Preserving traditional ways of life
In the film, the village’s relocation coordinator, Romy Cadiente, meets with Young to explain that the water may be 15 feet from council member Carl’s window. Young’s response: “Can you swim?”
Not a member of the tribe laughed.
“It was a horrible, insensitive thing to say, and it felt like they weren’t really being listened to or taken seriously,” Smith said. “We included this scene in the film because it is representative of how the government has treated Newtok and anyone who disagrees with me I would politely invite them to show me whether the community has moved on or not .”
Tribes in what is now Washington state have been raising these same issues for decades — and their calls are becoming increasingly urgent. Sea levels are expected to rise up to a foot over the next 30 years, which is expected to intensify coastal flooding 10 times more than today, according to a February report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
More than security or a seat at the proverbial table, climate change is impacting indigenous tradition and the tribal way of life. The Yup’ik people of Newtok depend on their ancestral hunting grounds for 95% of their diet, which includes fish and birds, among other animals. There are more berries and edible plants growing in Newtok than in Mertarvik.
Mertarvik is on higher rocky ground with mountains, where less of these traditional foods live and grow. Meade, the Yup’ik scholar, said those who moved are happy and grateful, but find it difficult to adjust.
The village rejected any plans to move its people to Anchorage or anywhere further from their ancestral lands. The people of the village said that if they did, they would cease to be Yup’ik.
“It’s not just about preserving our culture, it’s about preserving our way of life,” Naunraq, or Andrew John, the new village council trustee and nephew of Tom John, said in the film. “You can’t buy your roots, you can’t buy your seasonal hunting grounds, you can’t buy lifelong knowledge of how to survive”
Washington’s declining salmon stocks are one of many forms of tribal traditions and lifestyles that are being impacted in the region. “It’s the disappearance of a food source that the community relied on, and when that food source disappears, many of the other spiritual ceremonies and practices that surround it disappear,” said Newland, the ministry’s assistant secretary. inside.
The loss of these practices affects connections and relationships with each other, and what it means to be a tribe. “Climate change is one of the greatest external threats to this way of life.” Newland said. “When you talk about things like the salmon harvest or the shells dying in the warming waters, these are things that are central to the relationship of tribal peoples with the land and with each other. It is threatened by climate change, and it is our job that the United States does something about it.