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Climate change is a global environmental problem, and yet, the adverse impacts of climate change are disproportionately felt in tribal communities. There are 574 federally recognized tribes in the United States. While each tribe is unique and independent, many tribes share a common history of colonization and a connection to the land—legally and culturally. The majority of tribal nations were removed from their traditional homelands and placed on reservations by the federal government. In doing so, the federal government established these reservations as a permanent home for the tribe. But that home is now threatened by climate change.

The article discusses the federal government’s legal obligations to protect Native Americans and the lands they occupy as well as the disproportionate impacts of climate change on tribal communities. Based upon an extensive review of literature on the nexus between science and law, we identify recommendations on how to better synchronize science and policy to address climate change. While these recommendations are made through the lens of climate change, we explain how they apply more broadly to the special relationship between tribal nations and the federal government.