“It’s both a risk and an opportunity for indigenous peoples,” said Preston Hardison, policy analyst at the Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Treaty Rights Office in Washington state. According to Hardison, many elders feel that they’d like to help the world heal, but they want their knowledge to be employed in the right way (without any sort of exploitation). For instance, sharing their knowledge about their land and how they use it could be employed to indigenous people’s detriment by limiting their access to it.
Even when the government taps indigenous groups for input, many of the resulting collaborations don’t show respect for the tribal people or the accumulated knowledge they possess. Take, for instance, in 2011, when the Saint Regis Mohawk received an EPA grant to create a climate adaptation plan for its natural resources — their animals, their crops, their medicinal plants. Initially, the EPA called for a plethora of scientific vulnerability and risk assessments to parse what resources were important for the Akwesasne way of life. But tribal members felt the testing was an unnecessary step to get to the heart of the issue.