Current Issue

  • Volume 35,
  • Number 1 -
  • June 2018

Note from the Editor


The 2017 Tax Act and Settlement Trusts
Bruce N. Edwards

By any measure, the enactment of the Alaska Native provisions of the 2017 Tax Act was an extraordinary achievement by the Alaska congressional delegation. Although the ANCSA Amendments Act of 1987 first permitted Alaska Native Corporations to establish “settlement trusts” to benefit their shareholders, relatively few settlement trusts have been established to date due to various obstacles posed by the Internal Revenue Code. The 2017 Tax Act removed a significant hurdle by permitting Alaska Native Corporations to claim a tax deduction for transfers to a settlement trust, thereby allowing such transfers to occur on a pre-tax basis rather than on the after-tax basis as was the rule prior to the new legislation. The 2017 Tax Act also provides tax certainty with regard to assignments to a settlement trust of certain payments required by ANCSA such as those under section 7(j), which should encourage Alaska Native Corporations to use such assignments to fund settlement trusts in convenient annual installments. To the extent that ambiguities exist as to the Alaska Native provisions of the Act, those provisions should be interpreted in favor of the Alaska Native entities and individuals that seek to utilize those provisions in accordance with canons of statutory construction for Indian Law and ANCSA.


“Sources of Alaska Legal History: An Annotated Bibliography” by W. Clinton “Buck” Sterling
Samuel G. Gottstein


Fresh Eyes: Young v. State’s New Eyewitness Identification Test and Prospects for Alaska and Beyond
Savannah Hansen Best

This Note evaluates recent developments in Alaska’s eyewitness identification admissibility doctrine under the 2016 case Young v. Alaska . For the past four decades, federal and most state courts have relied on the Supreme Court’s 1977 ruling in Manson v. Brathwaite , which identified five admissibility factors—known as the “Biggers factors”—for establishing the reliability of eyewitness identifications made under the influence of unnecessarily suggestive police procedures (“systemic variables”). In recent decades, however, social and psychological science has demonstrated the flaws in the five Biggers factors as reliability indicators and the impact of non-suggestive circumstantial (or “estimator”) variables on eyewitness identification reliability. In Young , Alaska joined New Jersey and Oregon as the third state to break from Brathwaite , employing a new and evolving admissibility test with scientific support, consideration of both systemic and estimator variables, and a call for corresponding jury instructions.

Breaking Barriers to Renewable Energy Production in the North American Arctic
Henrik Strand

As climate change continues to affect our lives, the communities at the northern extremes of our world have witnessed the changes most profoundly. In the Arctic, where climate change is melting permafrost and causing major shoreline erosion, remote communities in Alaska and northern Canada are particularly vulnerable. Furthermore, these communities have limited access to electrical grids and bear oppressive energy costs relying on diesel generators. While some communities have started to incorporate renewable energy into their hamlets and villages, progress has generally been limited with the notable exception of Canada’s Northwest Territories and some coastal communities in western Alaska. During its latest stint as chair of the Arctic Council, the United States outlined community renewable energy in the Arctic as one of its primary goals. This Note focuses on regulatory and practical policy solutions to make that goal possible. It draws on examples from industrialized countries, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as examples from developing countries, such as India and Peru, to examine solutions for the technical, economic, regulatory, and community engagement problems that Arctic communities in Alaska face when setting up new energy projects. Additionally, this Note describes the current political structure of Alaskan villages under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and argues that Alaska Native Corporations should play a role in developing clean, cheap energy sources for their shareholders. Finally, this Note argues that public-private partnerships, like the non-profit Arctic Energy Alliance in the Northwest Territories, shows that clean, renewable energy projects for rural Arctic villages are possible throughout the Arctic. This Note draws lessons from other communities throughout the world and attempts to apply them to the unique situations that remote northern Alaska communities face regarding access to clean, renewable energy.