Sea level rise, erosion, and permafrost thaw are threatening to displace coastal and low-lying Indigenous communities in the United States. These communities are now faced with the challenge of climate-induced relocation. This paper presents three case studies from Kivalina and Newtok, Alaska, and Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, to examine the implications of displacement on these communities and propose an international standard for resettlement and relocation rooted in a human rights framework.
These three communities are already facing the devastating consequences of climate change and have begun preparations to relocate. However, the U.S. government has provided them little assistance with their resettlement. In fact, current policies limit the amount of government support and funds available to these communities for relocation and instead channel assistance and funding toward the existing at-risk areas.
In response to the inadequate levels of assistance, the authors propose creating a unified federal agency and relocation policy to coordinate resettlement efforts. This new approach should advocate for the rights and desires of Indigenous people and maintain their tribal rights to determination and preservation. If successful, this approach can serve as a model for relocation policy globally.