Stoel Rives has consistently been recognized for its Native American practice, including a National First-Tier Ranking in Native American Law by the leading independent research survey U.S. News – Best Lawyers "Best Law Firms."
Key areas where we provide assistance include:
Negotiating and drafting contracts, leases, rights-of-way and other business agreements with Indian tribes, tribal utilities and other tribal business entities are among the services Stoel Rives attorneys provide. Because Indian tribes are governments with sovereign immunity and other governmental powers, we also advise clients on matters related to dispute resolution, sovereign immunity waivers, arbitration agreements, and choice of forum clauses. We also have extensive experience representing Alaska Native Corporations and their subsidiaries regarding mergers and acquisitions, project finance and other business transactions.
Energy and Natural Resources
Indian reservations and Alaska Native Corporation lands hold significant energy and natural resources. Our lawyers have significant experience advising clients on developing and marketing energy and natural resources, securing rights-of-way over tribal land, and complex regulatory, environmental and transactional requirements involving tribal interests on and outside Indian reservations. We advise Alaska Native Corporations on energy and natural resource matters, including development of mineral resources on Alaska Native Corporation land, proceedings before the Federal Regulatory Commission for a license to construct a hydroelectric dam on land owned by an Alaska Native Corporation, and wind energy project investments.
Understanding the sometimes complementary and sometimes contradictory federal and tribal environmental laws requires attorneys who know both well. Business activities on Indian reservations are subject to applicable federal environmental laws, including Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act permit requirements, and federal reviews triggered by federal agency action. On many, though not all, Indian reservations, environmental regulatory authority under federal law remains at the federal agency level but applies standards adopted by Indian tribes. In addition, depending on a number of factors, Indian tribes may or may not have authority to enforce tribal environmental regulations for projects on Indian reservations. A number of federal and state laws recognize that Indian tribes and Alaska Native Corporations may have environmental, cultural (including traditional cultural properties), treaty or other interests outside Indian reservations and on or outside Alaska Native Corporation lands that must be addressed in connection with federal, state and local governmental actions, project development or business activities. We advise clients on strategies to address environmental regulatory requirements affecting business transactions on and outside Indian reservations and with Alaska Native Corporations.
Secure access to water is essential to project development. Increasingly, due to development and effects of climate change, access to water for project development is both highly regulated and in many cases difficult, time-consuming and costly to secure. Under federal laws and treaties, Indian tribes hold water rights together with environmental rights and regulatory authorities that may affect use of water by others. We have negotiated agreements with Indian tribes and tribal entities securing rights to use water rights held by Indian tribes and mitigation and other agreements with Indian tribes regarding project impacts on tribal interests relating to use of water and water quality.
Litigation and Mediation
Stoel Rives lawyers have advised private entities regarding dispute resolution with Indian tribes and tribal entities on a broad range of litigation matters including bankruptcy, taxation, labor and employment, environmental law, water rights, land use and project development, eminent domain proceedings under tribal law, and sovereign immunity. We have drafted settlement agreements resolving ongoing or threatened litigation with Indian tribes and private parties in tribal and other courts, and our lawyers have participated in mediations successfully resolving disputes involving Indian tribes. We have represented private parties and public agencies in arbitration proceedings, as well as litigation in tribal, federal and state courts, including disputes relating to construction of tribal hotel and health care facilities. Our litigation practice also includes representation of numerous Alaska Native Corporations.
Tribal, federal, state and local governments possess taxing authority that may affect business transactions on Indian reservations. We frequently advise clients on tax management issues, including tax neutrality agreements, tax credits, and business structures that address tax impacts on business activities with Indian tribes and tribal entities. We also provide advice on federal and Alaska laws affecting the tax treatment of business transactions by or with Alaska Native Corporations.
Employment and Labor
Our lawyers counsel private sector employers and Alaska Native Corporations on compliance with federal, tribal and state employment and labor laws, including equal employment and Indian preference under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and other laws, Title VII exemptions for tribal government and Alaska Native Corporation employers, and tribal government employment laws.
Alaska Native Corporations
In 1971, Congress enacted the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) authorizing the establishment of regional and village Alaska Native Corporations under Alaska law. As provided by ANCSA, Alaska Native Corporations hold title to significant land and attendant energy and natural resources within Alaska. Through investments and strategic business diversification efforts, Alaska Native Corporations also have acquired land and other business assets outside Alaska and fulfill contracts and provide services across the globe. Attorneys in our Anchorage and Seattle offices have a special commitment to and significant experience in providing services to a broad range of Alaska Native Corporations.