Native knowledge of great lakes ecology: Climate changes to Odawa lands

Richard W. Stoffle, Michael J. Evans, Christopher Sittler, Desmond L. Berry, Kathleen A. Van Vlack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Climate change has been observed for hundreds of years by the plant specialists of three Odawa Tribes in the Upper Great Lakes along Lake Michigan. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (SLBE) is the focus of two National Park Service (NPS) studies of Odawa Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) of plants, ecosystems, and climate change. Data collected during these studies contributed to developing Plant Gathering Agreements between tribes and parks. This analysis derived from 95 ethnographic interviews conducted by University of Arizona (UofA) anthropologists in partnership with expert elders appointed by tribes. Odawa elders recognized in the park 288 plants and five habitats of traditional and contemporary concern. Tribal elders explained that 115 of these traditional plants and all five habitats are known from multigenerational eyewitness accounts to have been impacted by climate change. The TEK study thus represents what Odawa people know about the traditional environment and thus provides a foundation for more complex government-to government relationships between Odawa tribes and the NPS. These research findings are neither intended to test Native TEK nor the climate findings of Western science. It should however be pointed out that both are in general agreement about what has happened due to climate change and thus there is now a TEK data base for co-stewardship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number979721
JournalFrontiers in Climate
StatePublished - 2023


  • (Min.5-Max.8)
  • Michigan
  • National Parks
  • Odawa Indians
  • climate change
  • native Americans
  • traditional ecological knowledge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Pollution
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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