Federal Reserves allocate $75 million to relocate 3 indigenous tribes away from rising sea levels

Schoolchildren walk near severely eroded permafrost tundra outside their school in the climate change-hit Yupik Napakiak Inuit village in Alaska’s Yukon Delta April 18, 2019.

Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images

The Department of the Interior under the Biden administration provides three Indian tribes $75 million relocate from coastal areas threatened by destruction, a decision taken after tribes across the country competed for the first federal grants designed to relocate communities facing the threat of climate change.

Newtok Village and Napakiak Native Village in Alaska, as well as the Cinema Indian Nation in Washington state, will receive $25 million each to start moving buildings inland and away from rising sea levels. The administration is also providing $5 million in grants to eight additional tribes to help them plan for relocation.

Historically oppressed and disenfranchised tribal groups in the US are more vulnerable to climate change. Research work published in the journal Science found that tribal peoples have lost 99% of their historical territory, and the land they left behind is generally more vulnerable to climate-related disasters such as heat waves, wildfires, and drought.

The federal government is now beginning to relocate entire indigenous communities to adapt to climate change and minimize damage from future climate-related natural disasters. 2020 Bureau of Indian Affairs Survey estimated that up to $5 billion needed over the next 50 years to meet the infrastructure needs for tribal relocation as the climate changes.

Home Secretary Deb Haaland delivers opening remarks at the 2022 White House Tribal Summit at the Home Office on November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Pete Marovich | Getty Images

“We must protect the Indian country from the growing and unique impacts of climate change,” Home Secretary Deb Haaland said. said in a statement. “Helping these communities safely relocate to their homelands is one of the most important climate-related investments we could make in Indian Country.”

The administration announced the awards during this year’s Tribal Nations Summit at the White House. Earlier this year, the Bureau of Indian Affairs held a competition in which tribes applied for up to $3 million in relocation.

Tribes in Alaska are particularly at risk of infrastructure damage due to water intrusion, coastal erosion and extreme weather events, according to the Department of the Interior.

Smaller administration planning grants were given to tribes including the Point Lay Native Village in Alaska, the Yurok Tribe in California, and the Chitimacha Tribe in Louisiana.

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