To meet the unique legal needs of Native American tribes and individuals, Jenner & Block provides deep experience across a broad range of Indian law issues, in federal courts and in proceedings before the Department of the Interior (Offices of the Solicitor and of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs), the Bureau of Indian Affairs (both national and regional offices), and the National Indian Gaming Commission.
Our Native American Practice has earned a national reputation preserving, promoting, and protecting tribal sovereignty. Anchored in our Washington, DC office, our team consists of enrolled members and descendants of federally-recognized tribes, former tribal in-house counsel, and former government officials and counsel — including the first Native American to serve as a US Ambassador — who are dedicated to empowering tribal governments. The group includes tribal citizens of the Cherokee Nation, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, Blood Tribe (Kainai Nation) of the Blackfoot Confederacy, and two citizens of the Navajo Nation.
Most important to all we do is building deep, lasting relationships with our tribal clients, while seeking innovative solutions for the complex legal issues facing Indian Country today.
The team’s lawyers are equipped to provide general counsel services for tribes, which face the same issues as governments and corporations. Service areas include litigation, investigations, and government relations matters involving sovereign immunity, water rights, taxation, scared sites protection, treaties, reservation land status, tribal governance, gaming, energy, lending, land use and management, energy development, and labor and employment, among other issues.
We have also handled disputes involving gaming issues under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, including federal court litigation, and have represented clients in connection with internal leadership disputes (before the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, the Interior Board of Indian Appeals, the BIA, and both federal and state courts); state taxation and foreclosure actions (including both state taxation of sales of cigarettes and other products and the application of state and local tax and zoning laws on non-trust, Indian-owned land); Indian land-into-trust issues; and a broad range of other Indian-law matters.
The team is also known for its success in important appellate matters including obtaining a critical 2020 victory for Indian Country in the US Supreme Court in McGirt v. Oklahoma, a ruling that holds the federal government to its treaty obligations by recognizing that almost half of Oklahoma remains an Indian reservation, as promised almost 200 years ago in treaties with the Creek Nation. In 2019, the team also won another major Supreme Court tribal treaty rights case on behalf of the Yakama Nation in Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den, Inc. that upheld the tribe’s rights under the Yakama Treaty of 1855. The firm has also achieved several important victories for the Cayuga Nation, including when a New York federal judge in 2020 vindicated its sovereign right to game under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act after a village attempted to enforce an anti-gaming ordinance against the tribe.
Chambers USA has ranked members of the team nationally since 2011 as has US News-Best Lawyers in Native American law.