Indigenous communities are often on the front-lines of climate change, and for tribes such as the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe (PACIT) that make their homes and livelihoods in the dynamic landscapes of Coastal Louisiana (USA), sea-level rise, subsidence, and land loss are very real reminders of why they must continue to hone their adaptive capacity that has evolved over many generations and continues to evolve as the pace of change quickens. PACIT members have an inherited wisdom about their surrounding environment and continue to build on that body of observational knowledge that is passed from generation to generation to sustain themselves in this dynamic landscape. This knowledge is woven through their culture and is sometimes referred to as traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). The PACIT and other Indigenous communities around the world are using creative strategies to adapt to the impacts of climate change that include partnering with researchers to combine their TEK with science in approaches to enhance strategies dealing with climate change impacts, mitigation, and adaptation. Tribes and other Indigenous communities often have a strong connection to place that helps to inspire innovative ideas to promote greater sustainability of vulnerable ecosystems and the communities that depend on them, but not the institutional support to implement them. Overcoming this barrier requires a better understanding of their perception of the issues and what they prioritize in sustaining their cultures and the ecosystems on which they depend. Better inclusion of their knowledge into applied research is necessary to support these communities in their efforts to make sure their knowledge is recognized, understood, and valued in environmental management applications. The primary goal for this study was to develop a decision-support tool that aids the PACIT in assessing local ecological change and associated risks to the Tribe’s resilience. Using remote sensing datasets and geographic information systems (GIS) processes to represent aspects of the Tribe’s TEK to achieve this goal, we developed methods for producing interactive maps that reflect local perceptions of landscape features within the Tribe’s ecosystem-dependent livelihood base that contribute most to the community’s physical vulnerability to coastal hazards. This case study is offered to consider how Indigenous communities like the PACIT are shaping their own coastal hazards mitigation planning efforts in line with their unique needs, cultural practices, and values. The results of this study can provide relevant insight to applied environmental scientists and others working with Indigenous communities that are facing similar circumstances around the world.
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