The Yurok Tribe is one of the first two indigenous nations in the U.S. to receive the United Nations Development Programme’s Equator Prize, awarded Sept. 24.
The honor is an acknowledgement of the tribe’s climate-change mitigation work, which merges traditional ecological knowledge with western science to help restore forests. Rehabilitating biologically diverse woodland habitats is critical to resolving the climate crisis, said tribal officials.
“The Yurok Tribe is proof positive that it is possible to live in harmony with the environment in the 21st Century,” said Councilmember Mindy Natt, who will be attending the UN’s 74th General Assembly. “As we restore biodiversity to our forests, we are creating a landscape and a community that is resilient to climate change.”
Yurok Tribal Councilmembers Lana McCovey and Natt represented the tribe at the Equator Prize Award Ceremony, held at the Town Hall Theater in New York City. A short film highlighting the tribe’s forest stewardship was shown to the attending government officials, news media and celebrities.
“We are incredibly honored to accept the Equator Prize on behalf of the Yurok people,” said McCovey. “Similar to tribal nations all over the globe, our culture, quality of life and economy require intact forests to flourish.”
The Equator Prize acknowledges efforts to reduce poverty through environmentally sound projects. This year’s 22 winners were selected from 847 nominations across 127 countries. In addition to the recognition, each recipient received $10,000.
Residing along the Klamath River in far northern California, the Yurok Tribe is the most-populous Native American nation in the state. For millennia, the Yurok people say they’ve enjoyed a comfortable existence anchored by the Klamath’s salmon runs, abundant game and edible plants.
They said that has allowed the tribe time to develop a complex system of governance, a thriving economy and varied artwork.
The Yuroks now are in the middle of their most-substantial growth period in modern times. For example, the tribal government and tribe-affiliated workforce recently has grown to more than 400 individuals, most of whom are Yurok citizens.
A large number of the tribe’s staff are involved in natural resources enhancement projects.