Our Practice

Alaska Native Law

Sonosky Chambers is the Nation’s leading law firm representing Alaska Native interests.  The Firm’s work in Alaska is wide-ranging, including representation of Alaska Native Tribes, Alaska Native intertribal organizations and non-profits, tribally-controlled corporations, and Alaska Native corporations organized under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.  Our firm is regularly in the forefront of landmark litigation and non-litigation work to advance Alaska Native interests, and our partners are among the most respected practitioners in the field.

Our work embraces the entire range of tribal affairs, including sovereignty issues, federal and state relations, contracting and grant activities, self-governance, health care, transportation and infrastructure, elections, constitutional and code development, child welfare matters, and various internal tribal affairs.  Our work also includes litigation, and we frequently represent Alaska Tribes and intertribal organizations in disputes with federal and state agencies.  This includes the successful resolution of hundreds of millions of dollars in tribal disputes with the U.S. Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  

In addition litigation over federal contracting matters, our firm has participated in most of the key litigation that has occurred over the past 30 years to define Alaska Native tribal rights, including: John v. Baker, 982 P.2d 738 (Alaska 1999), cert. denied 528 U.S. 1182 (2000) (upholding federal recognition of Alaska Tribes and holding Tribes possess inherent sovereignty over their members); YKHC v. TIPSA, 884 F. Supp. 1360 (D. Alaska 1994)  (upholding tribal rights against insurance companies); Native Village of Venetie v. State of Alaska, 944 F.2d 548 (9th Cir. 1991) (upholding Alaska tribal rights to demand full faith and credit from the State for tribal child welfare decrees); Matter of 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1985 Delinquent Property Taxes Owed City of Nome, Alaska, 780 P.2d 363 (Alaska 1989) (upholding immunity of Nome Eskimo Community from city property taxes assessed on tribal property outside Indian country); Sitka Tribe of Alaska v. Lujan, No. A91-492 CIV (D. Alaska 1986) (ordering Secretary of the Interior to resume tribal constitutional elections in Alaska); the several Katie John litigations (upholding the federal government’s takeover of fish and game subsistence regulations); YKHC v. Int’l Brotherhood of Teamsters, 341 NLRB No. 139 (May 28, 2004) (holding YKHC exempt as a tribal health care provider from the National Labor Relations Act); American Dental Association v. Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, 3AN-06-4797CI (Alaska. Sup. Ct. 2006) (upholding the dental health aid program against state regulation); Kaltag Tribal Council v. Jackson, No. 08-35343 (9th Cir. Aug. 28, 2009) (unpub’d), cert. denied sub nom. Hogan v. Kaltag Tribal Council, 131 S. Ct. 66 (2010) (upholding inherent tribal jurisdiction to adjudicate tribal adoption involving non-Native father, and to dead full faith and credit from State); State of Alaska v. Native Village of Tanana, 249 P.3d 734 (Alaska 2011) (co-counsel) (Alaska Supreme Court ruling reaching same conclusion as Kaltag courts); McCrary v. Ivanof Bay Village, 265 P.3d 337 (2011) (upholding tribal sovereign immunity); Southcentral Foundation v. Roubideaux, No. 13-164, Dkt. 77 (D. Alaska Sept 23, 2014) (holding IHS liable for failing to add contract support costs to certain tribally-contracted operations); and Healy Lake Village v. Mt. McKinley Bank, 322 P.3d 826 (Alaska 2014) (holding Alaska state courts have no jurisdiction to interfere in tribal elections).  We have also worked closely with the Native American Rights Fund in several tribal matters, including supporting NARF’s successful lands-into-trust litigation known as Akiachak Native Community v. Jewel, No. 06-969, Dkt. 109 (D.D.C. Mar. 13, 2013), on reconsideration Dkt. 130 (D.D.C. Sept. 30, 2013).

As the foregoing cases reflect, our firm also represents several Alaska Native non-profit regional and statewide health and social service organizations.  Here, much of our work, like our individual tribal work, involves the negotiation and administration of compacts and contracts between these entities and the Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Federal Highway Administration.  It also involves the development of revenue sources that allow tribal health organizations to flourish, and advising clients on the complex and always changing requirements of major health care laws.  We provide Alaska tribal organizations with advice and advocacy relating to all federal and state programs that impact Alaska Natives, including lobbying Congress and federal agencies, participation in negotiated rulemaking, and leadership in groundbreaking national and statewide litigation initiatives.

Our Alaska Native Law work also includes representing village and regional corporations organized under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.  This work covers the full range of general corporate and business law, including 8(a) issues, state and federal land questions, construction contracts and disputes, human resource problems, day-to-day corporate operations and procedures, annual election issues, timber and other resource extraction issues, and litigation before state and federal courts and administrative tribunals.  ANCSA corporate law is an ever evolving field, and our Alaska Native work includes substantial work for “ANCs.”