Washington politics is involved in nearly every decision made or action taken by tribal organizations. The lawyers in Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP’s American Indian law and policy practice have at their disposal extensive political know-how and resources from one of the largest and most diverse public law and policy practices in the world. Based in Washington, D.C., the group includes lawyers and consultants, including former members of Congress, who have held senior positions in the federal government and who possess personal insight into, and experience with, how decisions in Washington are made and implemented. We regularly engage officials and staff from the White House, Congress and all relevant federal agencies to advance the specific goals of our clients.
The lawyers within Akin Gump’s American Indian law and policy practice are highly experienced and respected in their field and appreciate the subtleties of tribal sovereignty and American Indian culture. Operating in a bipartisan fashion, these practitioners assist clients in understanding and working with the rhythms, personalities and idiosyncrasies of the federal government. The firm is engaged on behalf of tribal interests in most major issues developing in Washington that affect Indian Country.
The success of our approach is seen in the results we achieve on behalf of our clients. Some of our client accomplishments include:
- Achieving a victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit for the Gila River Indian Community, defending the constitutionality of a major federal law, the Indian Child Welfare Act, on behalf of Indian tribes.
- Playing a key role in the passage of the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act in 2014, which clarifies that certain payments made by tribal governments to their citizens are non-taxable.
- Successfully advocating before Congress to appropriate funds towards innovative solutions for resolving the significant backlog in federally funded schools on Native American reservations.
- Playing significant role in obtaining passage of the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act, P.L. 113-168, which clarified that general welfare programs offered by tribal governments to their citizens are exempt from federal taxation.
- Developing one of the largest metropolitan Indian gaming projects in U.S. history.
- Negotiating a settlement on behalf of a tribal client for several hundred million dollars after successfully litigating a trust mismanagement and accounting claim for several years against the federal government.
- Negotiating a lease agreement and related documents for the development of a 360,000 square foot retail development on tribal trust lands.
- Assisting in the passage of the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (HEARTH) Act of 2011, which established a process by which American Indian tribes can approve their own surface land leases without having to wait for the Department of the Interior (DOI) to approve each lease.
- Playing a key role in the negotiation, implementation and congressional approval of two of the largest settlements of Indian water rights claims in U.S. history—unlike most Indian water settlements, the bill authorizing this settlement immediately provided funding to the tribe.
- Assisting in all aspects of the development of one of the largest metropolitan Indian gaming projects in U.S. history.
- Advising a tribal client in the largest-ever settlement of a claim made by a tribe against the United States government.
- Negotiating a settlement on behalf of our tribal client for several hundred million dollars after successfully litigating a trust mismanagement and accounting claim for several years against the federal government.
- Negotiating a P.L. 93-638 contract for over $100 million with the DOI Bureau of Reclamation to implement a construction project on a tribe’s irrigation project in connection with the successful passage of a water settlement.
- Successfully advocated for a negative decision from the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) in efforts to fight against another tribe developing a casino in the aboriginal territory of our tribal client; developed legislation—recently introduced in Congress—preventing the development of the casino.
- Securing a decision from the DOI to take lands into trust for a tribal client for non-gaming purposes in the face of years of opposition from a larger, wealthier tribe.
- Successfully advocating for appropriations and federal funding for our clients on housing and health care matters and against funding cuts to their tribal programs.
- Representing a Midwestern tribe in the first successful appeal of a gaming ordinance disapproval to the full NIGC, which involved the gaming eligibility of the tribe’s trust lands.