May 13, 2020 Feature

Codifying the Rights of Nature: The Growing Indigenous Movement

By Geneva E. B. Thompson

On May 9, 2019, the Yurok Tribal Council passed a resolution declaring the rights of the Klamath River and provided a legal avenue for the Klamath River to have its rights adjudicated in Yurok Tribal Court.1 The Yurok Tribe’s goal in passing the resolution was to secure the highest protections for the Klamath River in direct response to its imperiled health. The Klamath River has seen increasing harms of point and nonpoint source pollutants entering its waters, rises in temperature due to dams and climate change, and large toxic algae blooms poisoning its waters. The Yurok Tribe is not the first indigenous nation2 to pass legislation declaring rights to nature, but it is one of the leaders in the growing movement to ensure legal forums are available for representing nature when it suffers from ecological harm.3

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