"Knowing is from the Old People": Stories of Water, Place, and Climate Change

Kimberly Kirner

As part of an interdisciplinary project focused on understanding how climate change indicators are perceived and managed by various stakeholder groups, eight Paiute elders were interviewed about their local knowledge and experience of change in water availability and plant communities.  Depth interviews and participatory mapping of 69 sites of cultural significance revealed interesting ways that folk knowledge of long-term environmental change may be transmitted through story-telling.  While long-term environmental change is certainly perceived and discussed in the narratives, contextualizing participants’ voices historically and politically explains how and why “climate change” may be understood differently from the ways in which it is described by Western science and land and water management agencies.  Finally, these preliminary interpretations are re-articulated with the broader research agenda, explaining how a broader, more inclusive perspective on climate change can productively inform future research.