Climate change is fundamentally altering the American West, a status quo itself built on the ethnic cleansing of Indigenous peoples and alteration of the natural landscape. In what is now southern Oregon and northern California, the Klamath, Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa Valley, Modoc, and Yahooskin tribes lived in the region known as the Everglades of the West. In 1906, however, the extermination of Indigenous people and a major drainage project fundamentally altered the lands. Now, as climate change caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels exacerbates severe drought, there is no water. No water for farmers, no water for the tribes’ sacred fish, no water in families’ wells, no water for migratory birds.
“If we don’t have the Klamath River and we don’t have healthy fish runs, it’s really hard to be a Yurok person,” Barry McCovey, the tribe’s fishery department director, told the Washington Post. “It’s just as important to our people as the air that we breathe.” Climate change is also changing the literal landscape in what is now Utah. Shrunken by climate-fueled drought and water diversions, the Great Salt Lake is now “a puddle of its former self” the Salt Lake Tribune reports, and the Tribune and Accuweather are redrawing maps to more accurately define the lake’s boundaries. (Klamath: Washington Post $; Utah: Salt Lake Tribune; Climate Signals background: Drought)