Tribes have existed in the Americas since time immemorial, and have governed themselves by their own laws. Tribal sovereignty refers to tribes’ right to govern themselves, define their own membership, manage tribal property, and regulate tribal business and domestic relations; it further recognizes the existence of a government-to-government relationship between tribes and the federal government.
Tribes may call on us to advocate on their behalf before federal, state, and tribal governments and courts. Our Firm possesses several decades of tribal affairs experience through the leadership of our Managing Attorney. Our Managing Attorney has worked side by side with tribal councils to advance their causes and further their own development. For example, our Managing Attorney was a Staff Attorney for the Office of Navajo Government Development, the administrative arm to the Commission on Navajo Government Development. Her work there included reforms in executive branch policy, a review of the Navajo Nation legislature’s organization, a review of aspects of the Local Governance Act, and a nationwide convention and referendum on further changes to the Navajo Nation Code. She drafted many policies for implementation, including the Public Employment Project Policies and Procedures for Chapter Expenditures and the Housing Discretionary Fund Policies and Procedures. She also traveled to the five agencies, conducting hearings with her Commission, Office and the Navajo people to determine which reforms people desired, and translated those results into legislative format. She conducted radio presentations and trainings, drafted informational materials, and gave oral and written presentations and advice to committees, departments, and local governments. This work culminated in 26 proposed amendments to the Navajo Nation Code which empowered the Navajo people and local governments, and placed some restrictions on expenditures of Navajo Nation funds. Delegates from each of the 110 local governments came together at a Convention and unanimously approved the code amendments, recommending them to the Navajo Nation legislature for code integration.
The aforementioned work resulted in her being asked to assist the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development with its work on constitutional reform in Indian country. There, while working alongside people from The Desmond Tutu’s Foundation and The Gandhi Foundation, she zeroed in on a methodology to achieve government reform. Her contribution helped her office achieve national recognition as Honoring Nations Honoree in 2002 for a project that came to be known as the Government Reform, Dine Appropriate Government, Local Governance Project.
Additionally, we have assisted tribal clients on such varied issues as tribal constitutions and code drafting, intergovernmental relations, local governance, transportation, community development, and infrastructure. She worked with the Navajo Nation Economic Development Committee and advised on the various aspects of the Nation’s twelve economic development enterprises. She worked on the Navajo Nation Business Site Leasing regulations, which formed the basis of the HEARTH Act, amending 25 U.S.C. § 415 to allow tribes to lease out their own lands to businesses.
We have also evaluated whether the federal trust responsibility has been breached, as well as litigated to protect tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction. We have represented tribes and tribal officials in maximizing their jurisdiction over their lands, and drafting or evaluating laws affecting them. We regularly advise tribal governments on effective administration of tribal programs, including personnel and operational issues. We are committed to obtaining the results our clients seek in an efficient manner.
The Firm assists its Indian tribal clients in developing and implementing various tax codes. We recognize tax revenues raised by Indian tribal clients are the lifeblood of tribal governments. With our Managing Attorney’s deep knowledge in the field – for starters, she drafted the Navajo Nation Sales Tax, and the Navajo Nation Sales Tax Trust Fund Plan of Operation for Distributing Funds – the firm proficiently designs tax codes that are specifically tailored to cater each client’s unique requirements.