The Klamath River has the “Legal Rights of a Person” a Yurok Tribe Resolution Establishing Rights Of The Klamath River

A Yurok Tribe resolution allows cases to be brought on behalf of the river as a person in tribal court.

Yurok Tribe declared rights of personhood for the Klamath River — likely the first to do so for a river in North America. A concept previously restricted to humans (and corporations), “rights of personhood” means, most simply, that an individual or entity has rights, and they’re now being extended to nonhumans.

According to the Yurok Tribe, the resolution “establishes the Rights of the Klamath River to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve; to have a clean and healthy environment free from pollutants; to have a stable climate free from human-caused climate change impacts; and to be free from contamination by genetically engineered organisms.”

Changing Currents

In 2019, the Yurok Tribe made a resolution recognizing rights of the Klamath River and gave it legal personhood. The resolution declares that the Yurok Tribal Council will adopt an ordinance establishing tribal law, which will grant the Klamath River standing in causes of action. The resolution came after many years of low water levels in the river, harming the river’s salmon population.

The Yurok’s resolution, passed by the tribal council in May, comes during another difficult season for the Klamath; over the past few years, low water flows have caused high rates of disease in salmon, and canceled fishing seasons.

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