Climate Change in the Lumbee River Watershed and Potential Impacts on the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina
Author: Ryan E. Emanuel,Issue #163
A growing body of research focuses on climate change and Indigenous peoples. However, relatively little of this work focuses on Native American tribes living in the Atlantic Coastal Plain of the United States. The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina is a large (60,000 member) Native American tribe located on the Coastal Plain in present day North Carolina (U.S.). The tribe has deep connections to the Lumbee River, which flows through a watershed dominated by extensive forested wetlands. In this paper, I outline key issues associated with climate change and water in the region, and I use long‐term climatic and hydrologic datasets and analysis to establish context for understanding historical climate change in the Lumbee River watershed. Downscaled climate model outputs for the region show how further changes may affect the hydrologic balance of the watershed. I discuss these changes in terms of environmental degradation and potential impacts on Lumbee culture and persistence, which has remained strong through centuries of adversity and has also experienced a resurgence in recent years. I close by acknowledging the especially vulnerable position of the Lumbee Tribe as a non‐federal tribe that lacks access to certain resources, statutory protections, and policies aimed at helping Native American tribes deal with climate change and other environmental challenges.