Courtney Lewis


Alaska has a disproportionate number of Alaska Native youth in foster care, and an overburdened and understaffed state child welfare agency. This Article argues that Alaska should enact a state statute to provide clear guidance to state child welfare practitioners and state courts that Alaska’s state government recognizes an Indian custodianship created through Tribal law or custom as a pathway for Indian children to exit the overburdened state foster care system. Alaska’s state government has progressed from initially refusing to recognize Tribal family law to recognizing a Tribal adoption as a pathway for an Indian child to exit the state foster care system. Extending the explicit recognition to Indian custodianships is the next logical step and has the added benefit of reducing the burden on the distressed state child welfare system. A state statute is the best mechanism for achieving this extension because a review of the history of Alaska’s executive branch and Tribal recognition shows the problems of determining state-Tribal relations through the executive branch of government alone, and the legislature, vested with the duty to create law, is the appropriate branch to provide legal guidance.

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