The Stickwan family of Tazlina, Alaska operates a customary and traditional subsistence fish camp on the banks of the Copper River. The fish camp was originally located on the family’s Native Allotment, but in 1964 a shift in the Copper River’s channel required the Stickwans to move the family fish camp slightly downriver. Though only a short distance, the move placed the fish camp on land owned by the Catholic Archbishop of Alaska. The Archbishop had received the land in 1952 as a special federal land grant, with the reservation that the land would be used as a mission school for Alaska Natives.
The Stickwans continually operated their fish camp every year, but were informed in early 2014 that the Church planned to sell the school lands and that the family’s continued access to their camp would be lost. With NARF as their legal counsel, the Stickwans filed a complaint to establish quiet title to the land underlying their fish camp as well as a prescriptive easement to ensure their continued access. Within days the Church directed its attorneys to begin negotiating a settlement in favor of the Stickwans’ claims. Those settlement negotiations are ongoing.