"U.S. courts rarely favor environmental protections as a right — except when it comes to tribes expressing their treaty rights."
"Over the years that Ray Fryberg Sr. has worked at the Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Department, he’s watched climate change subtly reshape the region. Located near the cool waters of Puget Sound in Washington state, the tribe is actively dealing with the already-apparent transformation of traditional territories: eroding shorelines, raising spring tides, and warming waters that hurt salmon by pushing food sources north. “Climate change is an everyday topic in our office,” Fryberg says. “The tribes seem to be the last bit of a vanguard the environment has.”
Over the past several decades, tribal nations have fought on that environmental vanguard through the powerful mechanism of treaty rights. This has won tribes major victories for land and water rights, as well as stalled or defeated coal terminals and gas pipelines. To date, none have directly used treaty rights to tackle climate change head on. But across Indian Country, as climate threats become clearer, more are beginning to wonder: Why not?
Can tribal nations successfully sue the federal government over climate change-related violations of treaties? And if so, what would that look like?"