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Indian Law: Representative Cases


United States v. Washington (Boldt decision)

We represented multiple tribal clients in this seminal dispute regarding treaty fishing rights. After ten years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Washington tribes were entitled to 50% of all harvestable fish and could regulate their own fisheries. The case is of great economic benefit to the tribes and is important as a recognition of their sovereignty. We continue to represent the Makah Tribe in on-going proceedings in this case.


Northern Arapaho Tribe v. United States

On behalf of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, which shares the Wind River Indian Reservation with the Eastern Shoshone, we pursued breach of trust claims against the United States for mismanagement of tribal trust assets and funds before the Court of Federal Claims and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The case was divided into multiple phases covering a wide range of claims. This case set important precedent for similar cases brought across the United States.


Columbia River Hydropower and Fisheries Litigation

We represent the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in ongoing ESA and NEPA litigation over the federal government’s biological opinion for the Federal Columbia River Power System. The firm also represents the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in several other Columbia River fisheries matters, including an ESA and NEPA challenge to the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery and litigation regarding the management of avian predators.


Preservation of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation

Through litigation, administrative action, and Congressional Acts, we have assisted the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in protecting its natural resources for decades. We prevailed in the U.S. Supreme Court, which confirmed the Tribe’s ownership and control of oil, gas, coal and other mineral deposits lying beneath the surface of the Reservation. We have helped the Tribe preserve its land by assisting with the cancellation of coal leases that encumbered vast areas of the Reservation. We have fought and had success limiting development surrounding the Reservation, including proposed off-Reservation coal mines and related development proposals.


Puget Sound Chinook Salmon

We represented the Makah Tribe and coordinated the amicus participation of several other Northwest treaty tribes in defending the Puget Sound Chinook Management Plan in both the federal district and appellate courts.


Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Water Rights Settlement Act

In 1906, the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe exchanged 31,000 acres of land for a 4,680-acre reservation and the government’s promise of an irrigation system. The government breached its promises – the irrigation system was never completed. We helped the tribe achieve a favorable legislative settlement of its claims, including a $43 million settlement fund. Our work also included representing the Tribe in complex, multi-party water litigation and participating in the Interior Department’s water rights negotiations program.


Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians v. State of Minnesota

We commenced litigation in August 1990 to vindicate the treaty hunting, fishing and gathering rights of the Mille Lacs Band and its members. Seven other Chippewa bands participated in later phases of the case. We served as lead counsel throughout, and argued the case in the United States Supreme Court. In March 1999, the Court held that the Bands’ treaty rights remain intact and are subject to regulation by the state only to the extent necessary for conservation. The decision was hailed as the most significant treaty hunting and fishing rights decision in 20 years.


Moapa Band of Paiute Indians Water Rights Agreements

We represented the Moapa Band of Paiutes in multiple complex water rights proceedings involving the Southern Nevada Water Authority and other Nevada water users, and negotiated a series of agreements to secure a fair share of the limited surface and groundwater rights available in one of the driest regions in the country.


Makah Tribe’s Treaty Whaling Rights

We have represented the Makah Tribe in its efforts to resume exercising its treaty whaling rights. We have assisted the Tribe in obtaining several aboriginal subsistence whaling catch limits from the International Whaling Commission, and have defended the Tribe in two major federal court lawsuits challenging the Federal Government’s approval of the hunt. We are now representing the Tribe in an administrative process to obtain a waiver of the Marine Mammal Protection Act’s prohibition on the taking of marine mammals.


Coal Bed Methane Development in Southeastern Montana

We represented the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in efforts to protect natural and cultural resources from the adverse effects of coal bed methane development. These included successful federal court litigation challenging federal approval of full-field coal bed methane development surrounding the Tribe's Reservation and enforcing tribal consultation requirements under the National Historic Preservation Act. We also represented the Tribe before the Montana Supreme Court in a successful challenge to the State of Montana’s issuance of water discharge permits to the coal bed methane industry in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.


Washington Water Law

The firm has a long history of representing clients before state courts and administrative agencies in cases involving the Washington Water Code. We have represented the Swinomish Tribe on a variety of water matters, including a successful challenge in the Washington Supreme Court to the Department of Ecology’s reliance on claims of “overriding considerations of the public interest” to authorize additional appropriations in the Skagit River basin. We represented the Makah Tribe and coordinated briefing for several other tribes in a challenge to the State of Washington’s 2003 Municipal Water Law.



To learn more about Our Indian Law representative cases please contact us.

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