John M. "Sky" Starkey

John M. "Sky" Starkey
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I like to understand my clients’ perspectives by spending time with them on the river or on their traditional lands.

Sky litigates in the federal district courts, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Alaska Superior Courts and the Alaska Supreme Court, and appears before state and federal administrative regulatory boards and agencies. He advocates before the Alaska Legislature and the U.S. Congress and Executive Branch.

He has decades of experience representing Alaska Native tribes and tribal organizations, local rural governments and Native corporations on a wide variety of issues, including tribal and subsistence rights, Indian Child Welfare Act cases, natural resource protection and allocation, state and federal political and legislative actions, Native allotments and co-management opportunities.

Sky is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Lakota Tribe, Eagle Butte, South Dakota.

More Bio
Sky likes to explore Alaska through camping, boating and hiking, listening to and playing music, and tending his flower and berry gardens.
Admitted to Practice
  • Alaska
  • Federal District Courts
  • Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • U. S. Supreme Court
  • North Carolina State University, B.S., 1984
  • University of Oregon School of Law, J.D., 1986
Memberships & Recognition
  • Alaska Federation of Natives service award, 2003
Select Publications and Presentations

Co-Management in Alaska: An Alternative to Dual Management, continuing legal education conference for the Alaska Bar Association.

A Broken System – The Federal Subsistence Board, the Office of Subsistence Management, and the Weakening of the Regional Advisory Councils, Alaska Federation of Natives Subsistence Leadership Forum.

Protection of Alaska Native Customary and Traditional Hunting and Fishing Rights Through Title VIII of ANILCA, 33 Alaska Law Review 315-328, 2016.

Alaska Native Aboriginal Title Claims in the Thawing Arctic Ocean:  A Tribal Seat on the Arctic Council; 8th Polar law symposium, University of Alaska, Anchorage, 2015.

Notable Appellate Cases and Representation

Counsel for the Alaska Native delegation, and one of the negotiators for the United States, for amendments to the Migratory Bird Treaty between the United States and Canada establishing the right of the indigenous inhabitants of Alaska to their customary and traditional subsistence uses of migratory birds a co-management council composed of Native Village, state and federal representatives.

Counsel for the Alaska Native Subsistence Halibut Working Group in establishing a tribal halibut subsistence fishery through the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, the first and thus far only federally recognized tribal fishery applicable to Alaska tribes with customary and traditional use of halibut.

Counsel in Native Village of Quinhagak v. United States, 35 F.3d. 388 (Ninth Cir. 1994) holding that the subsistence rights provided under Title VIII of ANILCA protect a way of life rather than merely access to a primary food resource.

Counsel in Native Village of Quinhagak v. United States, 307 F.3d. 1075 (Ninth Cir. 2002) holding that successful subsistence litigants are entitled to collect attorneys’ fees and costs against the losing governmental party for legal services provided during the administrative phase of proceedings as opposed to only collecting fees for litigating the case after a complaint has been filed in court.

Counsel in Kwethluk IRA Council v. Alaska, 740 F. Supp. 765 (D. Alaska 1990), a case that helped clarify that management of subsistence rights under Title VIII of ANILCA is to cause the least adverse impact on subsistence users.

Represented Kwethluk in State v. Morry and Kwethluk IRA Council, 836 P.2d 358 (Alaska 1992), in which the Alaska Supreme Court held that the Alaska Board of Game violated the law by regulating subsistence uses of brown bears under the same restrictions put in place for trophy sport hunts and that the Board could, in its discretion, enact regulations based on the tribe’s customary and traditional hunting practices.

Counsel for Alaska tribes in negotiating the Secretarial Orders for the United States Departments of Interior and Commerce for implementing the Endangered Species Act in Alaska.  The Secretarial Orders recognize tribal subsistence rights and exemptions related to the ESA and provide for tribal consultation and cooperative management. Endangered Species Act and Subsistence Uses in Alaska, Secretarial Order No. 3225 (January 19, 2001).

Represented the Native Village of Tyonek and the Cook Inlet Marine Mammal Commission In the Matter of Proposed Regulations Governing the Taking of Cook Inlet, Alaska, Beluga Whales by Alaska Natives, United States Department of Commerce, Docket No. 000922272-0272-01, the first case in Alaska under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to implement the “depletion” provision in the Act under which the government can regulate subsistence take by Alaska Natives.

Co-counsel in Peninsula Marketing Association v. Rosier, 890 P.2d 567 (Alaska 1995) representing Native Villages over interception by commercial fisheries of chum salmon stocks taken by subsistence users in the AVCP, TCC and Kawerak regions of Alaska.

Co-counsel in Native Village of Elim v. State, 990 P.2d 1 (Alaska 1999) for Native villages challenging the Board of Fisheries implementation of the Sustained Yield clause in Alaska’s Constitution.

Represented Ahtna Tene Nene’ in Alaska Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fund v. Board of Fisheries and Ahtna Tene Nene’, 289 P.3d 903 (Alaska 2012), a case holding that Alaska’s subsistence law is intended to protect the “traditional, social and cultural relationship to the harvest and use of Alaska’s wild renewable resources.”

Represented Ahtna Tene Nene’ in Alaska Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fund v. State of Alaska and Ahtna Tene Nene’, 347 P.3d 97 (Alaska 2015) and Manning v. State of Alaska and Ahtna Tene Nene’, 355 P.3d 530 (Alaska 2015) affirming Board of Game actions creating a community subsistence hunt based on the community pattern of customary and traditional uses established by Ahtna Native Villages.

Represented three Alaska Native subsistence fishermen in Estrada v. State, 362 P.3d 1021 (Alaska 2015), in which the Alaska Supreme Court reversed the Alaska Court of Appeals and dismissed charges against subsistence fishermen because the regulations they were charged with violating were not adopted consistent with the APA.

Counsel for the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission in the development of the Subsistence Fishery Cooperative Management Memorandum of Understanding with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, 2016.

Counsel to the Ahtna Inter-Tribal Resource Commission in the development of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Interior for cooperative management of subsistence wildlife resources on federal lands within Ahtna’s traditional territory.