Even before the holding, the Court brushes aside some pretty disturbing facts, including:
OCS noted that Casey might be affiliated with the Asa’carsamiut Tribe and that the children were believed to be Indian children affiliated with the Tribe. . . . In September the Tribe attempted to intervene. Because the Tribe’s documents were ambiguous about Casey’s tribal membership and the Tribe did not respond to the trial court’s request for clarification, in November the trial court denied the intervention motion without prejudice. At about the same time the trial court granted OCS’s motion to remove the children from Kent’s home.
In August 2013 OCS petitioned to terminate Kent’s and Casey’s parental rights, stating that the children were “not believed to be Indian children” and setting out the grounds for termination. In its order terminating Kent’s parental rights, the trial court first stated that it had made findings at various stages of the case that the children were not Indian children under ICWA, that no party had presented contrary information at trial or asked the court to reconsider its earlier rulings, and that the children were not Indian children under ICWA.
On the Expert Witness issue:
When determining whether a witness satisfies ICWA’s “qualified expert witness” requirement, we have considered the Bureau of Indian Affairs(BIA) Guidelines for State Courts; Indian Child Custody Proceedings (1979 BIA Guidelines). . . . In February 2015 — after the termination trial in this case but before the remand — the BIA adopted Guidelines for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings (2015 BIA Guidelines) to “supersede and replace the guidelines published in 1979.” Less than a month later the BIA published proposed new ICWA regulations to “complement [the] recently published Guidelines for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings.” The proposed regulations have not yet been adopted.
OCS argues that “because the BIA is in the process of adopting ICWA regulations whose final content is unknown, it would be premature for this court to consider overturning Alaska law on ICWA experts before knowing what the BIA’s final word on qualified experts is.” We agree. Final regulations have not yet been adopted and we thus cannot determine whether they will include such a requirement in the future. We decline to overrule our longstanding precedent based on the possibility that BIA regulations will require a different result in the future.