River-Wide Approach Report

Expanding Tribal Capacity to Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Impacts in Interior Alaska Native Communities

Authored by Vic Hogg and Leah Kessler as a Harvard Kennedy School Master in Public Policy, Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE)

Executive Summary

While Alaska Natives have always been intimately involved in the stewardship of Alaskan ecosystems, their lifestyles and cultural practices are threatened as ecosystems rapidly decline due to climate change. Three of the most pressing risks to Interior Alaska Native tribes are wildfire, salmon decline, and permafrost melt.

Due to the fragmented nature of public funding programs and land management authorities, work to address climate impacts amongst Alaska Native communities tends to become siloed and reactionary. Because of this, community engagement also tends to be organized around one crisis and not the other. The Alaska Venture Fund (AVF) is launching a grant program to fund locally-led climate resiliency programs amongst Interior Alaska Tribes to answer: what solutions for community resilience and better stewardship of ecosystems lay at the intersection of these three climate crises and within Indigenous communities?

Two students at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) of Government attempted to answer this question through interviews with partners across grassroots organizations, state and federal government, and tribal leadership. The goal of this research is to more deeply understand success factors and pain points of existing tribally-led climate impact efforts, and to inform funding opportunities with these findings. Please note, this report is not analyzing the substantive steps that tribes should be taking in regards to climate change mitigation. Rather, this report provides an analysis of tribes’ organizational capacity to be in a good position to mitigate and adapt to climate impacts.

Based on their data collection and learned lessons analysis, the research team developed the following options for AVF and possible future funders to consider:



The report is structured into four overarching theme-based chapters: 1) Funding, 2) Transformative Intertribal Collaborations, 3) Tribal Advocacy, and 4) Long-Term Resilience. In each chapter the team has highlighted the pain points and needs they heard from community members and, from these, generated lessons learned, which are summarized in the table below.

Vic Hogg is a citizen of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi. They have a B.A. Psychology from Yale University and a Master in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. They have designed and delivered leadership programs to strengthen marginalized communities’ abilities to self-determine the solutions to their greatest issues, working with survivors of trafficking, high school youth, and neighborhood-based activists.  Following the COVID-19 pandemic, Vic pivoted to work in food access and education for adults with developmental disabilities. They are passionate about advancing indigenous sovereignty and advocating for land reparations for U.S. tribes, and currently manage the Civic Power Lab, a research hub at Harvard focused on building capacity for social movements globally.

Leah Kessler is originally from Atlanta, Georgia. She has a B.A. in Public Policy and a Minor in Biology from the University of Chicago and a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Leah is passionate about youth justice, anti-poverty policy, and climate and environmental policy. She has worked as a law clerk for an employee rights law firm, as a case planner at a Brooklyn-based foster care agency, and for the local and state governments of Anaheim with Mayor Ashley Aitken and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. She is a 2023 Presidential Management Fellow and has recently accepted a position as a Management and Program Analyst at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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