Kanaka Bar Indian Band: Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment

Kanaka Bar and its membership undertook the Kanaka Bar Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment in 2018 to understand its vulnerabilities, prepare for a community transition, and develop adaptation strategies to protect its environment and economy from future climate change impacts. Kanaka Bar Indian Band is located 18 kilometers South of Lytton in the BC’s Fraser Canyon region, on the western border of the Thompson Okanagan and is known as ‘Canada’s Hot Spot’ which is consistently one of the hottest places in BC. They are one of fifteen Indigenous communities that make up the Nlaka’pamux Nation. Kanaka Bar’s ancestors knew that to survive, one needs air, water, food, shelter, energy and communications. With these elements in mind and connecting today’s science with traditional knowledge, Kanaka Bar has developed programs, plans, projects, and initiatives to ensure that they will be self-sustaining and resilient, and thus able to maintain all 6 foundational physiological elements for generations to come. Kanaka Bar’s climate change journey starts with awareness and community engagement. Kanaka Bar has been observing changes around them like temperature ups and downs, precipitation irregularities, increased droughts, weird wind, higher wildfire threats and loss of wild salmon. Risks, probabilities, and consequences were written down in a report which also includes adaptation strategies focused on Kanaka Bar’s key vulnerabilities, water supply, forest fires, access to traditional foods and community access roads. The list of adaptation strategies was also written as “High Priority” and “Secondary Priority” to help support Kanaka Bars allocation of resources (people, time, technology, and money) towards measures that best support community resilience. Throughout their journey, Kanaka, as a collective, utilizes existing technology to gather site specific data, analyses and compare to forecasted “risks, probability and consequences” and implement transition and adaption strategies and ensuring Kanaka story is shared so that others can learn and make their own path forward.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Kanaka Bar’s journey with climate change began with both awareness and acceptance of climate change. Kanaka intuitively knows that the impacts they are facing in their community (forest fires, flooding, air quality, smoke inversion layers, wind events, power failures, changed precipitation patterns and heat) will increase in frequency, duration and intensity with even greater adverse impacts forecasted on local area systems (food, electrical, transportation etc.). To further understand the impacts on their community, Kanaka undertook a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment. They applied a three phase strategic planning process that relied on local input (community engagement), traditional knowledge, and a scientific assessment of climate change impacts. Examples of community member observations was gathered at a community engagement sessions and included: lower quantity and quality of berries and other plants; increased flooding of roads, basements, septic fields and culvert during spring months; and poor air quality associated with forest fires. A group discussion facilitated in 2018 identifying and developing an inventory of community values and concerns. Information was presented to the community on observed and future climate change projections. For example, data from the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC) and ClimateBC was used to produce regional and site specific projections to the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s time periods, which showed projections focused on temperature, precipitation, and streamflow. The results indicated that future changes may include: warmer year-round temperatures; more precipitation in the spring, fall and winter and less in the summer; less snow and more rain; more frequent and intense storm events; changes in surface water resources; continued stressed on salmon populations; changes in traditional foods; and an increase risk of forest fire. Combining this information with the community feedback, areas were identified that indicate the greatest vulnerabilities and highest community priorities, including: water resources; forest fires; traditional foods; access roads.

Identifying Actions

Kanaka worked to understand the uncertain future by first completing a Land Use Plan (2015), Community Economic Development Plan (2016) and Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment (2018). The Kanaka Bar Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment used an integrated methodology, informed by climate change and hydrologic analyses, traditional knowledge and scientific research. This was further complemented by community engagement sessions and secondary research. Using the values and areas of concern identified by the community, the 2018 Assessment also set out priority areas for adaptation planning. The approach contained elements from a variety of vulnerability and adaptation planning frameworks, such as the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) Implementation Framework for Climate Change Adaptation Planning at a Watershed Scale. The approach to assessing the vulnerability of Kanaka Bar to climate change included four main project phases: Phase 1 (A baseline assessment and analysis of climate change projections and impacts to water resources). Phase 2 (Community engagement sessions and discussions with community leadership and staff to gather traditional knowledge, record climate observations, and identify key values and areas of concern). Phase 3 (Vulnerability assessment of community values and areas of concern, based on climate projections impacts to water resources and more broadly the Traditional Territory). Phase 4 (The identification of initial adaptation strategies that can be advanced to reduce community vulnerability and enhance resiliency). Priority adaptation items focus on: water resources, forest/wildfire, traditional foods, support self-sufficiency, and youth and community engagement and education. The list of adaptation strategies include both “High Priority” and “Secondary Priority” adaptation measures for each area. For example, under water resources: install weather monitoring stations in the community (High priority), and assess and monitor the hydrology of the upper watershed lakes (Secondary priority).


Kanaka has implemented around the clock monitoring of air quality, water resources, weather, and proactively reducing the risk of wildfires. Kanaka has installed 3 weather stations; 5 of 7 water gauging stations; 12 solar projects; 4 wind monitoring stations, and 1 air quality monitor. This creates site-specific empirical weather data that is used to plan and prepare for changes. Data produced is checked frequently and a written record produced focusing on frequency, duration, and intensity (FDI) events. As weather events increase, Kanaka can adjust their proactive investments, schedule and budgets to create resiliency in the memberships 6 core areas: air, water, food, shelter, energy and communications. Resiliency Centers are also under way (where air, water, food, shelter, energy, and communications are maintained). A Community Building at Upper Kanaka will be built in Spring 2021 act as a gathering place and an Emergency Operations Center. The building will be connected to BC Hydro’s grid but also powered by the community’s own solar, wind and small hydro in the scenario that they were to lose power – the building purposes and functions would not be lost. The building can act as a battery charged cooling center in summer and a heating center in winter where cell service, internet and lights continue to work – regardless of any regional emergency. These same features are being duplicated at a Lower Kanaka Amenities Building, and at a Must Stop Rest Stop (MSRS) on Highway1. The MSRS will also serve as an educational platform to show visitors how to be climate resilient by showcasing proactive investments in renewable energy, food, employment, and financial security initiatives at a local level. With 24-hour year-round operations, MSRS will be an oasis for travelers to safely stop during bad weather events, accidents, and road closures. Kanaka is also currently in the design phase Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) to produce fresh fruits and vegetables year-round as filed crops and greenhouses are phased out.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

The Vulnerability Assessment represents the first important step to understanding future climate scenarios, in particular, how these scenarios could influence water resources and the overall health and well-being of the community. From the Vulnerability Assessment, Kanaka Bar is implementing adaptive projects in response to climate change impacts which reduce adverse impacts on the community by getting the community and civil infrastructure ready to the now known and foreseeable changes that are coming. The adaptation strategy outlines a list of preliminary adaptation strategies for each of key vulnerabilities – referred to as Adaptation Themes (i.e. water supply, forest fires, access to traditional foods and community access roads). Each vulnerability has categories of “High Priority” and “Secondary Priority” adaptation measures. Climate projections for the Kanaka Bar Territory and community vulnerabilities are now well understood, implementation of adaptation options requires careful planning and site-specific data and comparison of new data to forecasts. A new staff member called the Kanaka Lands Coordinator monitors the installed instruments at Kanaka, compares to projections and forecasts and reports changes to Council regularly. In some cases, additional information may be required to understand systems and impacts better (ie glacial melt and bathymetry) to determine the best course of action. This may require additional assessments, cost benefit analyses, and long-term planning efforts, whereas some actions can be implemented with relatively low cost and effort. While some communities and businesses may have overlooked climate change monitoring initiatives, the community of Kanaka Bar time and time again have been leaders in environmentally sustainable practices that have made a difference for their community, the Fraser Canyon region of BC and our planet.

Next Steps

Kanaka Bar’s vision is to stay committed to using its lands and resources to maintain a self-sufficient, sustainable and vibrant community. Kanaka will continue to track status quo and changes to the six core areas, (in order: air, water, food, shelter, energy, and communications), share them, and share what they are doing to prepare for climate change impacts and adapt. Kanaka will continue to invest in sustainable infrastructure and have already instituted the first proactive steps to becoming a 100% sustainable food self-sufficient community. Their current 5 year plan (known as a Community Economic Development Plan – CEDP) is coming to a close so they are currently developing a new 5 Year Plan titled, Community Resilience Plan (CRP) to be in place from 2021 to 2026. The CRP will give governance a 5-year listing of deliverables with priorities and schedules. Kanaka plan is to continue focusing on the 6 physiological foundations that are impacted by climate change. Kanaka will continue to prepare for the environment and economy of tomorrow so that their children and grandchildren will have the same as, if not more opportunity, than the generations of today. At Kanaka, it is acknowledged that climate change comes with both physical and psychological impacts and people are worried. Thus, Kanaka will continue to share freely its story so that all persons can learn about and embrace proactive change.


Link to Full Case Study

Additional Resources:

If you would like to learn more about Indigenous peoples experiences and stories in a changing climate, visit the Indigenous Climate Hub. You can also find on the platform a number of climate change resources tools for Indigenous peoples to monitor and adapt to the ever-changing climate.

Be part of the Hub to exchange knowledge and experiences with other Indigenous climate change leaders working on similar issues, by signing-up here: https://indigenousclimatehub.ca/members-network/