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Press Release

Attorney General Issues AG Opinion on Tribal Sovereignty

October 20, 2017

(Anchorage, AK) – Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth issued a formal Attorney General Opinion today on the topic of tribal sovereignty. The Opinion outlines the laws and cases addressing tribal sovereignty and tribes’ inherent governmental authority over certain matters.

“There seem to be continuing questions on the status of tribes in Alaska, and the purpose of this Opinion was to put those issues to bed that have already been determined,” said Attorney General Lindemuth. “What we know definitively is that Alaska tribes are sovereign governmental entities with authority over a myriad of matters regardless of whether there is Indian country. What this Opinion does not do is opine on areas that have not yet been addressed by the courts. We wanted to narrow the universe of questions so that we are all working from the same foundation as new issues arise.”

Alaska has a unique history when it comes to Native law matters because of the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) and the fact that Alaska became a state relatively late. But both the federal and state courts have dealt with a number of legal questions on the status of Alaska tribes and the extent of a tribes’ jurisdiction since ANCSA was enacted. The Opinion attempts to synthesize all of the cases into one cohesive document that can be used as a resource and foundation moving forward.

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