The federal government's scattershot treatment of Alaska Natives has long created confusion over the legal status and rights of Alaska Natives and Alaska Native entities. This confusion was center stage in the recent Supreme Court case, Yellen v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, involving "Indian Tribe" entitlement to CARES Act relief funds. To better understand the reason uncertainty remains after more than 150 years since the purchase of Alaska from Russia, and more than sixty years after Alaska's statehood, we must look to the unique history of Alaska Natives. Starting in the mid-1700s, this Article surveys the laws relating to the Native people of Alaska through the Russian colonial rule, the Alaska purchase, and the early territorial government, culminating with the jurisprudence of the late 19th century. This Article explains how Russian laws contributed to the framework for the unique development of Indian Law in Alaska.

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