The Search for Legal Remedies
Edited by Randall S. Abate and Elizabeth Ann Kronk
Chapter 10: Natural resource development and indigenous peoples
Historically, indigenous peoples in North America were divested of one or all of the following – land, sovereignty and control – when non-Indians wanted access to natural resources on tribal lands. In the modern era, as indigenous peoples asserted their legal and moral rights to control their own natural resources, these patterns of divestment changed. But greater control has often resulted in Native nations’ over-reliance on resource extraction for their economic needs. Renewable energy development presents the potential for tribes to maintain, and even increase, control over resource development on tribal lands, while they depart from an economic model dependent on resource extraction and its inevitable negative consequences, including climate change. Tackling climate change will require many strategies to mitigate dangerous increases in global average surface temperatures and to adapt to present and future impacts. With regard to mitigation, climate change presents tribes with opportunities to add renewable energy development to their economic portfolio. For many Native nations, doing so would allow cultural values to align with economic development in ways that could fulfil long-deferred goals of true indigenous self-determination. This chapter will review historical patterns of natural resource development and their effects on Native nations in the United States and will briefly outline the possibilities for different directions in the future.
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