Counsel to Tribal Governments

Counsel to Tribal Governments

At Dorsay & Easton we primarily work with tribal governments – Tribal Councils, Business Committees and other governing bodies, tribal staff, and tribal enterprises on the wide variety of issues that Indian tribes face on a daily basis. We attend Tribal Council meetings and provide advice on issues that we are requested to address or that may come up. We prepare legal opinions and give legal advice on a wide range of issues. We represent tribal governments in agency and court proceedings, negotiations, meetings, and anywhere else we are requested. We spend a substantial amount of time on-site with our tribal governments providing face-to-face advice.

As Tribal economies expand, Tribal government legal needs have grown in volume and complexity. We provide general counsel services to help sovereign Indian nations carry out their daily tasks. We draft tribal ordinances and policies, develop contract review systems, handle human resources issues, address all aspects of federal Self-Governance and Self-Determination, and serve as a resource for hard-working tribal leaders trying to achieve their organizational goals.

Our team works closely with tribal clients to develop ordinances and policies to govern tribal operations and land. We also craft regulation and forms necessary to implement tribal laws. In addition, our services include reviewing existing tribal laws and recommending amendments to ensure tribes continue to use best practices and remain current with the ever-changing legal environment.

Our team works with Tribal Councils, Business Committees and others to develop Strategic Plans for their governments and business enterprises. A Strategic Plan is a living document which establishes the mission, vision, values, strategic directions and goals of the tribe for the next three to five years. If developed properly, it becomes an important document that guides the decision-making of tribal leaders and their staff. Once a Strategic Plan is in place, we work with tribal departments and others to develop operational or work plans that outline the steps they will take in the next year to achieve the vision, strategic directions and long-term goals of the tribe.

Our tribal clients face daily decisions that will impact their tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction. Negotiating contracts with companies and agreements with state, local and federal governments requires constant consideration and advice concerning clauses or provisions that will broadly waive sovereign immunity or subject the tribe to the jurisdiction of outside governments.  We assist our tribal clients in achieving the contractual and agreement objectives they want while also ensuring that those contracts and agreements preserve and acknowledge the tribe’s sovereignty and jurisdiction.  Waivers of sovereign immunity, for example, are limited in scope and where at all possible provide for dispute resolution only in tribal court and under tribal jurisdiction.

Tribal sovereignty is also often under assault from unfriendly state and local governments and even sometimes from nearby tribes and from groups seeking to steal away part of the tribe’s sovereign identity.  We advise our tribal clients how to defend against such attempted intrusions on tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction and, where appropriate, engage in creative and vigorous litigation to protect the Tribe and resolve such disputes in the Tribe’s favor.

Representative Cases

Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians of Oregon v. Employment Dept., 995 P.2d 580, Or. App., 2000.

In the Matter of Cougar Den, Inc., Oregon Dept. of Transportation: Fuels Tax Group, Final Order, OAH Case No. 1102410, Feb. 7, 2012, affirming Ruling on Summary Determination and Proposed Order , Office of Administrative Hearings, State of Oregon, January 9, 2012.

Chance v. Coquille Indian Tribe and Coquille Economic Development Corporation.

We advise Tribal economic development leaders on all aspects of their vital work, including entity selection and formation, development of internal policies, transactional matters and commercial litigation. We negotiate complex financial transactions for gaming and non-gaming matters. We help tribal casinos stay healthy and we assist tribal economic development leaders to diversify their economies. We advise tribes on a myriad of project matters, including: business start-up SBA 8(a) contracting, construction, New Markets Tax Credits transactions, tax planning and dissolution. 

Our team also helps private businesses seeking to do business with tribes that we do not represent, so long as those businesses agree to respect the tribe’s sovereignty and authority. Tribes also ask us to advise their business partners who may lack experience in Indian law and tribal sovereignty. 

Dorsay & Easton has extensive experience in the field of Indian gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. We represent Chinook Winds Casino Resort, operated by the Siletz Tribe, and Kla-Mo-Ya Casino, operated by the Klamath Tribes. We also represent the Samish Tribe on gaming matters and their plans to establish and operate a casino near Anacortes, Washington.

We have negotiated Gaming Compacts with the States of Oregon and Washington, have litigated several cases in the federal courts interpreting IGRA, have successfully defended tribes against National Indian Gaming Commission notices of violations and sanctions, and participated in Compact dispute resolution with the State of Oregon. We advise tribal gaming commissions on their regulatory authority and actions. We review and negotiate a wide range of gaming-related contracts, and negotiate and advise on casino, hotel and golf course construction and financial arrangements. We deal with a broad range of personnel and personal injury disputes involving tribal casinos, and advise tribal gaming operations on unionization issues.

At Dorsay & Easton, we assist tribes in negotiating agreements with the federal government on a variety of federal Indian programs, including but not limited to the Self-Determination Act, Indian Health Service, NAHASDA, and social services programs such as Title IV-E and TANF, and in resolving disputes involving funding or program compliance.

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1737 NE Alberta St, Ste 208

Portland, OR 97211

Phone: (503) 790-9060