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Different ways of knowing: exploring traditional ecological knowledge and climate modeling for the Turtle Mountains, North Dakota

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Monday, 18 January 2010
Dana Pauzauskie, UCAR, Topeka, KS; and M. H. Hayden and S. Hanson

Different ways of understanding climate change are pertinent to the study thereof. Observations and perspectives from indigenous and local peoples, in combination with scientific climate data, are important to include in discussions and considerations of regional climate change to better understand the full scope of the impacts brought about by a changing climate. This study explores impacts of climate changes on plants, and therefore culture, in the Turtle Mountain Reservation (ND) community as seen through the eyes of an Anishinabe tribal elder who is the community's medicine man. The analysis of CCSM3 coupled climate model projections for north central North Dakota revealed potential increases in regional monthly temperature's between 0.5 -3.0C by 2020. Precipitation is projected to increase in spring months, and decrease in summer and fall. Through a semi-structured interview the elder reported unpredictable regional weather conditions over the last ten to twelve years. Observations included changes in winter temperatures and precipitation, unstable weather patterns during the transition from winter to spring, and dry summer conditions. The elder stated he is indirectly impacted when the harvest of culturally significant plants is compromised by changing environmental conditions; the ecosystem's plants, insect, and wildlife species are shifting. By way of exploring Traditional Ecological Knowledge and climate modeling we understand projected changes in temperature and precipitation are already underway in the Turtle Mountains. The breadth of knowledge and understanding of the region's environment exposes the changing weather's impacts on not only the ecosystem, but on a community's cultural practice.