Ranco awarded $50K for project to develop climate resilience with Wabanaki communities

The University of Maine Office of Sponsored Research has been awarded $50,000 from Jane’s Trust Foundation for a project to develop adaptive resilience to climate change with Wabanaki communities, led by Darren Ranco, professor of anthropology and chair of Native American Programs at the University of Maine.

Jane’s Trust Foundation is a family foundation dedicated to creating a more socially just and environmentally sustainable world in which all people thrive through education and deep connections with family, community and the natural world. Jane’s Trust Foundation focuses its grantmaking on climate change mitigation and adaptation, social justice and special projects of interest to the trustees.

The funds will be used to host two knowledge-gathering conferences with Wabanaki elders and knowledge keepers in order to maintain and update the Wabanaki Climate Adaptation and Adaptive Management Workbook, a culturally relevant guide for Maine’s Wabanaki communities to adapt to climate change developed in collaboration with the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center (NE CASC). The workbook, which has been in development since 2016, was inspired by the Dibaginjigaadeg Anishinaabe Ezhitwaad, a guide to climate adaptation for tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan designed by the Tribal Adaptation Menu Team from Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC). 

“We have been able to work with the tribal folks locally across tribes here to develop these sorts of strategies using the framework established by the tribes in the upper Midwest, but in our cultural context,” Ranco says. “The idea is that the tribes can reference this workbook as they develop more specificity around climate adaptation planning.” 

Ranco and Natalie Michelle, a postdoc and research associate at UMaine and former graduate student, conducted an initial climate change impact assessment through tribal interviews from 2016–18 to establish the Wabanaki Climate Change Adaptation Baseline that identifies key areas of impact from climatic changes unique to each region and zone. The workbook project was identified as key to meeting the short-term and medium-term goals outlined in that framework.

Using Indigenous Research Methods, Ranco and Michelle will organize two Wabanaki Climate Adaptation symposia with 10 traditional knowledge keepers at each event, focusing on Wabanaki strategies for culturally appropriate climate adaptation in two high-priority cultural sectors: women and water systems, and plants and terrestrial systems. 

“Women were the primary teachers in ways of the acquisition, processing, preparation and preservation of our resources for our own cultural survival,” Michelle says. “They were an important part of the decision making processes in management and establishing sacred relationships within the ecology. I want to emphasize how our traditional knowledge bases complement science, and how we can utilize our traditional knowledge to lead in decision making. I think it’s going to be an opportunity for Native women who don’t normally have access to these kinds of forums to be active and to participate.”

Using the information gathered from the symposia, Ranco, Michelle and other researchers at UMaine will write a collaborative report to identify the culturally-appropriate climate adaptation methods for Wabanaki Tribal Nations in the next century, which will be presented to each of the Wabanaki Nation’s Natural Resources and Environmental Departments and integrated into the workbook. Ranco and Michelle will also use the knowledge gathered from the symposia to develop a more permanent institutional framework for Wabanaki Climate Change Adaptation Work at the University of Maine. 

“While there’s lots of information about how to plan for climate adaptation there isn’t in terms of our cultural milieu,” Ranco says. “The novel thing that we’re doing here is we’re mobilizing traditional knowledge in new contexts and that requires a real amount of care and consideration.”

Contact: Sam Schipani, samantha.schipani@maine.edu