The most severe impacts resulting from environmental degradation are experienced by already-vulnerable populations, including Indigenous peoples. A growing number of countries are formally recognizing the basic human right to a healthy environment, which can help realize environmental and climate justice for these communities. On July 28, 2022, the United Nations General Assembly passed a landmark resolution formally recognizing the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. The adoption of this resolution represents a pivotal moment in the understanding and implementation of a human rights-based approach to protecting the environment. However, it is important to recognize that historically, Indigenous peoples have recognized and practiced the principles that make up the contemporary concept of a human right to a healthy environment. The unique relationship Indigenous peoples have with the environment and their traditional knowledges are increasingly being recognized and can help inform further efforts to implement the right to a healthy environment by countries that have yet to do so, such as the United States.

This Article begins by defining the human right to a healthy environment. The Article then outlines how the right to a healthy environment was secured at the international level. Such efforts have often involved the successful merger of Indigenous values, environmental law, and human rights, resulting in a harmony of equitable and productive environmental governance. The Article subsequently examines the potential implementation of this right within the United States and what Tribal Nations have to contribute to the dialogue. Indigenous communities have been and are instrumental in advancing laws and policies aimed at reducing environmental and climate injustices. Accordingly, the Article concludes with recommendations on how Indigenous voices can continue to be elevated and the basic human right to a healthy environment obtained for all.