American Indian Law

American Indian Law

Recent Highlights

Seramount Recognizes Stokes Lawrence as One of the "Best Law Firms for Women and Diversity"

"Not for Ourselves but for Those that Come." Listen to Derek Red Arrow Frank's Keynote Speech

Stokes Lawrence Managing Shareholder, Kelly Twiss Noonan, To Be Honored Among Region's Women Of Influence

Stokes Lawrence’s American Indian Law Practice Group is a bold and innovative group of attorneys committed to supporting, representing, and protecting the interests of tribal governments, tribal enterprises, and tribal member-owned businesses for economic sovereignty and success. Our American Indian Law team provides superior litigation and transactional support for American tribes and tribal entities. We offer our tribal clients services, guidance, and regulatory support in an array of areas including: treaty rights, intertribal trade, business and enterprise development, compacts, tax policy, creditor’s rights, cannabis and hemp, gaming, fuel and cigarettes, intellectual property, trust and estates, and real estate/property.


Complex litigation in all areas of Federal Indian law defines our practice. From pre-suit investigation and discovery through dispositive motion practice and trial, we provide boots-on-the-ground experience and strategy asserting treaty and tribal rights at every tier, in tribal courts, in the federal courts of the United States, including the United States Supreme Court, and, when necessary, in state courts.

Stokes Lawrence’s American Indian Law team served as counsel of record in Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den, 139 S. Ct. 1000 (2019), a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming that the Treaty of 1855 preserved the perpetual right of Yakama Nation members to travel the public highways of the United States to trade unencumbered. The Supreme Court’s decision rested and relied on the lower Washington Supreme Court decision, which Stokes Lawrence argued and won on behalf of tribal corporation Cougar Den, Inc. This was arguably the biggest victory in a treaty case in decades.

Stokes Lawrence has built on its successes and continues to litigate for the preservation of treaty rights and commercial interests on behalf of various Native American-owned corporations across the country.


Our American Indian Law team is committed to developing the economic vitality of Indian country, taking advantage of the unique status of tribes and native corporations. We rely on our firm's vast business experience to structure complex corporate, financing, and banking transactions that involve tribal entities and tribal organizations. We support our tribal clients with large land purchases, fee-to-trust processes, large commercial acquisitions, as well as real estate development throughout Indian Country.

Representative Matters

Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den, 139 S. Ct. 1000 (2019), a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming a case Stokes Lawrence prevailed on before the Washington Supreme Court. In Washington State DOL v. Cougar Den, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court announced that the Treaty of 1855 granted Yakama Nation members the right to travel the public highways of the United States free from taxes which encumber that treaty right.

Tulalip Tribes v. State of Washington and Snohomish County (Western District of Washington, May 2018). Lead counsel in bench trial before federal District Court Judge Barbara Rothstein, regarding whether the State and Snohomish County could collect sales tax on reservation at Quil Ceda Village. Case settled during Ninth Circuit appeal, and as part of that settlement the State of Washington passed a ground-breaking law providing that tribes have the right to enter into compacts to share Washington state sales tax receipts with tribes for sales occurring on their reservations.

Gaming contract litigation. In an intensely litigated dispute over the management contract for a new $500 million casino project, obtained favorable settlement prior to trial.

Tribal Tax Advisory Group for the State of Washington. Assisted the development of the Tribal Tax Exemption for items and services related to the exercise of Hunting, Gathering, and Fishing related activities for Washington State Tribes and their members. Successfully advocated for the inclusion of the Nez Perce Tribe to be included in the Washington State Tribal Tax Exemption based on the Nez Perce Tribe’s historical presence and activities within present-day Washington state boundaries.

Restorative Justice Win. Stokes Lawrence's American Indian Law team created a “first-of-its-kind” Traditional Restorative Justice and Therapy Plan supported by the Yakama Nation Tribal Court and Yakama Nation Elders. Restorative Justice in Indian Country occurs when a Tribal Nation exercises its sovereign authority to consider and/or develop alternative justice programs using traditional knowledge and wisdom. Our team represented a tribal member in tribal court regarding a domestic dispute. Knowing that the Anglo-type punishment of incarceration rarely provides long-term solutions, we partnered with Yakama Leaders and Elders to design an Elder’s Panel that would implement a twelve (12) month Domestic Dispute and Anger Management Treatment Plan pursuant to Yakama Tribal Customs and Traditions. When presented to the Court, both the Judge and the Tribal Prosecutor thanked our team for their work and stated the Tribe would continue to use the Treatment Plan as an alternative to typical incarceration, noting that the long-term health of its membership should be grounded in traditional knowledge and wisdom.

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