Date of Award

Spring 2023

Thesis Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Honors Bachelor of Arts


Public Administration


Eric Smaw

Committee Member

Donald Davison

Committee Member

Margaret McLaren


This paper evaluates U.S. policies regarding Indigenous land and water rights in the context of changing global climate conditions and a societal shift towards reparative justice models. Theories from the literature on Indigenous sovereignty and environmental protection at large, as well as the literature on reparative justice and post-colonial theory, are combined with case studies of environmental personhood in Ecuador and New Zealand to examine how a policy model could be created for the U.S. that strengthens Indigenous rights. It is argued that this colonial capitalist process has resulted in oppressive policies that harm Indigenous populations and negatively impact the environment. Two overarching research questions are addressed to support this argument. First, how have previous and current U.S. policymaking efforts impacted Indigenous groups and their ancestral environments? Secondly, how can a conception of environmental personhood be used as a possible policy framework for Land Back that addresses environmental protections while preserving Indigenous sovereignty in the U.S.? This paper argues for a new U.S. policy model that expands on "rights of nature" and environmental personhood frameworks; it combines green legislation, green state constitutions, and reform at the Bureau of Indian Affairs to increase Indigenous sovereignty and environmental protections.

Rights Holder

Matthew Alexander Deveaux

Included in

Public Policy Commons