Sigvanna (Meghan) Topkok
Staff Attorney, Kawerak, Inc.
Elected City Council Member
President for the National Native American Law Student Association, the Native American Law Students Association, Environmental Natural Resource Law Center Fellow, and served on the Journal on Environmental Law and Litigation.
Sigvanna (Meghan) Topkok is Inupiaq, an attorney, and a Nome city council member. She credits Oregon Law Professor in Practice Howie Arnett with helping her survive law school and end up on the path she is on now. She credits her involvement in NALSA with helping her connect her to other Native students, and students interested in Indian Law, across the country, which has been invaluable to her as a new attorney working in the field.
Currently, she serves as the Staff Attorney at a tribal consortium, Kawerak which is located in Nome, Alaska, her hometown. She is also on Nome’s City Council.
Sigvanna began her position with Kawerak, Inc. in Nome about two years ago in 2018. Through this position she provides day to day legal services to the 20 tribes in the Bering Strait region. She assists tribes with elections (from being an election judge to helping them follow their election codes), works with tribes on state child welfare cases involving tribal children, helps tribes build up their tribal courts and police forces, and assists with tribal employee personnel issues.
“My ultimate goal as relates to my career is to empower our tribal governments to function at their fullest capacity and to take over services from the state and federal governments. I strongly believe that our tribes know what is best for their tribal citizens, and I love being in a position where I can support tribes in taking the steps to carry out that vision.”
“Rarely do we have any sort of law enforcement in our small villages, and as a result we have to fly in state troopers when there are issues. Sometimes it can take days for a trooper to get out to a village because the only way in and out is by airplane, and often in the winter storms can keep troopers from getting out there. I hope that we can continue finding ways to build up our own tribal police forces and train our own tribal citizens to provide local law enforcement in a culturally appropriate manner.”
“Last fall we held a Public Safety Roundtable and were able to bring in leaders from Washington, DC, including the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as well as folks from the FBI and other agencies to start a conversation about how we can better meet the public safety needs of our rural communities. “
Her family is originally from Mary’s Igloo on the Seward Peninsula. Her city council campaign highlighted the lack of Native representation in city leadership. She said officials either didn’t listen to, or failed to understand, their Native constituents.