Natural Hazards and Indigenous Health in a Changing Climate


Natural hazards are one of the top seven climate change risks to Indigenous peoples’ health, as reported by Health Canada. According to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a natural hazard is not a human-made hazard; it is “an environmental phenomena that [has] the potential to impact societies and the human environment.” The Canadian Disaster Database offers an inventory of disasters affecting Canadians since 1900.

Natural hazards include:

  • Avalanches
  • Earthquakes
  • Floods
  • Hurricanes
  • Landslides
  • Severe storms
  • Storm surges
  • Tornadoes
  • Tsunamis
  • Wildfires

Natural hazards in the form of extreme weather and climate emergencies, like fires and floods, can cause land degradation, including permafrost degradation, and the destruction of spaces of cultural and environmental significance. These effects can increase the risk of human injury and fatalities as well as the loss of Indigenous traditional knowledge and skills about working with the land.

Indigenous peoples may become displaced from their traditional territories, as a result of natural hazards in a changing climate. Consequently, the emotional health of Indigenous peoples must also be considered in relation to climate-induced displacement. Much of the research in this area has focused on the lives of Inuit living in the Arctic, and more research is needed that involves other Indigenous communities.

Chapter 2 of the Health of Canadians in a Changing Climate: Advancing Our Knowledge for Action describes hazard mapping in Kashechewan First Nation and Peavin Métis Settlement’s FireSmart Program as ways of managing natural hazards and enhancing Indigenous health.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image Credit: Raychel Sanner, Unsplash)