Payment: “The water is considered our life blood. Sweet grass is our mother earth’s hair. And all of this is in balance, and it’s our responsibility as people on this earth to protect her.”

That’s Chairman Aaron Payment of the Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. He says for his tribe, the need to protect the earth from global warming is especially urgent since thousands of members still hunt, fish, and gather their own food.

Payment: “We are seeing the effects of climate change as we go about trying to practice our traditional responsibility and role.”

Payment says increasingly unpredictable weather is affecting fish and the local deer herd. It’s also harming the tribe’s annual harvest of maple sugar.

Payment: “There will be a warm-up, then it’ll be cold again, and what it does is it’s making the sap very bitter so that we can’t use it.”

To fight climate change, the tribe is increasing energy efficiency and reducing food and other waste they send to landfills.

Payment: “One of our traditional teachings is ‘Aakode’ewin’ which is bravery, and leadership sometimes is about being brave, and speaking up to protect our ‘Aki,’ our mother earth.”

In 2014, the Sault Sainte Marie Tribe was one of just 16 Climate Action Champions recognized by the White House.

Sault Saint Marie Tribe photo

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo source: Sault Sainte Marie Tribe website

More Resources
Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians Environment Department
16 U.S. Communities Recognized as Climate Action Champions for Leadership on Climate Change

Diana Madson contributed regularly to Yale Climate Connections from 2014 to 2021. She enjoys exploring U.S.-based stories about unexpected and innovative solutions to climate change. In addition to her...