Tribes’ Statement on Paris Agreement Shows Limits of Tribal Authority

Mundahl, E. 2017. Tribes’ Statement on Paris Agreement Shows Limits of Tribal Authority.
Year Published

While the statements stress that the tribes are “sovereign nations,” this term does not mean that they have the same legal status as a foreign country, like France. The statement exposes the limits of tribal authority. Like any other private organization, tribes can adopt internal policies to promote values they support. At the same time, the United States government acknowledges a federal Indian trust responsibility, which encompasses both moral and legal obligations on the part of the government. It also limits tribal authority by granting certain responsibilities to the federal government. The Bureau of Indian Affairs describes this trust responsibility as “a legally enforceable fiduciary obligation on the part of the United States to protect tribal treaty rights, lands, assets, and resources, as well as a duty to carry out the mandates of federal law with respect to American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and villages.”