Indian Law


Schwabe’s environmental Indian law practice has carved out a unique position among national and regional environmental and natural resource firms.

Renowned Indian law group

Led by one of the country’s most experienced practitioners of environmental Indian law, our team is known for its deep understanding of the regulations and frameworks that impact reservation and Indian trust land. With a reputation for both toughness and collaboration, we have earned the respect of tribal leaders as well as regional agencies who handle tribal matters.

Environmental leadership

We counsel tribes across the country on the complex interplay between tribal environmental ordinances and related federal and state laws. We have deep experience in the areas of solid and hazardous waste permitting, cleanup and disposal, as well as international trans-boundary pollution. In addition, we help tribal governments manage public notice and comment on controversial projects, and develop and implement effective environmental policies and programs.

Strong advocates in dispute resolution

Our trial and appellate lawyers have argued precedent-setting cases in federal and state courts—including the Washington Supreme Court—on cutting-edge jurisdictional issues and in complex civil litigation. We also practice in tribal courts and before arbitration tribunals and federal agencies.

A go-to tribal resource

We serve as outside general counsel to several tribes and advise many others on tribal enterprises involving real estate, development, business formation, transactions and tax planning.  We know, and are known by, regional agency personnel, and are recognized for our deep knowledge of the regulations and regulatory frameworks that impact reservation and Indian trust land. We draft tribal codes, provide advice on implementation and enforcement, and counsel tribes concerning governance and sovereignty.

Integrative strategies

Collaborating with experienced lawyers throughout the firm, we assist tribal clients with corporate transactions, business planning, contract negotiations and government affairs issues. The firm’s diverse legal resources allow us to work on numerous fronts to advance our clients' legal and business interests, shape future legislation and policy, and resolve disputes between tribes and federal and state governments.

Cooperative solutions for non-Indian clients

Municipalities, state agencies and businesses with commercial and public interests in Indian Country frequently seek us out for our knowledge of tribal interests and governance. We regularly negotiate contracts and agreements between tribes and outside groups, and we help resolve disputes in a manner that aligns the objectives of all parties and preserves future business relationships.


  • Advise on all manner of transactions on Indian trust land, including fee-to-trust, leasing and rights-of-way.
  • Provided tax planning for a tribal Section 17 corporation.
  • Advised on implementation of tribal development code.
  • Supported the assessment and improvement of a tribe’s tribal court, evaluated and amended the trial court and appellate codes, and developed a tribal court clerk’s handbook.
  • Served as counsel of record for the Nooksack Indian Tribe in the U.S. v. Washington treaty rights litigation.
  • Served as litigation counsel for the Nooksack Indian Tribe's corporate entity in its casino loan workout litigation, Outsource Services Management v. Nooksack Business Corporation.
  • Represent three California tribes in their efforts to be restored to federal recognition.
  • Drafted a tribal superfund code and cleanup standards for the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians; assisting the Band in ongoing implementation and enforcement of the code.

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