American Indian Affairs

Whether the issue is state or federal taxation of tribal businesses, Indian gaming, land in trust acquisitions, leasing and rights of way approvals across Indian land, tribal recognition, tribal election oversight, or disputes over tribal membership matters, Steptoe delivers well-rounded, culturally relevant, and effective representation and legal advice to its American Indian and non-tribal clients.

Steptoe offers a team of lawyers with uncommon experience with Native American issues. The practice has a committed group of highly skilled and profoundly experienced lawyers, including a former deputy solicitor for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior and a former United States Attorney for Arizona. Steptoe lawyers represent American Indian and related interests before federal, state and tribal courts, federal agencies and Congress. Steptoe's team handles significant legal issues that may arise as tribes and developers work together to build and operate casinos, power plants, telecommunications projects, and other investment vehicles on American Indian land.

Our understanding of the issues that face tribal leaders and those who wish to work with them to develop additional resources on reservation lands distinguishes us from other legal practices and makes us a valuable ally when working on complex negotiations.

Hundreds of American Indian reservations throughout the United States generate vibrant commercial activity and development. Bound by the interplay of federal, state, and tribal law, reservations offer unique opportunities and challenges for investors. Legal sophistication is critical for companies that wish to collaborate with American Indian tribes on development projects, as well as for tribes interested in working with development partners.

As we advocate programs and operational issues, budgetary concerns, or tribal proposals for receipt of federal funds, we provide exceptional representation of tribes before all federal agencies with Indian programs and services. Our lawyers seek policy modifications, clarifications, or reversals from policy makers at these agencies and advise them on tribe-specific issues related to federal operations or personnel.

In addition, we identify key congressional sponsors for tribe-specific legislation and facilitate one-on-one meetings between tribal representatives and key decision makers on relevant matters. Our lawyers also represent clients before federal administration tribunals, such as Interior Board of Indian Appeals, to resolve a range of claims and disputes.

We regularly track and monitor major legislative proposals that could affect Indian policy (with special attention to how the proposal would affect our clients). When proposed legislation is detrimental to our clients’ interests, we develop strategies to address it. We also prepare and distribute monthly summaries on major legislative proposals related to those interests.

As gaming and other business operations begin to generate considerable capital, the firm routinely advises tribes on the legal foundations and ramifications of various investment proposals. Increasingly, non-tribal investors also turn to Steptoe for assistance with tribal partnerships and related business concerns. We have earned a reputation as a key resource for facilitating effective business relationships between investors and Indian tribes.

The practice combines deep knowledge, experience, and respect for tribal law and customs with broad understanding of the federal and state legislation and judicial decisions that have influenced and continue to impact tribal communities. As counselors on American Indian matters, our lawyers provide focused, aggressive and effective representation. Their relationships with tribal and governmental officials give them additional credibility before key decision makers. In addition, they are practiced at drafting and introducing legislation, appearing at hearings, requesting rulemaking or agency action, commenting on proposed agency action, filing litigation, and conducting negotiations. Steptoe arranges legislative meetings in Washington and prepares tribal officials for those discussions.