What We Do

Inter-Governmental Relations

Inter-Governmental Relations

Tribal governments deal with the federal government and surrounding state and local governments on a daily basis. We represent tribes on a wide variety of jurisdictional and inter-governmental issues, and frequently negotiate inter-governmental agreements between our tribal clients and federal, state, local governments and other Indian tribes. We assist our tribal clients in cooperating with surrounding governments on issues of mutual interest.

Lobbying – local, state and federal
Inter-governmental issues
Economic development
Negotiations with local municipalities
Indian gaming
Taxation
Litigation involving jurisdictional issues
Natural resources
Fee-to-trust
Lobbying – local, state and federal

The attorneys at Dorsay & Easton work closely with our clients' state and federal lobbyists to identify and work through the legislative process on issues confronting tribes and tribal governments in state and federal legislatures. Additionally, we represent tribes and other entities in rule making on the state and federal level on issues involving Indian tribes, tribal lands, tribal sovereignty, religious freedom, etc.

Inter-governmental issues

The firm’s tribal clients interact extensively with state, federal, and local governments. The firm has assisted the Siletz Tribe in negotiating jurisdiction, law enforcement, and impact mitigation (in lieu) agreements with a number of surrounding jurisdictions. The firm assisted the Tribe in negotiating water and sewer agreements with surrounding municipalities and water districts. The firm negotiated similar agreements for the Samish Tribe as well as cultural resources and hunting agreements with the State. The firm has negotiated cigarette, alcohol, and fuel tax agreements with the States for its tribal clients.

Economic development

When done well, Economic Development planning is a tide that lifts all boats, including those of the Tribe and tribal members. Jobs and growth improve government revenues, and, in turn, can improve the quality of reservation life and invite even better job growth. Our firm works with tribes to build a legal infrastructure that is conducive to economic growth and attractive to potential lenders, and works to successfully negotiate and implement specific economic development projects. 

We also have considerable experience negotiating and implementing intergovernmental agreements that encourage and authorize economic development, projects, and can  include agreements for municipal services, payment in lieu of taxes or voluntary tribal contributions, mitigation agreements, and a wide variety of other intergovernmental memorandums of agreement. We also help tribes improve the economic development prospects for their off-reservation lands, which can involve more difficult jurisdictional and legal issues. 

Negotiations with local municipalities

The firm’s tribal clients interact extensively with state, federal, and local governments on a variety of issues including law enforcement, cross jurisdictional of court orders, municipal service agreements to identify just a few. More and more, tribal governments seek opportunities to engage surrounding governments to provide services, handle land use issues, taxation and permitting activities which transcend tribal boundaries.  Examples of work our firm has done with tribal clients in this area include assisting the Siletz Tribe in negotiating jurisdiction, law enforcement, and impact mitigation (in lieu) agreements with a number of surrounding jurisdictions. The firm assisted the Tribe in negotiating water and sewer agreements with surrounding municipalities and water districts. We negotiated similar agreements for the Samish Tribe as well as cultural resources and hunting agreements with the State. The firm also negotiates cigarette, alcohol, and fuel tax agreements with the States for its tribal clients.

Indian gaming

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 The Mill Casino operated by the Coquille Indian Tribe. We also represent the Samish Tribe on gaming matters and their plans to establish and operate a casino near Anacortes, Washington, and represent leasing tribes in placement of gaming permits in 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.

Taxation

Tax disputes between Tribes and other governments implicate complex legal doctrines. We assist tribes to resolve disputes with state and local governments over ad valorem property taxes, tobacco taxes, and excise taxes. We negotiate payment-in-lieu-of-taxation (PILOT) agreements for tribal gaming and non-gaming enterprises. When negotiation fails to resolve a dispute to our client’s satisfaction, we litigate tax disputes before tribal, state and federal courts. 

When requested, we help tribal governments exercise their own sovereign taxing authority by planning for and implementing tribal taxes.    

Litigation involving jurisdictional issues

Our team has advised several tribes and have litigated a number of cases involving tribal successorship, namely, which historical tribes a modern day tribe is the legal and political successor to. We routinely defend tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction against federal, state, local and private intrusion. We are currently involved in several efforts to establish and defend tribal history and aboriginal territory against attempted incursion by outside groups or other tribes. Jurisdiction issues include law enforcement and regulatory authority, retained sovereign jurisdiction, and the interface of state and federal law and regulations with tribal laws and sovereignty. The firm has also advised and litigated on Public Law 280 jurisdiction issues.

Natural resources

Events occurring in natural world do not follow political boundaries. Off-reservation air or water pollution can, and frequently does, impact reservation resources. Similarly, tribal natural resources management practices can cause conflict with federal, state and local governments. To a tribal leader working to protect and increase their Reservation’s environmental and economic health, the combination of federal, state and local laws can seem like a complex web designed only to limit or even threaten tribal people’s quality of life and potential. 

We work with Tribal leaders to untangle the complex web of laws and regulations underlying specific natural resource issues. We help tribes to identify their priorities in natural resource issues and can help build a set of laws and policies that reflects your tribe’s unique values. 

Our firm has substantial experience collaborating with other governments to resolve natural resources disputes. We frequently participate in both formal and informal intergovernmental consultations on a variety of environmental and natural resources matters. When litigation is the best choice, we zealously defend your interests before courts and administrative bodies.  

Representative Cases

Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians v. Fish & Wildlife Comm’n, 260 P.3d 705 (Or.App. 2011).

Cascadia Wildlands v. BIA, 801 F.3d 1105

More on natural resources cases >

Fee-to-trust

Firm partners have been involved in fee-to-trust issues on behalf of tribes for over 25 years and have litigated several fee-to-trust cases in the federal courts. We advise tribes on navigating the fee-to-trust process. The firm has participated actively in proposed regulatory changes to the fee-to-trust process. It is also actively involved in Carcieri issues on behalf of tribal clients. The firm provides advice on tribal land acquisitions, including title and environmental issues. Dorsay and Easton provides frequent advice to tribes, and sometimes to local governments, on gaming-related fee-to-trust issues. The firm has litigated Section 20 IGRA off-reservation land into trust issues in the federal courts.

Representative Cases

City of Lincoln City v. U.S. Department of Interior, 229 F. Supp.2d 1109 (D. Or. 2002).

Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Cmty. of Or. v. Jewell, 830 F.3d 552 (D.C.Cir. 2016)

Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Suislaw Indians v. United States, Not Reported in F.Supp., 1988 WL 135757, (D.Or., 1988) (CIV.A.No.88-1055-FR.), Order dated Nov. 29, 1988, 1988 WL 135757, 16 Indian Law Reporter 3033, Order dated March 30, 1989, 16 Indian Law Reporter 3087.

More on fee-to-trust cases >

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1737 NE Alberta St, Ste 208

Portland, OR 97211

Phone: (503) 790-9060