The decision is a major victory in the tribe’s decades-long fight for fishing rights.
The Metlakatla Indian Community tribal government argues that a 1891 law gives its modern-day members unfettered rights to commercially fish around Ketchikan and Prince of Wales Island.
Metlakatla Indian Community is the only federal reserve in Alaska and is not a part of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
Attorneys for the state argued that Congress never intended to grant Metlakatla the fishing rights the tribe claimed.
Metlakatla avoided the coronavirus for nearly eight months, but that streak ended Thursday.
The tribe says the state doesn’t have the right to require state fishing permits for tribal citizens in state waters.
The lawsuit argues that Congress, not the state of Alaska, granted Metlakatla Indian Community the Annette Islands Reserve — and an integral part of the reserve is access to traditional fisheries.