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FEMA announces new strategy to engage Native American tribes

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News Politics: The Federal Emergency Management Agency has developed a new strategy to better engage with hundreds of Native American tribes as they face climate change-related disasters, the agency announced Thursday.

FEMA will include the 574 federally recognized tribal nations in discussions about possible future dangers from climate change, and has earmarked $50 million in grants for tribes pursuing ways to ease burdens related to extreme weather. Tribal governments will be offered more training on how to navigate applying for FEMA funds. The new plan calls for tribal liaisons to give a yearly report to FEMA leaders on how prepared tribes are.

In recent years, tribal and Indigenous communities have faced upheaval dealing with changing sea levels as well as an increase in floods and wildfires. Tribal citizens have lost homes or live in homes that need to be relocated because of coastal erosion. Some cannot preserve cultural traditions like hunting and fishing because of climate-related drought.

Another change under the new strategy is more FEMA staff meeting tribes on their land, a request the agency got from multiple tribes. This will include anything from in-person technical assistance in small, rural communities to appearing at large national or regional tribal events.

“It’s one thing to send out a notice and say ‘We would like your response,’” Auberle said. “Some of those tribes are small but have very serious needs. FEMA can certainly appreciate that.”

In addition to making more funds available to tribes, FEMA could also help by providing things like technical support as tribes prepare for and adapt to climate change, Auberle said. The push to ensure all tribes fully understand how to access FEMA assistance or other related grants will be done with webinars, tribal consultations or regular meetings with FEMA regional staff.

Agency workers will get trained as well, learning a historic and legal overview about tribal sovereignty and cultural sensitivities.

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