checkpoint

Consider providing an opportunity for interested Tribal community members to participate on the planning team.[7]

Activity 3: Develop a Vision, Goals, and Objectives

Develop a vision, goals, and objectives for climate adaptation to ensure planning efforts remain centered on the Tribe’s values and goals for future generations.

“The Yakama Nation is strong, and our strength is growing. By continuing to blend our traditional knowledge with newer innovations, and by reshaping our long-established tribal community and natural resource programs, the Yakama Nation will continue to thrive amidst an ever-changing world.”

Guiding Questions

Helpful questions to consider during this activity.

Considerations for integrating and protecting
Traditional Knowledges during this activity.

Developing a vision for the Tribe’s climate change adaptation planning initiatives can help ensure climate change planning efforts remain rooted in the Tribe’s overall vision and strategic goals for the future of its people. According to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium environmental planning manual, 7 Generations, “a vision is a dream of what is possible. It is an overall picture of what the community wants to be and how it wants to look in the future.”[8] 

The Tribe may already have a vision statement and strategic goals for environmental planning that can be adopted or adapted for the climate adaptation planning initiative vision. Review the Tribe’s overall vision and strategic plan to see how it relates to, or informs, climate change adaptation planning. There are a number of community exercises that may help the community and planning team develop and articulate a vision for the Tribe’s climate change adaptation planning.


Resources for community exercises designed to develop a vision and goals for the planning process.

Consider the following questions to help articulate the vision for the Tribe’s adaptation planning process: 

  • Where does the Tribe come from and where is it going?
  • Where does the Tribe want to be culturally, economically, and socially in the future?
  • What does the Tribe feel needs to be protected?
  • What is important for great-great-great grandchildren?
  • What information does the Tribe want to include from the Tribe’s heritage?
  • What information could be included about how the Tribe’s ancestors lived?
  • What traditions does the Tribe currently maintain and want to carry forward?[9]

Making initial decisions about the temporal, geographic, and governance scope of the process will provide context to help shape goals and objectives.

Planning timeframe: Define the timeframe for assessing and addressing impacts.

  • Is the planning timeframe for a five-year plan, a 10-year plan, etc.?
  • How long will the current effort within the planning process last?
  • What time horizons are being planned for? The 2050s, 2080s, or seven generations from now?
  • Are the actions taken today able to address issues 100 years from now, or should the focus be on actions with a shorter time frame?

Geographic areas: Define the physical area(s) to which the plan applies. This decision is closely linked to the plan’s goals and objectives because the plan will need to focus on specific geographic areas in order to achieve the desired outcomes.

  • What geographic areas will be considered in the current adaptation planning effort? For example, the effort could be focused on any of the following: the Tribal reservation, off-reservation fee land, trust land, traditional homelands, Usual and Accustomed areas, open and unclaimed areas, treaty areas, a watershed, a segment of coastline, or land where treaty-protected resources may be affected.

Governance: Identify who has direct management or federal trust responsibilities over the land and natural resources within the chosen geographic focus area(s) and who could indirectly influence management within the chosen geographic focus area(s) (e.g., federal or state agencies, regional planning organizations). This will help to identify entities that may need to be involved in the adaptation planning process (Step 1: Activity 8).

  • Is the Tribe focused on what it directly controls, or does the Tribe want to identify actions that will require cooperation from external organizations or governing bodies? Note: It is possible for a plan to have a mix of both.

Developing goals and objectives built off the Tribe’s vision for climate change adaptation planning will help guide and frame choices during all phases of planning, implementation, and measuring success.

Clearly articulated goals can ensure that the Tribe’s plan is well designed and can keep those involved focused on the motivations behind developing an adaptation plan. Objectives capture specific accomplishments or outputs that are important in achieving the goals. Goals spell out what the Tribe wants to happen; objectives help the Tribe reach those goals. 

Brainstorm the ultimate goals for the Tribe’s climate change adaptation planning. Goals can be broad or specific. Potential goals include: 

  • Increasing public awareness of climate change and its projected impacts on the community;
  • Engaging Tribal members to develop and implement actions to enhance resilience;
  • Increasing the Tribe’s technical capacity to prepare for climate change impacts;
  • Increasing the resilience of the community’s built, natural, and human systems;
  • Strengthening community partnerships to reduce climate change vulnerability and risk;
  • Mainstreaming information about climate change vulnerabilities, risks, and resilience into planning, policy, and investment decisions; and
  • Creating the foundation for transformational adaptation of how the Tribe operates and thrives in a climate-altered future.[10]

Tribal Examples

Read some examples of how different Tribes have defined project visions, goals, and objectives in differing levels of detail. 

Community Engagement Checkpoint

Consider involving the Tribal community in developing a vision for the climate change adaptation planning effort.

Documentation Checkpoint

Consider drafting an outline of the adaptation plan based on the Tribe’s selected planning approach (Step 1: Activity 1) and articulated goals and objectives (Step 1: Activity 3).

Activity 4: Consider Opportunities & Risks of Incorporating Traditional Knowledges

Incorporating Traditional Knowledges (TKs) in climate change adaptation planning is not without risk, but can provide a significant amount of value.

“Restoration of historic structures and functions of cultural-use plants, foods, habitat, and animals will remain a priority. Additionally, a continued understanding of cultural place names will continue to be significant. Therefore, the Tribes will have continued Tribal Elder involvement in resource planning, because the importance of oral histories that convey the voice of ancestors is valued.”

Guiding Questions

Helpful questions to consider during this activity.

Considerations for integrating and protecting
Traditional Knowledges during this activity.

Table 4. Opportunities, Risks, and Ways to Reduce Risk of Incorporating Traditional Knowledges in Climate Change Initiatives

This table lists examples of potential opportunities, risks, and ways to reduce risk when incorporating Traditional Knowledges.

Tribal Examples

The Yurok Tribe conducted a project that clearly defined how Traditional Ecological Knowledge data collected would be protected by developing contracts, informed consent/use agreements, and questions to be used in structured interviews.

Consider having a conversation with external partners to communicate how the Tribe defines TKs for the current effort and to establish and communicate protocols for working with and around the Tribe’s TK processes. When entering into agreements with external partners, ensure that all Indigenous peoples have a fundamental right of “Free, Prior, and Informed Consent”:

  • Free—procedural fairness in negotiations;
  • Prior—Indigenous peoples should be involved from the beginning and consent should be obtained before TKs are accessed;
  • Informed—understanding of the costs, benefits, risks, and opportunities; and
  • Consent—processes for obtaining consent should affirm the right of Indigenous peoples to decline to share TKs, and saying “no” should have no legal implications for respecting Indigenous rights and interests and fulfilling trust and/or legal obligations.[13]

In addition, from the beginning of the adaptation planning process any sharing of TKs should be guided by the philosophy of “Cause No Harm,” which aims to:

  • Define the roles and responsibilities of all partners clearly and carefully;
  • Define what information will be shared;
  • Establish use, ownership, and means to interpret or share information; and
  • Harbor respect, trust, equity, and empowerment.[14]

If the Tribe chooses to share information about TKs with non-Tribal partners, the Tribe has some responsibilities to help ensure a positive outcome, including:

  • Clearly articulating the conceptions of the Tribe’s knowledge system and communicating the expectation that the peoples’ TKs will be respected and held as valid (CTKW Guideline 1);
  • Training Tribal staff and TK holders on protocols needed to govern the sharing and protection of TKs when working with non-Tribal partners (CTKW Guideline 5);
  • Making available personnel or resources to aid external partners in educating themselves regarding the Tribe’s approach toward working with non-Tribal partners on projects involving TKs (e.g., What are common pitfalls? How can these be avoided? What subjects should be avoided? What is the community’s protocol for accessing and asking about knowledge?) (CTKW Guideline 1); and
  • Ensuring that non-Tribal partners conform to protocols for ethical research (e.g., review by Tribal council, Tribal institutional review board, or cultural committee) (CTKW Guideline 2). Consider developing a TK-specific contract or contract clause with any outside collaborators.

By choosing not to share TKs with federal agency partners or other non-Tribal partners, the Tribe is responsible for explicitly communicating that choice and the right not to disclose information about the Tribe’s knowledge systems (CTKW Guideline 2).

Tribal Examples

Read more about how the Coeur D’Alene Tribe and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium communicated expectations around Traditional Knowledge data sharing with universities and other external partners.

Community Engagement Checkpoint

Utilize the CTKW Guidelines when considering engagement with Tribal members, staff, and Traditional Knowledge holders.

Activity 5: Gain Tribal Leadership Support

Support from Tribal leadership is critical to the success of the Tribe’s climate change adaptation planning efforts.

“Our people have long lived by an idea that we know best how to govern ourselves. We pursue every opportunity to take back control of our lands, our government, and our resources. This [climate change strategic plan] is another example of our pursuit for a better homeland for future generations.”

Guiding Questions

Helpful questions to consider during this activity.

Considerations for integrating and protecting
Traditional Knowledges during this activity.

Tribal leadership, such as Tribal Council, can provide advice on how to scope or focus planning efforts, allocate additional resources, and direct Tribal staff to actively participate in the adaptation planning process. In addition, Tribal Council can pass resolutions on climate change to demonstrate that the Tribe supports and recognizes the importance of taking action on climate change. Consider creating a high level summary of potential change, observations or concerns from Tribal members and staff, alterations to traditional landscape or cultural resources, or reference to a key extreme weather event that is motivating the Tribe to plan for climate change.


Resources to assist the Tribe in creating a high level summary of climate changes affecting the Tribe.

Resolutions can also elevate the relative priority for adaptation planning within the Tribe and across the community. Some Tribes choose to begin the adaptation planning process by reaching out to Tribal leadership both informally and formally. Others have Tribal staff work directly on portions of the adaptation planning process and then present those initial findings to Tribal leadership later in the process.

Tribal Examples

Find out how four different Tribes engaged with Tribal leadership in their adaptation efforts.

Informal outreach to Tribal leadership could include: 

  • Inviting Tribal council members to community outreach meetings; or
  • Engaging in initial conversations with department managers, Tribal council members, Elders, and other Tribal leadership to lay the foundation for the climate change adaptation planning effort.

Formal outreach to Tribal leadership could include:

  • Developing and proposing a draft climate change resolution to Tribal leadership that affirms the need to address climate change and potentially directs staff to work on climate adaptation;
  • Drafting and requesting approval for a letter of support from Tribal leadership to include in grant applications;
  • Formally presenting to Tribal council or Tribal leadership on climate change and the need for adaptation planning; or
  • Commenting at public and community meetings.


Templates for developing a climate change resolution to propose to Tribal leadership.

Activity 6: Tribal Community Engagement

Engage the community early and often during the planning process using methods tailored to the specific audience.

“Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.”

Guiding Questions

Helpful questions to consider during this activity.

Considerations for integrating and protecting
Traditional Knowledges during this activity.

Community engagement is the facilitation of purposeful reflection and discussion among Tribal community members about topics of common concern and decision-making.[15] Community-driven climate change adaptation planning focuses on incorporating community members throughout the adaptation planning process to enhance the place-based connection by focusing on key issues, assets, and resources that are important to the community and to help ensure the ultimate effectiveness of the actions developed through the plan.[16] Community engagement often has two goals:

  1. educating or sharing information about climate change with the community; and
  2. requesting input from the community about how the adaptation planning process and its outcomes can best be used or meet the needs of the community.

Engaging the Tribal community by sharing information early and often can motivate community members to participate and offer input. This can help build support for climate change adaptation planning and implementation. Successful engagement will identify and acknowledge the community’s concerns, gain community support, and ensure the ultimate effectiveness of adaptation actions developed throughout the adaptation planning process.

Identify opportunities to engage the community throughout the climate change adaptation planning process. In this Guidebook, Community Engagement Checkpoints, located at the end of many activities, highlight opportunities and considerations for engaging the community at various stages of the adaptation planning process.

In Step 1 Center the Tribe’s Adaptation Effort, consider opportunities to:

  • share information and seek input to select an initial climate change planning approach (Step 1: Activity 1)
  • invite community members to be involved in the climate change planning team (Step 1: Activity 2)
  • seek input on the community’s vision and goals for climate change adaptation planning (Step 1: Activity 3)
  • ensure a shared understanding of protocols and protections around Traditional Knowledges (Step 1: Activity 4)
  • and build in funding for community engagement activities (Step 1: Activity 7).

In Step 2 Identify Concerns and Gather Information, consider opportunities to: 

  • seek input from community members to identify needs and concerns (Step 2: Activity 2); and 
  • determine how those concerns may be influenced by climate change and gather information on observed changes (Step 2: Activity 3)

In Step 4 Plan for Action, consider opportunities to:

In Step 5 Implement and Monitor Actions, consider opportunities to:

Identify multiple methods of engagement that work best with the Tribal community. Methods for community engagement may vary depending on the audience and whether the purpose is to share or request information. Different segments of the community may prefer to receive information in different ways or by different people. Methods that may be successful in engaging Tribal youth may not be successful in engaging Tribal Elders. Some examples include: 

  • Sharing information in the Tribal newsletter, on the Tribe’s website, or on the radio (e.g., stories from Elders or other members of the climate change planning team, an introduction to the adaptation planning process, a series on the impacts of climate change, announcements for community-focused events);
  • Posting flyers in high traffic areas (e.g., community gym, health centers, Elder center, grocery store, gas station);
  • Tribal social media platforms (e.g., the Tribe’s Facebook page);
  • Hosting a community town hall meeting (e.g., providing space for the community to come together, discuss the Tribe’s adaptation planning process, provide input, and learn about climate resilience, preferably hosted by members of the climate change planning team and including food or snacks);
  • Distributing surveys (e.g., electronic and paper copies to the community to identify key concerns);
  • Visiting Elders and listening to the environmental changes they have observed (e.g., informal discussions);
  • Youth engagement (e.g., working with local schools, teachers, and students to engage Tribal youth in the visioning and planning process);
  • Silent voting (e.g., when requesting individual information in a group setting, community members may be more likely to share information if it is not shared out loud. This way, honest answers can be shared without fear of family or friends.); or
  • One-on-one meetings with department leads (e.g., informal discussions).

If possible, allocate funding to support engagement activities that are tailored to specific audiences. The funding can be used to provide food and beverages at community meetings, print flyers and other handouts, pay Tribal staff to conduct interviews or write articles, and offer childcare during the meetings.

Tribal Examples

See how two Tribes each committed to a community engagement process early in the adaptation planning process that included various methods to receive input.

Communicate about climate change adaptation planning in ways that best resonate with the Tribe and other stakeholders. Each Tribe has a unique cultural context and language, which can be used to empower the Tribal community to deal with the problems posed by climate change.[17] Look to build engagement opportunities around and connect with existing Tribal priorities that will be affected by climate change. This can enhance community and Tribal leadership support for adaptation planning as it builds off the existing concerns and issues that are important to the Tribe. Also, consider providing information and receiving feedback in the Tribe’s Native language if appropriate.

Tribal Examples

See how some Tribes have incorporated Native language and culture within their adaptation planning.[18]


There are several resources available to help engage the community.

Activity 7: pursue funding

Cast a wide net when applying for funding to support climate change adaptation activities.

“To the Ojibwe, natural resources are cultural resources. There is no separation between how the bands manage and interact with a resource and how their culture endures: one is dependent on the other. Climate change, however, is threatening the very viability of many natural resources important to the Ojibwe.”

Guiding Questions

Helpful questions to consider during this activity.

Considerations for integrating and protecting
Traditional Knowledges during this activity.

Research and create a list of relevant funding opportunities that the Tribe can apply for. Tribes have used a variety of funding sources to support climate adaptation planning. While there may be a limited number of federal grants specifically focused on climate change (e.g., the BIA Tribal Resilience Program), there are many other federal grants that can help Tribes address the impacts of climate change for specific sectors (e.g., Department of Energy grants can support renewable energy development; Department of Agriculture supports agriculture programs; the Forest Service supports fish, wildlife, and forest projects; the Centers for Disease Control, Indian Health Service, and National Institutes of Health support projects focused on public health). Often, there also are funding opportunities from states, private foundations, and non-governmental organizations seeking to support Indigenous communities in addressing climate change. 

Consider browsing federal and non-federal funding opportunities and creating a list of relevant grants that could support some or all of the work the Tribe wants to accomplish. 


Browse links to federal and non-federal funding opportunities for climate change initiatives.

Consult the list of potential funding opportunities and select one or more grants to apply for. Funders often will hold webinars describing the funding opportunities and the grant process. Some agencies will assist and collaborate in writing grants or offering technical assistance. Seek out more information about the funding opportunities, particularly how the proposals will be scored, and reach out to the contact person with any questions. If relevant, ask other staff members to help assemble and submit the grant. Customize the Tribe’s proposal to meet the goals of the grant even if those requirements don’t meet all the climate adaptation goals of the Tribe. Remember that there will be other funding opportunities and the initially funded work can be expanded in the future.


Many Tribes may be familiar with grant writing, but for those who need more guidance, see this collection of grant writing training opportunities.

Community Engagement Checkpoint

Community engagement opportunities can be considered and incorporated in the grant writing process.

Activity 8: Engage External Partners

Set clear roles and expectations when engaging external partners to enhance a climate change adaptation planning process.

“Indigenous peoples have long maintained…that their homelands are being transformed irreversibly by climate change…and that they have unique contributions to make toward climate decision-making due to their extensive experiential knowledge.”

Guiding Questions

Helpful questions to consider during this activity.

Considerations for integrating and protecting
Traditional Knowledges during this activity.

Identify external partners that can enhance the climate change adaptation planning process. Many Tribes have high internal staff capacity and technical expertise in the fields of natural resource management and scientific analysis. However, funding for such positions is often from non-climate change-related grants, which limits their capacity to devote time to climate change planning and analyses for the Tribe.[20] Other Tribes have limited staff capacity for climate change analyses.[21] As such, many Tribes have sought expertise from external partners (e.g., universities, federal agencies and programs, private and non-profit organizations, and inter-Tribal organizations) for training, data, and analysis to support the Tribe’s climate change adaptation planning efforts.[22]


Consider identifying potential external partners by searching through databases of scientists and climate service providers.

It can be important to identify external partners who may have direct management of federal trust responsibilities over the land and natural resources within the geographic areas of interest and those who could indirectly influence management within the geographic areas of interest (e.g., federal agencies, state agencies, and regional planning organizations). 

Developing partnerships with external organizations can have benefits beyond the end of a specific climate adaptation planning project. Collaborations with academic institutions, non-profit or private sector organizations, and federal agencies can create avenues for lasting technical, communication, grant writing, implementation, or design support. Some Tribes work with neighboring jurisdictions (e.g., city, county, state, federal, private, and other Tribes), particularly in the cases of checkerboard Tribes and Tribes that have Usual & Accustomed areas that border or are on private or federal lands. In addition, Tribes may not have the authority to take action without partnering with federal agencies in the context of co-management responsibilities. It may also be advantageous to partner with other nearby Tribes or jurisdictions to jointly pursue funding opportunities.

Tribal Examples

The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community engaged a diverse set of stakeholders to contribute to the Swinomish Climate Change Initiative Climate Adaptation Action Plan.

In any external partnership, it is important to clearly and formally define the roles and expectations for each party, especially before Traditional Knowledges (TKs) are included or shared. Once the Tribe’s climate change planning team and leadership agree about the definition and role of TKs in the climate change adaptation planning process and the protocols surrounding them (Step 1: Activity 4), relevant definitions, protocols, and expectations should be communicated formally to external partners.

Tribal Examples

Establishing agreement within and among Tribes and external partners regarding the use of information gathered and shared during the project is demonstrated by two projects involving multiple Tribes.