Dentons’s Washington DC- based group maintains an excellent market reputation with a proven track record successfully representing Indian tribes in a wide range of high stakes matters including natural resource protection, tribal governance, land and water rights, and Indian gaming. Drawing on experience working at the Department of the Interior, the Department of Justice, the National Indian Gaming Commission, and various congressional offices, the team is particularly adept in issues pertaining to federal regulations. The group also advises on reservation issues and operates a pro-bono practice with a focus on economically disadvantaged tribes. With extensive dispute resolution and litigation experience, the team led by Heather Sibbison is frequently called upon to handle matters involving questions on which there is little statutory or case law. Core members of the group include counsel Samuel Daughety, who has substantial experience advising clients on complex Indian lands and gaming issues, including tribal-state compacts and agreements, and the fee-to-trust process, and counsel Suzanne Schaeffer whose practice concentrates on Indian lands and environmental compliance issues. As a member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, associate Maurisa Bell has particular expertise in issues related to trust land acquisitions and water rights claims.
Native American law in United States
Other key lawyers:
Suzanne Schaeffer; Samuel Daughety; Maurisa Bell
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts
Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut
Tohono O’odham Nation
The National Congress of American Indians/Association on American Indian Affairs/National Indian Child Welfare Association
The Cowlitz Indian Tribe
SAGE Development Authority (Standing Rock Sioux)
The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina
The California Tribal College
Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
The Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe
- Brought a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior for failing to take action to protect the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Reservation, winning several significant litigations that culminated the Biden Administration issuing a positive decision for the Tribe on remand.
- Provided legal advice on behalf of the Tohono O’odham Nation to improve the conditions and treatment of Native American agents within the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (“ICE”).
- Assisted the Cowlitz Indian Tribe in the acquisition of a reservation for the then-landless Tribe in the Department of the Interior’s first administrative decision after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Carcieri v. Salazar which allowed the Tribe to open a gaming facility on its new Reservation. Subsequent advice was provided in relation to federal funding to combat substance abuse issues and environmental law matters.
Van Ness Feldman LLP’s team has demonstrable strength in regulatory, litigation and energy project development matters, particularly across midstream oil and gas for predominantly Alaska Natives as well as Indian tribes. While Andrew VanderJack leads the team out of Washington DC with a focus on Alaska Natives and related corporations, counsel Laura Jones, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, manages the team out of Oklahoma focusing her practice on American Indian law with expertise in regulatory and environmental compliance matters, land use issues and economic development. On the West Coast, California-based Patrick Daugherty is the expert for complex civil litigation, consumer class action suits, and alternative dispute resolution in tribal, state, and federal courts for native tribes and is singled out for tribal economic development. The group counts Indigenous-owned businesses, tribal governments and financial partners such as the Native American Financial Services Association among its clients. DC-based counsel Melinda Meade Meyers focuses on federal regulatory law and policy advice pertaining to Native communities.
Andrew VanderJack; Laura Jones
Other key lawyers:
Patrick Daugherty; Melinda Meade Meyers
Energy Keepers Inc.
Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians of the Guidiville Rancheria
Huna Totem Corporation
Alaska Federation of Natives
National Credit Adjusters
Native American Financial Services Association
Kashia Band of Pomo Indians of the Stewarts Point Rancheria
The Osage Nation
- Representing the Cherokee Nation in its breach of trust action against the United States seeking an accounting and appropriate restitution from the United States of the Cherokee Nation’s assets held in trust by the United States.
- Providing legal and advocacy work on behalf of the Osage Nation regarding a wide variety of cultural resource issues, working closely with the Nation’s Office of Attorney General and the Historic Preservation Office.
- Assisting the Alaska Federation of Natives on a wide array of matters involving the implementation of federal programs affecting Alaska Natives, including assisting AFN in the development of several major new initiatives to aid Alaska Native organizations and tribes in recovery from effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Combining extensive Washington DC experience with a strong presence in the western United States, WilmerHale is uniquely positioned to represent Indian tribal governments, bands and nations in the most contentious and unsettled Native American legal issues at every stage of dispute resolution, especially at appellate level. With long-standing relationships to various tribes, the team led by Supreme Court litigator Seth Waxman boasts a diversified practice handling disputes about energy resource development, land acquisitions, water rights, gaming, and most notably, tribal sovereignty and self-determination matters, routinely working with tribal groups, members of Congress and the administration on ways to reinforce principles of tribal sovereignty. The group’s expertise expands to tribal white-collar and criminal internal investigation cases, where Tom Strickland is often called upon, next to capabilities in natural resources and environmental law, healthcare regulation and securities law. Several team members have previously worked on Native American law matters in government positions including at the Department of Interior and Justice, respectively. Notable names include Christopher Babbitt, who is active at the intersection of public policy, public affairs, and strategy, representing clients in litigation and enforcement matters involving the federal government and Daniel Volchok, whose Native American practice incudes representing tribes and nations in trial and appellate litigation, as well as counselling in non-contentious matters.
Other key lawyers:
Daniel Volchok; Christopher Babbitt; Thomas Strickland
‘I think very highly of Wilmer’s litigation practice. They are top drawer litigators, and as such often bring a fresh perspective to tribal projects that are languishing or have run into certain kinds of roadblocks. I have definitely referred work to Wilmer, and would do so again.‘
Spokane Tribe of Indians
National Indian Gaming Association
Catawba Tribe of North and South Carolina
North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians
Based in Washington DC, Akin acts for Indian tribes across a myriad of issues with tribal sovereignty and self-sufficiency at its core. Practice head Donald R Pongrace has vast experience representing tribal clients in complex private and governmental negotiations and, most recently, acted as principal negotiator in addressing the Colorado River drought crisis on a Basin-wide basis. Drawing on previous experience working within tribal governments, Congress and the relevant federal agencies such as the Interior Department and National Indian Gaming Commission, the team is adept in advising tribal governments on sovereignty issues, economic development, and land and water rights settlements. Allison Binney, who previously served as chief counsel to the U.S Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is the key contact for land, tax, and gaming matters and routinely defends tribal government before tribal courts and federal agencies. Jason Hauter’s practice focuses on economic development and business entity formation and governance- prior to joining the firm, he served as in-house counsel for the Gila River Indian Community.
Donald R Pongrace
Other key lawyers:
Allison Binney; Jason Hauter
Gila River Indian Community
Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians
San Manuel Band of Mission Indians
Gila River Telecommunications, Inc.
Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawattomi
United Southern & Eastern Tribes
- Advising the Gila River Indian Community on addressing the ongoing drought in the Colorado River Basin through the development of unique, innovative water use agreements and arrangements that benefit the entire region and the Gila River Indian Community.
- Lead legislative counsel to Gila River Indian Community in connection with assistance to tribes in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, assisting with the drafting of proposals and advocacy for positions to ensure the needs of Indian governments were addressed in every bill considered and passed by Congress to provide Covid relief over the past year.
Dykema Gossett PLLC
Based in Michigan, the team at Dykema Gossett PLLC has a particular focus on tribal gaming representing Indian tribes and businesses seeking to establish and develop gaming facilities. The team represents clients in land-to-trust and gaming eligibility applications as well as in related litigations, petitions for federal acknowledgement, and approval of tribal-state gaming compacts. Practice co-head Lance Boldrey has experience handling state-tribal relations and routinely represents tribes, developers, banks and government entities. Co-head Jason Hanselman recently represented the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in federal applications to have land taken into trust for gaming purposes. The team is also frequently involved in drafting legislation and negotiating agreements. On the litigation front, Erin Sedmak is a key name for federal disputes involving tribes.
Lance Boldrey; Jason Hanselman
‘Longevity in the field, willing to consider both sides of the issue and render a fair opinion on anticipated outcomes.’
Emmet County Lakeshore Association (ECLA)
State of Indiana
Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
Bay Mills Community College
Little River Casino Resort
- Representing the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in federal applications to have land in Muskegon, Michigan taken into trust for gaming purposes, and related state government relations work.
- Representing Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in seeking a declaration that 300+ square miles in Northern Michigan is an Indian reservation and an injunction against state law applying to the Tribe and its members.
Robins Kaplan LLP
Based out of North and South Dakota, Robins Kaplan LLP boasts a strong American Indian Law and Policy Group providing representation in high-profile litigation to Native American tribes and nations across the country at the intersection of Tribal sovereignty, treaty and civil rights and high-stakes energy extraction litigation in federal, state, and Tribal courts. Drawing on experience in the public service, Tim Purdon, the former US Attorney for the District of North Dakota, and Brendan Johnson, who held the same position for the District of South Dakota, jointly head the practice and are particularly strong in representing Tribal interests at the intersection of law and policy. Both practice heads achieved a notable success in 2022, securing an initial multimillion settlement on behalf of 28 tribal nations in multidistrict opioid litigation against major opioid distributors and manufacturers. South Dakota-based Tim Billion who has extensive experience advising tribes, recently represented the Rosebud Sioux Tribe against the federal government. Also in South Dakota, Casey Matthiesen, the third member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe to become an attorney, represented the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in state court in relation to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
Brendan Johnson; Timothy Purdon
Other key lawyers:
Tim Billion; Casey Matthiesen
‘Very client-oriented and innovative.’
28 Tribal Nations
Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana Tribal Lending Regulatory Commission
Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation (MHA Nation)
Rosebud Sioux Tribe
BIA Highway 3 Washout Victims
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Spirit Lake Nation and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
- Assisted 28 Tribal Nations located in the Great Plains, Upper Midwest, and the West Coast secure $589 million in total proposed settlements early this year in the national multidistrict litigation against major opioid distributors (AmerisourceBergen Corp., McKesson Corp., and Cardinal Health, Inc.) and manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.
- Defending a tribal rights activist against felony charges of over fifteen years in state prison after participating in a “Land Back” protest outside of Mount Rushmore that coincided with a visit by then President Donald Trump.
- Brought a claim against the federal government on behalf of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services closed the only emergency room on the Rosebud Reservation, in violation of the 1868 treaty, requiring tribal members to travel to emergency rooms 50 miles away to receive lifesaving emergency treatments, placing them in serious danger.