Native American law in United States


Based in Washington DC, the team at Dentons maintains an excellent track record acting for tribes in a wide range of high stakes matters across sovereignty issues, land acquisitions, and tribal gaming. Under the leadership of Heather Sibbison, the practice works closely with the firms wider litigation and government affairs group, and is highlighted for its dispute resolution expertise, particularly against federal governments for tribal clients. The group also advises on reservation issues and handles a number of pro-bono cases for economically disadvantaged tribes. Core members of the group include counsel George Skibine who is the key name for matters related to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, including gaming compacts and gaming on newly acquired lands. Also recommended is Samuel Daughety whose wide practice also includes environmental issues for clients — water settlement issues and economic development projects are a particular area of focus. On land and trust issues, counsel Suzanne Schaeffer is a key contact. Associate Rose Petoskey left the team for a position at the US Department of the Interior.

Practice head(s):

Heather Sibbison

Other key lawyers:

George Skibine; Samuel Daughety; Suzanne Schaeffer

Key clients

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

Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Indians

Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples, Inc.

Prairie Island Indian Community

The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina

The Kaw Nation

Work highlights

  • Represented the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in proceedings before District Court for the District of Columbia which found that the Department of the Interior acted arbitrarily, capriciously, and in contravention of law when it refused to find that the Tribe was “under federal jurisdiction” and therefore its reservation was properly established under the Indian Reorganization Act.
  • Advised the The Tohono O’odham Nation and raised awareness and opposition to the Trump Administration’s continued destruction of sacred and culturally important burial and archaeological sites during construction of the border wall between the United States and Mexico.
  • Represented the Mohegan Tribe in complicated litigation and regulatory issues relating to amendments to its tribal state gaming compact that allow it to enter into Connecticut’s commercial gaming market.

Jenner & Block LLP

The 'very strong' team at Jenner & Block LLP has a sophisticated full-service offering and is singled out for its tribal sovereignty work. Based out of Washington DC, the team is jointly overseen by Keith Harper and Charles Galbraith and handles high-stakes litigation, investigations, and transactional matters for tribal governments and businesses, with strength in securing Supreme Court victories for clients. Bolstered by its appellate and Supreme Court practice, Ian Heath Gershengorn and Zachary Schauf are key names in complex litigation, particularly regulatory work and government relations for Native tribes. Key areas of focus also include reservation land issues, tribal governance, and gaming rights. Sam Hirsch who was previously based the US Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division specializes in environmental litigation, protection of tribal lands, and treaty rights. The group also has an active pro-bono practice.

Practice head(s):

Keith Harper; Charles Galbraith

Other key lawyers:

Ian Heath Gershengorn; Zachary Schauf; Sam Hirsch; Robert Harmala


‘Jenner & Block is responsive, respectful, and produces high quality work. Charlie, Krystalyn, and Emily have been fantastic to work with. They go above and beyond.’

‘Very strong team with substantial federal government experience at the highest levels’

‘Sam Hirsch is thoughtful, insightful and adept at problem-solving. Ian Gershengorn is an excellent appellate advocate.’

Ian is the leading light in the practice, very hard working and good to work with.

Charlie Galbraith, Robert Harmala, and Keith Harper are fantastic to work with. They’re responsive professionals that are extremely knowledgeable. They’re well connected to influential members of the Biden administration and are able to open doors for clients. Above all else the practice group has a high amount of integrity, and represent clients very, very well.

The firm is fantastic. They’re extremely responsive to client needs across practice areas and are able to answer a wide breadth of questions. The firm’s billing, a flat fee is extremely beneficial to clients, and probably at times skews against the economic interest of the firm.’

Key clients

Jimcy McGirt and Patrick Murphy

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation

The Ak-Chin Indian Community

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma

The Morongo Band of Mission Indians

The Oneida Nation of Wisconsin

The Bay Mills Indian Community

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians

Poarch Band of Creek Indians

The Northern Arapaho Tribe

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe

The Navajo Nation

Cayuga Indian Nation

The Fort Mojave Indian Tribe

The Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe

Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana

Work highlights

  • Represented Mashantucket Pequot in a successful APA case against the US Department of the Interior over a gaming compact amendment and intervened in a follow-up suit that was later dismissed.
  • Representing the Cherokee, Morongo and Oneida tribes in defending the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act, a fundamental law that protects the best interest of Indian children and families.
  • Represented the Navajo Nation in a civil action to enjoin a massive unauthorized marijuana operation on tribal lands, which led to a multi-agency raid involving hundreds of federal agents.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

The practice at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP is singled out for its strong financing expertise and is the go-to firm for lending work for tribal government and businesses. The team represents various tribes in high-value financings for tribal projects and programs, and is managed by Townsend Hyatt in Portland. The group has a proven track record spanning over two decades in tribal financing matters, particularly in the gaming industry — banking partner David Lin who is based between San Francisco and Los Angeles handles casino gaming work. San Francisco-based Thomas Mitchell and Zachary Finley are also experienced banking partners recommended in this area. Also based in Los Angeles, senior associate Ramon Galvan advises leading banks on Indian tribal financings pertaining to the construction of large casino projects and expansions.

Practice head(s):

Townsend Hyatt

Other key lawyers:

David Lin; Thomas Mitchell; Zachary Finley; Ramon Galvan


Exceptional knowledge of complex taxable and tax-exempt financing tools and creative application of same to Tribal governmental and business structures.’

Competent team with knowledge of nuanced social dynamics existing in Indian Country.’

Key clients

Pascua Yaqui Tribe

Reno-Sparks Indian Colony

Spokane Tribe of Indians

Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan

Tulalip Tribes of Washington

Western Alliance Bank

Barclays Capital Inc.

Estom Yumeka Maidu Tribe of Enterprise Rancheria

Poarch Creek Band of Indians / PCI Gaming Authority

Seneca Nation of Indians / Seneca Gaming Corporation

Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon

Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua & Siuslaw Indians

Kalispel Tribe of Indians

Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians

Jena Choctaw Band of Indians

Pueblo of Pojoaque / Buffalo Thunder Resort

Ft. Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma

Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

PNC Bank

KeyBank, N.A.

KeyBanc Capital Markets

Umpqua Bank

Columbia Bank

Work highlights

  • Represented the Enterprise Rancheria and its wholly owned business entity (Enterprise Development Authority) in a $525m Term Loan B transaction that refinanced existing senior note indebtedness incurred to construct the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento.
  • Represented the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe in a tax-exempt $85m Tribal Economic Development (TED) bond financing to refurbish an existing hotel and make other improvements.
  • Represented Western Alliance Bank as lender in connection with a new senior loan made to facilitate a comprehensive restructuring of $315m of existing indebtedness for the Chukchansi Economic Development Authority.

Van Ness Feldman LLP

Van Ness Feldman LLP has long-standing strength in energy project development matters, particularly across midstream oil and gas for Indian tribes and Alaska Natives. The team provides comprehensive regulatory and litigation support to tribal governments and corporations, and is jointly managed by Andrew Vanderjack  in Washington DC and Maranda Compton in Denver. Economic development and environmental issues remain core areas of focus for the group and recommended contacts include DC-based Robert Conrad and Michael GoodsteinLaura Jones in Denver has experience advising tribal and non-tribal businesses on land use issues. On the West Coast, Patrick Daugherty in California handles complex civil litigation for native tribes and is singled out for tribal economic development. He also has an active pro-bono practice for American Indian communities.

Practice head(s):

Andrew VanderJack; Maranda Compton

Other key lawyers:

Robert Conrad; Michael Goodstein; Laura Jones; Patrick Daugherty


Great technical knowledge of the field.

Patrick Daugherty, Laura Jones and Maranda Compton All three of these individuals have great competency when it comes to the field of Native American affairs and have assisted us on both research matters and amicus briefs.’

Key clients

Cherokee Nation

Doyon, LTD

Energy Keepers Inc.

Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians of the Guidiville Rancheria

Huna Totem Corporation

Kashia Band of Pomo Indians of the Stewarts Point Rancheria

National Credit Adjusters

Native American Financial Services Association

Origis Energy

The Osage Nation

Work highlights

  • Acting for Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians of the Guidiville Rancheria and several Tribal officials and employees in class action litigation brough against a tribal business in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Clark v. Duncan, No. 3:21-cv-242)
  • Acting for Kashia Band of Pomo Indians of the Stewarts Point Rancheria and Tribal businesses to defend the Tribal businesses and individuals associated with those businesses (including the Tribal Chairman and Tribal Council Members) in three class action lawsuits.
  • Advising the Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA) in numerous amicus briefs filed at the United States Supreme Court, the U.S. Courts of Appeal for the First, Third, Fourth, Sixth, and Ninth Circuits, and in U.S. District Court litigation in Virginia, Montana, and Kansas.


WilmerHale maintains an excellent market reputation and is highlighted for its strength in regulatory matters and complex litigation, backed by its Supreme Court litigation group. The team represents tribal governments and nations on land-into-trust, sovereign immunity issues, and jurisdictional matters with Danielle Spinelli in Washington DC is a key name, securing several victories for tribal clients. Now under the leadership of Seth Waxman, the group handles tribal self-determination matters, commercial disputes across the water, land and natural resources area, and gaming issues, holding the National Indian Gaming Commission as a key client, with Kevin Lamb particularly active. On the litigation and policy issues, Christopher Babbitt advises on high-stakes litigation matters and on economic aid for Indian tribes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The group faced two departures; former co-chair of the group Ken Salazar was appointed by the United States Senate as Ambassador to Mexico, and Michael Connor is now Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

Practice head(s):

Seth Waxman

Other key lawyers:

Danielle Spinelli; Kevin Lamb; Christopher Babbitt

Key clients

Spokane Tribe of Indians

Kewadin Casinos Gaming Authority/Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians

Cayuga Nation of New York

Catawba Tribe of North and South Carolina

AWL, Inc.

National Indian Gaming Commission

Work highlights

  • Represented the Spokane Tribe of Indians in a case before the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the Tribe and the US Department of the Interior in a long-running battle with the Kalispel Tribe over the Spokane Tribe’s efforts to operate a casino on land in Washington State.
  • Representing a Michigan tribe, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, in litigation relating to its submission seeking to have land taken into trust for it pursuant to the Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act.
  • Representing the Cayuga Nation of New York in litigation challenging the US Department of Interior’s decision to deny the Nation’s application to take land into trust for the Nation’s benefit.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP has great experience in acting for tribes, and is overseen by Donald R Pongrace  in Washington, DC. An experienced group of practitioners who previously served in federal agencies including the Interior Department and the National Indian Gaming Commission, the team advises tribal governments on sovereignty issues, economic development, and has a specialism in land and water rights settlements. Allison Binney, who previously served as chief counsel to the U.S Senate Committe on Indian Affairs is the key contact for defending tribal government before tribal courts and federal agencies on land, tax, and gaming matters. Senior counsel Katie Brossy  is also recommended, as is Merrill Godfrey, who handles high-stakes litigation for Indian tribes across the United States. The practice also focuses on assisting tribal clients on diversifying their business away from casinos to renewable energy projects and accessing emerging markets in South America. For economic issues, Jason Hauter is the name for development on American Indian lands, particularly water resource and management. Brette Pena joined the group from the U.S District Court- Oklahoma Northern Circuit.

Practice head(s):

Donald R Pongrace

Other key lawyers:

Merrill Godfrey; Allison Binney; Katie Brossy; Jason Hauter; Brette Pena

Key clients

Gila River Indian Community

Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians

Penobscot Nation

Ho-Chunk, Inc.


San Manuel Band of Mission Indians

Gila River Telecommunications, Inc.

Work highlights

  • 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.
  • Advising the Pechanga Band with respect to the acquisition of access to an increased water supply to support development on tribally owned land. The engagement has included representation of the Band before federal, state and local entities.
  • Represented the Gila River Indian Community in protecting the Arizona gaming compact for all tribes from an effort by a single Arizona tribe to violate the compact by creating an off-reservation gaming casino in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Dykema Gossett PLLC

Led out of Michigan, the team at Dykema Gossett PLLC maintains a strong casino gaming practice for Indian tribes and businesses, and handles the establishment and development of tribal gaming facilities. Overseen by Lance Boldrey, the team advises Indian tribes, banks, local governments, and federal agencies on tribal gaming work and financing agreements. On the litigation front, Erin Sedmak and James Feeney are key names for federal disputes involving tribes. The group has expanded its practice by also advising on tribal trust and reservation land issues nationally –Courtney Kissel is recommended here, and has a track record advising governors on jurisdictional issues.

Practice head(s):

Lance Boldrey

Other key lawyers:

Erin Sedmak; James Feeney; Courtney Kissel

Key clients

Protection of Rights Alliance and Emmet County Lakeshore Association

State of Indiana

Little River Band of Ottawa Indians

Bay Mills Community College

Little River Casino Resort

Work highlights

  • Representing the Protection of Rights Alliance in which a Tribe is 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.
  • Advising Governor Holcomb and the State of Indiana on the State’s interactions with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, in relation to a casino in the City of South Bend.
  • Representing the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Tribe in federal applications to have land in Muskegon, Michigan taken into trust for gaming purposes, and related state government relations work.

Greenberg Traurig LLP

The Denver-based practice at Greenberg Traurig LLP has strength in tribal sovereignty issues, economic development, and contentious energy and environmental litigation between tribes and state governments. Environmental and natural resources issues for tribes is a core area of focus. Jointly led by Troy Eid and Jennifer Weddle, the team has extensive experience acting in large environmental related disputes before tribal and federal courts and has been involved in securing various COVID-19 related federal funding for tribes in Indian Country. The group also has an established gaming group where senior associate Kyle Montour is the key name — he also serves as an Associate Judge on the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Court of Appeals. On the financing side, Andrew Rubin assists tribal governments on redevelopment projects and transactional matters.

Practice head(s):

Troy Eid; Jennifer Weddle

Other key lawyers:

Kyle Montour

Key clients

Ute Mountain Ute Tribe

North American Coal Corporation

National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)

Molina Healthcare

Government of Canada

Ft. Belknap Indian Community Tribal Lending Enterprises

Oceti Sakowin Power Authority

Summit Carbon Solutions

Tucson Electric Power Company

Arcadian Infracom

Work highlights

  • Represented a tribe, as lead amicus curiae at the cert stage, along with many other tribal nations and inter-tribal organizations in supporting the United States’ petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court and later on the merits in United States v. Cooley, No. 19-1414.
  • Advised on all Native American legal and regulatory matters associated with the Arcadian Fiberoptic Project.
  • Representing North American Coal Corporation in its successful transition as Contract Miner to the Navajo Transitional Energy Company.