Current Cases & Projects | Native Villages of Eyak, Tatitlek, Chenega, Nanwalek, and Port Graham v. Evans
Native Villages of Eyak, Tatitlek, Chenega, Nanwalek, and Port Graham v. Evans
Attorney: Natalie Landreth
In this case, NARF represents five Chugach villages that sued the Secretary of Commerce to establish aboriginal rights to their traditional-use areas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) of Alaska, in Cook Inlet and the Gulf of Alaska. In 2002 the federal district court ruled against the Chugach. NARF appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which in 2004 en banc vacated the district court's decision and remanded for determination of whether the Tribes can establish aboriginal rights to the areas. After denials of summary judgment motions on the issue, trial on whether these Tribes hold aboriginal rights to hunt and fish in federal waters was held in August 2008. In August 2009 the court held that although the five Chugach Tribes had established that they had a "territory" and had proven they had used the waters in question, the Tribes could not hold aboriginal rights as a matter of law. The Chugach appealed to the Ninth Circuit en banc panel which retained jurisdiction over the case.
Oral argument was heard by the en banc panel on September 21, 2011. On July 31, 2012, a 6-5 majority of the Ninth Circuit en banc panel affirmed the district court's ruling that the Tribes failed to establish entitlement to non-exclusive aboriginal rights on the OCS. On November 28, 2012, the Tribes filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. To read the Tribes' petition, click here.