Earlier this month, I visited Washington State, where I grew up. My visit took me to the ancestral lands and the reservation lands of the Snoqualmie, Muckleshoot, Duwamish and Puyallup Tribes. These strong Tribal nations live on the gorgeous land between the Cascade Mountains and the Salish Sea (Puget Sound).
Unfortunately, just a few short weeks ago, the air quality on these lands was the worst in the world. Like other parts of the American West, this area has seen a drastic worsening of air quality—because of wildfires super-charged by climate change.
Today, in honor of Native American Heritage Day, we acknowledge that Tribes across the United States are on the frontlines of the climate crisis—and they are on the frontlines of fighting climate change and fighting for clean air. Tribes are implementing climate solutions to protect their traditional foodways and to protect the health of their people, and they are doing this work with very little funding.
Many Tribes want to implement air quality programs, or create more robust programs, but are unable to secure the funding necessary to achieve their goals. The National Tribal Air Association’s Status of Tribal Air Report (STAR) outlines specific successes and challenges that Tribal air quality programs experience and provides an analysis of how increased funding for Tribal air programs can support Tribal sovereignty and the health of Tribal communities.
Generations of systemic abuses of Indigenous people have led, in many places, to chronic poverty, poor health care, substandard housing, and inadequate protection from sources of pollution. Indigenous adults and children have higher rates of many diseases linked to air pollution exposure, including asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.
Increased funding for Tribal air programs will help Tribal communities hit hard by wildfires, flooding, and air pollution to protect their members and pursue culturally appropriate climate solutions.
This Native American Heritage Day, join Moms in telling Congress that investing in Tribal air programs is essential to help protect the health and future of Indigenous communities.