Investing in Climate Solutions by Amplifying Native Voices

with Michael E. Roberts of the First Nations Development Institute

Native communities in the U.S. are among the most vulnerable to catastrophes caused by the climate crisis.

Michael E. Roberts, President and CEO of the First Nations Development Institute, joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss an initiative to invest in climate solutions by amplifying Native voices to protect our nation’s lands, waters, and ecosystems.

Posted on:

October 31, 2023

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: From millions of acres of forest and woodlands to majestic mountain ranges that stretch for hundreds of miles, this land belonged to the Indigenous people of North America, the original stewards of the land on which we live today. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I’m Tetiana Anderson. Climate change is upon us, and its detrimental impacts on our nation’s oceans, forests, and deserts are becoming more dramatic. And now, Native communities that are most prone to the catastrophes caused by the climate crisis are especially vulnerable. Joining me to talk about an initiative aimed to amplify Native voices to help find climate solutions is Mike Roberts. He is the president and CEO of First Nations Development Institute, and, Mike, thank you so much for being here.

Roberts: Thank Comcast for having me here today.

Anderson: So I want to start by taking a look back at history. I mean, how did Native Americans get to some of these areas that are now not so desirable to be when it comes to the effects of climate change?

Roberts: Yeah, so, you know, some would argue that this was all of our land and that we got to be here from our emerging stories, but, more recently, 1700s on, it was federal policy and colonialism that pushed us to some very small portions of what we used to own.

Anderson: And I know that your fund has initiatives to actually help your communities deal with all of this and those touch areas of activism, elevating knowledge, and developing Native solutions and advocacy. Tell us a little bit more about the Native solutions aspect of this. I mean, what would a Native solution equal for those who might not know?

Roberts: Yeah, I think it’s less a Native solution and more a Native worldview. When you look at a Western European view of the world, it’s one where man is centered and where he’s been given dominion over lands and animals. And I don’t think that, when you talk to Native communities, they have a worldview that looks exactly like that, that humans are not the center of the world, and it shows. When you look at the biodiversity in the world, 80% of the biodiversity is in the hands of Indigenous peoples. And so this worldview that Indigenous folks own is actually proven to be more effective from a conservation and stewardship point of view.

Anderson: Mike, when it comes to the activism aspect of all of this, where have you really seen success?

Roberts: Yeah, you know, there’s lots of places we’ve seen success. One of the problems when we’re talking about Native communities in the climate crisis space is that Native communities are highly underfunded. Only about $50 million of private foundation money goes to Native-led institutions, and only about 6 million of that goes to environmental protection or ecological stewardship. So what we see success is when small groups are banding together for a concentrated effort opposing something. I’ll give you a good example. The Pebble Mine in Alaska, threatening to practically extinct the entire sockeye salmon population in the world. There you saw, you know, lightly funded Alaskan Native corporations, community groups, and just local tribes opposing that mine to both the federal and the state government of Alaska. And we were able to, under the Biden administration, get that mine shut down.

Anderson: And I’m wondering about the response that your efforts are getting from the non-Native community. What progress have you seen when it comes to the building of bridges and collaboration?

Roberts: Yeah, I think, for the non-Native community, we’re just starting to see some of those bridges being built. I think there’s a real desire in the world today of trying to find new technology, new solutions to this climate crisis that we’re experiencing. And I think what we bring, as Indigenous peoples, as Native people in the United States, is very old technology, very old practice that we have shown to be effective in stewarding the natural environment in which we live. So, you know, I hope that the non-Native community will look to the work that we’re doing, both support it as allies and support it financially going forward.

Anderson: So I’m wondering about the future, and you touched on it just a little bit. But what else really needs to be done to make sure that your work is achieved?

Roberts: Yeah, so First Nations recently started the Tribal Lands Conservation Fund, and it’s initiatives like this that will hopefully help pay Indigenous folks for the conservation work that they’re doing. So, you know, more support for tribal-led and tribal-community-led conservation efforts, I think, is really the future and the hope that we might have for effective change.

Anderson: And, Mike, people are going to want to know more about your work. So what is your website? Where should they look?

Roberts: Yeah. So you can find us either at or you can find us at the Tribal Lands Conservation Fund. Googling either one will land you on our landing page, and you can find out more information there.

Anderson: Mike Roberts of First Nations Development Institute, thank you so much for joining us.

Roberts: Thank you for having me.

Anderson: And thanks to you for watching, as well. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, visit I’m Tetiana Anderson.

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