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Climate Change at the White Earth Reservation--Robert Shimek

As told by Robert Shimek
White Earth Indian Reservation, Minnesota

Story Narrative:

This story was collected as part of a collaborative effort to record the state of American lakes, rivers, and waterways as well an attempt to uncover what water means to Americans. Listen to other stories recorded for the Be Here: Main Street project, a collaboration with the MuseWeb Foundation to record stories from rural America. 

“My name is Robert Shimek. I live out on the Mary Yellowhead area here of the White Earth Indian Reservation. The last thing I want to say about the water has to do with the impacts of climate change. I think this is probably one of the most disturbing challenges that we, not only here at White Earth, but people everywhere, all over the world, are faced with. The changing patterns of precipitation, the changing patterns in temperatures. Just for the record, it is January 19, 2017. Daytime temperatures are expected to be around 40 degrees today, 40 degrees above zero here at White Earth. Last week at this time it was 40 below.

We're used to the extremes, but the problem we have here is right now we don't see an end to this 40 degree weather, the middle of January. This is typically some of the coldest times of the year, and right now we're having some of the warmest times of the entire winter. How that's going to effect precipitation patterns, we don't know yet. Some of us were here the winter of '96, '97 when we had a 10 foot snow pack here at White Earth. We had 10 feet of snow. There was 120 inches of snow that year, and the devastating effects it had when it all melted, and went out into the Red River Valley, and flooded.

As things stand right now, politically, we as a nation do not have the will to really do anything meaningful about it. I first read about climate change in the Seattle Times in 1987. We were talking about it then. We're still talking about it, but what are we doing? The weather is so extreme now. That's one of my bigger concerns. You come back here in 100 years, and we visit again. Chances are it's going to be a very different landscape, if we do nothing.”

Asset ID #3907

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