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Indian Tribes are at the tip of the spear when it comes to climate change. Their dependence on their homelands for subsistence and cultural sustenance has made them vulnerable to climate-driven changes like sea level rise, shoreline erosion, and drought. As climate change makes their land less suitable for the animals and plants they depend on, tribes are facing increasing pressure to move to survive. Complicating any such move is its effect on tribal treaties that grant tribes sovereignty over their traditional land and their members. If tribes are forced to sever themselves from their homelands, will that affect their sovereignty; can their treaties migrate with them as they move to new land; where can tribes move to that will enable them to survive as distinct political sub-units in our federal system of government; and will these treaties make their assimilation into any new community impossible? This Article looks at these and many other questions in an attempt to understand how climate change may affect tribes as we know them today and begins to answer some of them. However, there are too many questions to answer in a single article. Therefore, this Article’s major contributions are identifying the problem and related questions and then proposing an analytical framework that separates legal from moral questions, and practical from constitutive ones, and contextualizes these questions in a rapidly changing physical world. Developing and applying this framework may help identify which institutions should try and answer the various questions raised in the Article, what tools they might be expected to use, and in what order the questions should be addressed.

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2017 Mich. St. L. Rev. 371-423