Where Words Touch the Earth

Expand/Collapse Where Words Touch the Earth


Students from American Indian Tribal Colleges interview Elders, other students, and community members to provide a Native American perspective on climate change and its effects on their communities.

 

  • Salmon Move into Deeper Waters

    In this video segment, learn about subsistence fishing and harvesting. Hear from an Elder who speaks about how he used to go trolling (fishing) for salmon with his father, uncles, and cousins when he was young. He recalls that they noticed that the salmon were moving farther offshore, into deeper water. They suspected it was because the water was warming. The video segment was adapted from a student video produced at Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Washington.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Warmer Water Kills Salmon Eggs

    This video segment features Native American Elders discussing the impact of climate change on salmon populations and the importance of restoring balance in the natural world. A Native educator describes having taken students to a river's headwaters to watch salmon spawn, only to observe the deadly effects of water temperature rise on the fish eggs. She explains that even a small change in temperature can result in a population decline that could threaten Native peoples and their way of life. The video segment was adapted from a student video produced at Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Washington.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Witnessing Environmental Changes

    This video segment examines the issue of climate change from the perspective of Native Americans. Elders describe the changes they have observed in their surroundings, especially those related to water, and the effects they are having on their way of life. Dr. Daniel Wildcat explains that because Native people are so deeply connected to the land, non-Native people should consult with Native people about what we are experiencing. The video segment was adapted from a student video produced at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.

    Grades: 3-12
  • Dendroclimatology in the Navajo Nation

    In this video segment adapted from Navajo Technical College, meet Steven Chischilly, a professor of environmental science, and hear about his research on climate change. Listen as he describes how climatic conditions, such as moisture and precipitation, contribute to tree growth rates and the amount of carbon that is stored by a tree in different years. Learn about dendroclimatology—the study of the relationship between climate and the annual growth rings of trees—and how he is correlating historical weather station data about the Navajo Nation with growth rings.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Mitigating Climate Change

    In this video segment adapted from Navajo Technical College, learn about the relationship between carbon dioxide emissions and climate change. Meet Patricia Palmer, a chemistry professor, who explains that coal power plants (such as those found on and around the Navajo Nation) contribute to increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. See a visual representation of how global surface temperatures have increased during the 20th century. In addition, learn how people can use less energy to help reduce their carbon footprint and mitigate the effects of climate change.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Sense of Smell Leads Salmon Home

    In this video segment, learn about how natural cycles are related to subsistence living. Hear about the Moon's importance to the Lummi people of western Washington State, and how the lunar cycles tell them when it is time to fish and time to gather. In addition, a Coast Salish Elder from British Columbia, Canada, speaks about the interdependence of nature and explains how the scent from a fir tree helps salmon find their way back home. The video segment was adapted from a student video produced at Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Washington.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Healing Mother Earth for Future Generations

    In this video segment adapted from United Tribes Technical College, listen as Native Americans share their concerns about climate change. See photographs from the past and hear one woman describe how tribal people were the first environmentalists. In addition, learn how people are noticing that they are losing sacred plants and are concerned for the future. Finally, hear about the importance of education to help future generations live in harmony with Mother Earth.

    Grades: 3-11
  • Observing Changes in Water Resources

    This video segment adapted from the College of Menominee Nation examines observations about water resources on Menominee Indian Tribe land, located in northeast Wisconsin, and considers the impact that climate change is having on water levels, water quality, fish populations, and more. Tribal member Mary Webster explains what watching the water can teach; conservation officer Walter Cox notes that a decline in trout that might be attributable to global warming; and college president Verna Fowler says that collaboration is required to address the issue of climate change.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Reconnecting with Your Environment

    In this media-rich self-paced lesson designed for teacher professional development, take a nature walk to observe aspects of your local environment, then plan an activity for students that will help them better understand their own surroundings and how they interact with the natural world.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Wetlands

    This video segment explains why Native people regard wetlands not only for their important ecological function, but for their spiritual value as well. For many tribes, wetlands represent life. They consider wetlands to be sacred places that must be protected from external sources of pollution, such as runoff from landscaping businesses and municipal discharges. The video segment was adapted from a student video produced at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.

    Grades: 6-12
  • North Dakota Tribal Members Talk About Climate Change

    In this video segment adapted from United Tribes Technical College in North Dakota, Native Americans talk about climate change and how it impacts their lives as they experience unexpected changes in environmental conditions. They describe observed changes in seasonality, how these changes affect ecosystems and habitats, their respect for Mother Earth, and the participation of tribal colleges in climate change research projects.

    Grades: 3-12
  • Observing Changes in Snowfall

    In this video segment adapted from the College of Menominee Nation, Menominee language instructor John Teller describes the implications of climate change on the Menominee Indian Tribe, whose reservation is located in northeast Wisconsin. Teller has observed changing conditions, including snowfall that arrives later in the year. He describes how the snow and cold weather are connected both to the customs and the well-being of the Menominee Nation. Because of this, he says, the tribe must do something to protect the Earth.

    Grades: 5-12
  • Salmon Population Depleted

    This video segment features Elders discussing the decline in the local population of salmon, which are at the heart of the cultural identity of the Native American Lummi Nation of Washington State. One Elder recalls when fish were so abundant they were thrown overboard by fishermen and cannery workers who could not keep up with the supply. Ironically, today he is forced to buy salmon. Another Elder explains that threats to salmon, as well as to other food sources that have sustained his people throughout the years, are also threats to the Native American way of life and must be addressed in order to ensure the survival of the Lummi people. The video segment was adapted from a student video produced at Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Washington.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Adopting Sustainable Food Practices

    This video segment adapted from United Tribes Technical College looks at how the traditional subsistence practices of indigenous people were once sustainable, unlike today's lifestyles. Most foods are now produced and transported using methods that can damage the environment and contribute to climate change.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Seasons Are Moving

    This video segment adapted from the College of Menominee Nation explores some of the effects of changing seasonal cycles on the Menominee Indian Tribe, whose reservation is located in northeast Wisconsin. Tribal member Ben Grignon describes the impact on maple sugar–making activities. Menominee educator Dr. Verna Flower shares her observations of flowering plants blossoming earlier. And tribal member Melissa Cook, concerned with the pace of change, urges people take responsibility and work together to preserve the world.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Why Does Climate Change Matter?

    In this video segment adapted from United Tribes Technical College, hear young Native Americans talk about climate change. Listen as they respond to the question, "Why does climate change matter?" They share their opinions about the importance of climate; their thoughts on how climate change is affecting weather, oceans, and ice; and their fears about the impacts for future generations.

    Grades: 3-12
  • Overstepping Mother Earth's Boundaries

    In this video segment, learn about the relationship between humans and nature. Listen to a tribal Elder make the connection between the Mythic Trickster, a troublemaker whose plans consistently backfire in story after story, and modern humanity, which has disturbed natural systems with unanticipated consequences. In addition, hear an Elder’s observation that modern humanity no longer listens to nature and that, to help save ourselves, we need to accept that nature has knowledge to share. The video segment was adapted from a student video produced at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.

    Grades: 3-12
  • Navajo Elders' Observations on Climate Change

    In this video segment adapted from Navajo Technical College, two Navajo Elders speak about climate change and the differences in the environment that they have observed. They have noticed changes in the rainy season, including more violent storms, and changes in the characteristics of both wind and snow. They describe the disappearance of some plants during their lifetime and express concern about how changes in climate are negatively affecting people and animals.

    Grades: 3-12
  • Navajo Reflections on Climate Change

    In this video segment adapted from Navajo Technical College, hear personal observations about how the environment—plant life, in particular—has changed in the Navajo Nation. One Elder describes how the environment used to be in balance, and there was an abundance of vegetation and corn, but now she believes the environment is decaying. A professor of environmental science describes how when he was a child, there seemed to be more of a monsoon season, the vegetation was more lush, and some native plants were easier to find.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Native Student Filmmakers Focus on Climate Change

    This video segment features Native student filmmakers as well as Elders talking about climate change. It begins with the student filmmakers explaining the meaning behind the film project, Where Words Touch the Earth, and why their involvement matters. Native Elders then share some of their observations of how climate has changed and the sense of responsibility Native people share not to stand idly by in the face of change. The video segment was adapted from a student video produced at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.

    Grades: 6-12