Indigenous People: Introduction

Small changes in the climate or environment can have dramatic impacts on those whose lives depend on local natural resources. Antarctica has no indigenous population and no permanent residents, but the Arctic is home to thriving populations of Indigenous peoples (though relatively small compared to other regions on Earth), mostly concentrated along the coasts. Many communities closely rely on sea ice for travel, hunting, and ice-fishing.

The Yup'ik and Iñupiat populations, for example, closely observe the quality of sea ice for hunting throughout fall, winter, and spring. In the Arctic Report Card 2019, Bering Sea elders explain that, for many Arctic Indigenous Peoples, sea ice "provides access to seals, whales, walrus, fish, crabs, and other marine life for our subsistence harvests." When sea ice in the spring melts too rapidly, it shortens the hunting season. Indigenous Alaska Elders point to recent decades as a period of considerable change. In the past, they predicted weather using traditional indicators such as clouds, winds, and currents. These indicators are no longer as reliable as they once were due to how rapidly the weather can shift.

Last updated: 3 April 2020