Native American Affairs

Client and Industry Challenges

Snell & Wilmer attorneys have been significantly involved in legal issues involving Native American tribes and land throughout the United States for 85 years. We understand that Native American tribes and the businesses they work with face unique challenges and opportunities, including issues involving sovereign immunity; gaming; taxes, employment, and economic development; cultural and natural resource and environmental protections; financing and developing hotels, retail centers, casinos and other types of infrastructure and utilities; and a wide range of tribal, state and federal regulatory concerns.

Clients We Serve

Snell & Wilmer has represented numerous Native American tribes, tribal organizations and Native American-owned enterprises located throughout the country. We have also represented casinos and gaming organizations, resorts and recreational businesses, development and management companies, financiers, gaming vendors and large and small companies that do business on Native American lands.

Why Clients Select Us

Respect and Commitment: We understand and respect the complex history, issues and evolving federal, state, and tribal laws and policies that affect Native American tribes and the businesses with whom they work. We know that every tribal government and every region of Indian Country is different. We strive to offer solutions tailored to the legal needs of each of our clients.

Dynamic, Comprehensive Service: With more than 500 attorneys practicing in 16 locations throughout the United States and in Mexico, we have the depth and breadth of experience necessary to offer our clients a dynamic range of services that are sensitive to the complex and often subtle differences in tribal, state and federal laws and regulations. Our Native American affairs attorneys regularly call on the diverse talents and experience of their colleagues to handle complex matters effectively and efficiently involving, for example, tribal business and finance, cultural resource and environmental issues, government relations, land use and development, energy and utility, gaming, water, and federal, state, and tribal tax issues.


Snell & Wilmer's Native American affairs practice is an interdisciplinary mix of attorneys with experience in Native American law and in numerous other areas including litigation, gaming law, utility law, natural resources, water law, general business, agri-business, real estate, condemnation, rights of way, legislation, regulatory agencies, construction, telecommunications, taxation, finance, employment law, gaming law, and environmental law. Examples include:

Commercial Litigation and Transactions 

  • Litigation in state, tribal and federal courts
  • Administrative matters involving, among other agencies, the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the National Indian Gaming Commission, and state and tribal regulatory authorities (including licensing and compliance issues)
  • Negotiation and counseling in the areas of federal law that deal with economic development, gaming, private and public financing, acquisition of business entities, tribal water rights, land and boundary claims, development of tribal business organizations, commercial leasing, development of tribal codes, ordinances and regulations, tribal courts, tax issues, and drafting and advocacy of federal and state legislation
  • Structuring and documenting credit facilities secured by gaming assets, natural resources, or leasehold property
  • Structuring and documenting joint ventures, leases, and other business contracts between tribes, tribal enterprises, and their business partners
  • Negotiating and preparing casino management contracts, collateral agreements, and tribal-state gaming compacts under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act
  • Assisting business clients in tribal tax audits and tribal tax compliance issues


  • Negotiated Tribal-State Gaming Compacts, including the 2021 and 2022 Arizona Gaming Compacts
  • Obtained approval for gaming management contracts and collateral documents from the National Indian Gaming Commission and/or the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior
  • Obtained "declination" letters from the National Indian Gaming Commission on agreements not constituting management contracts
  • Representation on land-into-trust acquisitions for gaming and non-gaming purposes
  • Assisted clients in federal recognition process for Native American tribes
  • Prepared Classification opinions (Class II vs. Class III) for gaming devices and other games to be offered by tribal gaming operations
  • Represented clients in leasing of land, easements, rights-of-way, and similar land-use issues on Native American lands
  • Represented clients with issues relating to the National Environmental Policy Act, water rights, natural resources, Endangered Species Act and related environmental issues pertaining to tribal gaming operations
  • Negotiated Intergovernmental Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding for providing municipal services (e.g., water, sewer, fire, EMT, police) in support of tribal gaming operations


  • Represented employer before trial and appellate courts in EEOC-led pattern-and-practice case involving alleged discrimination on Native American reservations
  • Defended employers from claims before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Arizona Civil Rights Commission, Colorado Civil Rights Division, New Mexico Human Rights Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor, National Labor Relations Board, Navajo Nation Office of Labor Relations, and Navajo Nation Labor Commission


  • Agricultural, water, mineral and other natural resource matters
  • Operation and development of tribal utility organizations, and interface with public utilities on Indian lands

Pro Bono 

  • Pro bono representation of Native Americans and Native American interests, including support of Native American economic development and self-sufficiency programs