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Native American & Alaska Native Law


Native American Law

Schwabe’s Native American law practice has carved out a unique position among national and regional environmental and natural resource firms. Led by one of the country’s most experienced practitioners of environmental Native American law, our team is known for its deep understanding of the regulations and frameworks that impact reservation and Indian trust land.

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 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 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.

Alaska Native Law

Schwabe supports the missions of Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs), which serve their Alaska Native shareholders by working to maximize their economic growth, protect ancestral lands, preserve their cultures, and enhance their communities.

Schwabe assists ANCs as they work to positively impact their communities. Our attorneys have more than 100 combined years of experience serving as in-house counsel and outside general counsel for ANCs, and understand the unique legal issues they face.

With experience deeply rooted in Alaska Native Corporations and the natural resources industry, we advise ANCs and their subsidiaries on a wide range of issues, including corporate governance, business transactions, SBA 8(a), land use and royalty agreements, settlement trusts, tax, mergers and acquisitions, real estate, risk management, litigation, shareholder rights and responsibilities, employment, and labor relations.  

With experience in projects ranging from oil fields, mining, timber, telecommunications, environmental protection, and energy transportation, we work closely with ANCs in sustainable development of their rich natural resources through careful development, safekeeping the land for future generations.

Schwabe’s attorneys have worked in collaboration with a number of ANCs to protect their long-term interests, assisting in matters involving shareholder rights, Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) settlement trust tax issues, environmental enhancement, and real property disputes under the ANCSA. We are proud to serve ANCs and the communities they represent. 


Native American Law

  • 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.
  • Represent Navajo Transitional Energy Company, a Navajo tribal corporation, in litigation to support mining permits and leases.
  • Assist Navajo tribal corporation with obtaining permits and approvals from EPA and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

Alaska Native Law

  • Represented several ANCs on the creation of a new Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) settlement trust and substantive amendments to an existing ANCSA settlement trust.
  • Represented an ANC in real property disputes with the state and private parties under the ANCSA.
  • Developed a land use plan governing 70,000 acres in remote Alaska.
  • Assisted in development and promotion of legislation beneficial to ANCs, including the ANC Settlement Trust tax legislation passed in 2017.
  • Represented an ANC Village Corporation in defending its U.S.C. § 14(c) procedure and conveyances.
  • Represented multiple ANCs regarding improper proxy solicitations for annual election of directors by shareholders.
  • Advising ANCs with respect to all aspects of annual shareholder meetings.
  • Providing guidance on the intricacies of the SBA 8(a) Business Development Program.

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