Kristen M. Renberg, Ph.D.
In Peidlow v. Williams,1the supreme court held that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) requires a superior court that receives a tribal court order to first determine whether the order was issued in an ICWA child custody proceeding, and if it was, to follow the full faith and credit mandate of the ICWA. The Native Village of Barrow (NVB)took emergency custody of a child in September 2015. In November 2015,the superior court recognized that NVB had initiated a child in need of aid (CINA)case. Still, in April 2016, the superior court issued a final custody order that did not consider granting full faith and credit to the tribal court’s custody orders. In 2017,the tribal court requested to register a tribal court ICWA custody order. The superior court held the tribal court’s order was unenforceable because NVB lacked jurisdiction over the child and was not a party in the custody case before the superior court. The superior court also denied NVB’s additional motion to intervene in the custody case due to lack of jurisdiction. On appeal, the supreme court vacated the denial of the tribal court’s custody order, reasoning that the full faith and credit mandate of the ICWA requires states to grant full faith and credit to the judicial proceedings of any Indian tribe applicable to custody proceedings of any Indian child to the same extent of that the state gives full faith and credit to any other entity. The court further reasoned that Alaska CINA Rule 24(d)(1)-(2) provides that once the superior court received the request to register a tribal court ICWA custody decision from the tribal court, the superior court should have filed the order as a foreign judgment and distributed notice to relevant parties. The supreme court also noted that if the superior court had followed the correct procedure, then the parties in the custody case could have requested a hearing where the nature of the tribal court’s jurisdiction could have been raised. Vacating the superior court’s denial of the tribal court’s custody order, the supreme court outlined that when a superior court receives a tribal court order, it must first determine if the order was issued in an ICWA child custody proceeding, and if so, is required to follow the full faith and credit mandate of the ICWA.