Stoel Rives’ Alaska Native and Indian Law practice is distinguished by a demonstrated understanding of the distinctive legal, cultural, and economic contexts of these unique Native American entities. Our expertise encompasses two critical areas:

Indian Law

We are well-versed in the legal intricacies surrounding Indian tribes in the United States. We are experienced in managing tribal roles in the permitting process, including the NHPA process and government-to-government consultation, litigation, and issues involving tribal sovereignty.

Indian tribes in the United States operate within a unique and dynamic legal environment developed through hundreds of years of federal policies. The foundations for this legal environment can be found in international law, federal common law and statutes, and law specific to each Tribe. Each Indian law issue is colored by existing treaties, the U.S. Constitution, and executive orders. Ultimately, however, a tribe must continue to focus on leveraging existing law or developing new laws that protect sovereignty and ensure the tribe’s long-term success.

Our Indian law team represents tribal governments, as well as companies, local and state governmental agencies, and nonprofit organizations doing business with them. We understand the intersection of federal, state, and tribal laws and policies, having handled transactions and conflicts with more than 40 Indian tribes across 15 states. Our team’s experience reflects the multi-disciplinary experience required when operating in Indian law and spans corporate management, business transactions, real estate and construction, energy and natural resources development, environmental compliance, tax advice, labor and employment law, employee benefits, and a wide range of litigation in tribal, state and federal forums.

Our team includes attorneys who’ve navigated Indian law as tribal attorneys; local, state, or federal government attorneys; and regulators. 

Indian Country Resource and Energy Extraction and Development

It’s common for Indian tribes to have accessible natural and energy resources on their land, and tribal lands are often at the intersection of major energy transportation corridors, including electrical transmission and pipeline corridors. These represent opportunities for development by the tribe itself or through agreements with energy and mining interests. We handle all aspects of those transactions, including development and marketing advice, securing rights-of-way through tribal land, unique environmental regulations involving development on and outside reservations, and proceedings before regulators such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Our team is experienced with the relevant provisions of federal law on Indian Country oil, gas, mineral, and renewable energy development and related land access rights such as rights-of-way and lease agreements.

Indian Country Business Transactions

We negotiate and draft contracts, agreements, leases, and other documents for complex transactions involving tribal governments, tribal entities, or related enterprises. Given that Indian tribes are governments with sovereign immunity and other governmental authority, we construct and document transactions with appropriate terms related to dispute resolution, immunity waivers, arbitration provisions, and choice of forum. We continually monitor the ever-changing status of rules—and exceptions to rules—that affect the course of these agreements. Tribal entities also possess unique taxing authority when activities occur on reservation land, creating the need to address specific tax impacts and consider the merits of neutrality agreements, tax credits, and specific business structures.

We provide counsel for commercial development on and off reservation including, but not limited to, entertainment and resort projects. This includes banking, financing, real estate acquisition, due diligence and contract negotiations with Indian tribes, and any associated tax issues, dispute resolution, or federal approvals. 

Environmental Counsel

Development activities in Indian Country are subject to typical federal environmental laws; however, there are often specific Indian Country regulations or narrowly focused federal statutes that must be reviewed as well. Some tribal governments have enacted laws that are more protective of cultural and treaty-protected resources or treaty access rights than federal law would provide. We have experience working with projects and project staff involving the development of Trust, allotted and fee lands covered by tribal laws, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other applicable federal laws.

Indian water rights law is complex because Indian tribes possess federally reserved water rights. Our attorneys assist with water rights quantification, litigation, irrigation agreements, and settlement, and provide advice and counsel related to intergovernmental agreements, water rights investigations, and administration.

Litigation and Mediation

We’ve participated in numerous dispute resolution and mediation proceedings with Indian tribes and tribal entities involving bankruptcy, taxation, labor and employment, environmental law, water rights, land use, project development, and eminent domain proceedings. Since disputes at times are argued before tribal courts, we have attorneys across the West admitted to them who engage in trials, appeals, and exhaustion of tribal court remedies. In addition, we litigate in federal administrative forums including the Interior Board of Indian Appeals, the National Indian Gaming Commission, and FERC.

Employment and Labor

We counsel private sector, government contractor, and tribal government employers on employment and labor laws, including equal employment and Indian preference under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act; Title VII exemptions for tribal government and Alaska Native Corporation employers; disability and leave laws; wage and hour laws, including the Service Contract Act; and tribal government employment laws. We advise on unionization campaigns and related National Labor Relations Act issues and assist with labor agreements. We also provide assistance with internal investigations and onsite training on various employment- and labor-related topics. In addition, our employee benefits team counsels employers on compliance with group benefit plans, insurance and retirement fiduciary duties, and overall fund management strategies.

Alaska Native Law

Alaska has several federal statutes that set it apart from the rest of the U.S. We regularly navigate the evolving legal landscape created by the -Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) and others, including how these statutes impact land, natural resources, and other regulatory issues.

Since their inception after the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) in 1971, Alaska Native Corporations have been important drivers of economic development in Alaska and in other parts of the United States. As the largest Alaska landholders after federal and state government, Alaska Native Corporations have maintained their shareholders’ close ties to the lands while creating economic growth through responsible natural resources development and investment in many other successful businesses in Alaska and around the world. Today, fluctuating natural resources prices, environmental changes and other external factors have caused Alaska Native Corporations to look for ways to adapt and diversify their strategies to sustain their mission of economic and cultural vitality.

We have been supporting Alaska Native Corporations in their efforts to create economic development and growth for many years and in many different ways. We understand the complex history behind the evolving federal and state laws affecting Alaska Native Corporations. With offices in Alaska and the lower 48, we do more legal work for Alaska Native Corporations than any other major law firm. Alaska isn’t an outpost—it’s our home. We have one of the largest teams in Alaska with across-the-board capability and colleagues in other locations where you conduct business. 

Not only do we offer the insights of professionals who understand the intricacies of federal and Alaska law, but our team also has the local knowledge needed to craft efficient and effective solutions and help our clients achieve their goals and get deals done. For years, Alaska Native Corporations have turned to us for help with a number of issues. For example, Stoel Rives is well known for assisting Alaska Native Corporations in the following areas: 

Natural Resources Law & Transactions

A strategic, economic, and cultural imperative for Alaska Native Corporations is the management of the lands and natural resources within their borders. We advise Alaska Native Corporations on how they can responsibly develop and market these resources while protecting the land that has been part of their heritage for generations. We’ve guided Alaska Native Corporations in their decisions to develop mineral resources on their land (and others’) and helped them resolve the complex regulatory, environmental, and transactional issues that arise. We understand the environmental, cultural, and other interests 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’ve represented Alaska Native Corporations on a range of commercial, environmental, construction and land claims issues. These include challenges to habitat designations under the Endangered Species Act, defense of claims under the Clean Water Act, and protecting Alaska Native Corporations’ correlative rights in disputes involving oil and gas interests.

Government Contracting

We are a go-to firm for Alaska Native Corporations seeking government contracts and Small Business Administration advice, with a particular niche counseling on Government Accountability Office (GAO) bid protests and SBA size protests. We’ve successfully defended multi-year service contracts and won reinstatements of project awards worth hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Other areas where our attorneys routinely provide assistance include:

  • Independent Power Solution
  • Employee Benefits
  • Environmental Compliance
  • Foundations and Settlement Trusts
  • Intellectual Property
  • Labor & Employment
  • Land Use
  • Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Tax

Jump to Page