top of page

Tribal Sovereignty and ICWA

NJP respects and advocates for tribal sovereignty and the rights of families to be healthy and whole as protected by the Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”). This has included representation of Tribes in individual families' ICWA cases as well as work on tribal codes and broader litigation to improve the child welfare system.

For instance, NJP advocated for and defended the Native Village of Selawik's sovereignty and jurisdiction over one of its member youth in a child protection case. This tribal court case was challenged in Alaska State Court as well as in federal court, Nikki Richman v. Native Village of Selawik, 3:22-cv-00280-JMK. NJP successfully had the federal court challenge to the Tribe's sovereignty dismissed.

The lawyers at NJP were also the lead lawyers in the landmark case in Alaska holding that Alaska tribes could sue to protect the rights of their people, as sovereigns. See Native Village of Curyung v. State of Alaska.

They were also the lead lawyers in the landmark ICWA case which held that if OCS wants to deviate from ICWA’s placement preferences, OCS had to present clear and convincing evidence, not merely the preponderance of evidence. See Native Village of Tununak v. State, 303 P.3d 431

NJP has assisted tribes with intervening in State ICWA cases, advocating to keep Native youth with family and fellow tribal citizens, and has assisted tribes with transferring ICWA cases to tribal court. NJP also advises tribes who wish to update their tribal court codes.

bottom of page