• The Changing Legal Environment and ICWA in Alaska: A Regional Study

      Rieger, Lisa; Brown, Caroline (University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center, 2001-11)
      By 1974, according to the Association of American Indian Affairs, approximately 25 to 35 percent of all Indian children were separated from their families and placed in foster homes, adoptive homes, or institutions.The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was passed in 1978 in response to this overwhelming evidence that Native children were being adopted out of tribes at alarming rates. ICWA mandates that tribes and Alaska Native villages have jurisdiction over their child welfare cases, and mandates certain rules when Native children's cases are heard in state courts, including permitting the tribe to intervene in the state case at any time, higher levels of proof, and special evidentiary requirements. This report describes the current implementation status of ICWA in Interior and Southcentral Alaska, with an analysis of the changing legal environment and its significance for Alaska Native villages. In Alaska, recent changes in state law and state court acceptance of the tribal role in ICWA proceedings has legally eliminated state resistance to tribes transferring cases from state court to their own forums, and may lead to a change in the numbers of cases heard in tribal courts in Alaska.