Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Joe Bryan

Second Advisor

William Travis

Third Advisor

Dale Miller


This paper justifies using a climate justice framework to shed light on how the urgency of climate change intersects with longer historical processes of colonization and inequity. I argue that a climate justice framework considers how the past contributes to present day vulnerability of Native Alaska communities to climate change. To illustrate the relevance of the past, the paper includes three case studies on Native villages pursuing relocation- Newtok, Kivalina, and Shishmaref. These case studies demonstrate how vulnerability to erosion, flooding, and environmental degradation all predate climate change. Therefore, climate change presents an opportunity to address and reckon with old problems and their present legacies such as colonization, racism, and inequity. Consistent with the climate justice framework, I recommend a more critical approach to adaptation that is not so narrowly keyed to the temporality of climate change and that all future environment policy regarding Alaska Natives takes a rights-based approach.