Indian Law and Policy
Solving Problems at the Intersection of Sovereigns and Cultures

Many federally-recognized Indian Tribes are emerging with renewed vigor as economic and political sovereigns from the long, dark shadow cast on tribal sovereignty by almost two centuries of complex and indifferent or hostile federal, state, and local policies. Complex legal and policy challenges arise—for tribal governments and their economic development arms as well as for non-tribal businesses and non-tribal governments—even as tribal political, cultural, and economic self-determination find greater and greater expression.

HLGR attorneys have practiced for many decades in the intersections between law and public policy that are found throughout Indian Country. And, the Firm’s lawyers have also long been engaged with private businesses seeking to maximize their potential in transactions running the gamut from land transactions to complex mergers. We are grateful for the continuing opportunity to bring all of this experience to bear in our engagement as general counsel to the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians.

Law books, Supreme Court precedents, and learned commentators are important sources of the law applicable in Indian Country. But tribes and their members may be the most important teachers. Our experience in other contexts has helped us listen effectively to voices from Indian Country. From their lessons, we are developing an ever-deepening reservoir of experience in how to help tribal governments and how to help those seeking to do business with tribes. We have helped the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians across a wide array of issues and in many different forums. Here are a few:

  • State Legislative Policy-Making:  The Firm helped our client assemble and maintain a coalition of tribes that secured passage in 2011 of legislation improving public safety for all Oregonians by authorizing qualified tribal police to exercise police powers equivalent to those possessed by their non-tribal colleagues. The legislation (SB 412) subsequently was cited by Congressionally-established Tribal Law and Order Commission as a model meriting consideration in every state.
  • Tax Policy/Tax-Benefit Development:  In 2011, the firm helped a coalition of tribes secure new state law enlarging the state statutory foundation for the essential functions of tribal government, and we have advised our client as to low-income housing and other economic development projects in which the tax treatment of the Tribe’s potential business partners is a factor in development projects.
  • Revenue Bond Financing:  The Firm has helped many governments and many businesses use revenue-backed borrowing to improve cash flow and to create new opportunities to fulfill their respective missions. Recently, the Firm brought that experience to bear in assisting the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians with a revenue-backed refinancing bond.
  • Real Estate and Business Transactions:  Business opportunity—for tribal and non-tribal enterprises alike—abounds in Indian Country. We have assisted our client in many such transactions, including the acquisition of a golf course and negotiation of rights of way.
  • Tribal Government/Tribal Enterprises:  The Firm has applied its knowledge as labor and employment counsel for countless governments and private enterprises to the labor and employment challenges faced by our tribal client. We have applied the lessons learned from decades of experience advising governments at all levels to helping create new tribal codes, including the establishment of new tribal trial and appellate court rules. We have applied our business law experience to helping the Tribe create new economic development enterprises.

While we are privileged to have an exclusive agreement with one tribe in Oregon, HLGR attorneys are available for matters representing tribes outside of Oregon or representing businesses who have transactions anywhere in Indian Country, subject to compliance with the requirements of tribal or other law governing our work in jurisdictions other than Oregon.

In general, we assist with:

  • Economic development projects
  • Business transactions and negotiations with tribal governments and tribal economic enterprises
  • Employment advice to tribal governments and tribal economic enterprises
  • Management and policy advice for tribal governments and tribal economic entities, including organizational structure/leadership principles, drafting/amending tribal codes, and tribal policy
  • Dispute resolution and litigation in state and federal courts
  • Legislative and non-tribal regulatory issues
  • Regulatory compliance with the BIA, NIGC, and other federal agencies
  • Fee-to-trust applications