Indian Law
Team Leader
Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C.'s Indian Law Team delivers comprehensive legal services to tribes, tribal businesses, tribal organizations and individuals. We understand that no two tribes are alike. We respect and appreciate each tribe’s distinctive membership, language, culture, tradition and land base. We know from experience the body of Indian law is diverse, complex and ever-changing. Beyond just technical expertise, WHD offers practical judgment, incisive and innovative thinking and a professional commitment to client success.
Our Indian Law Team is supported by professionals experienced in gaming, business transactions, commercial finance, environmental law, human resources, labor and employment, litigation, public finance, real estate, taxation, trust and estates and government relations. We apply this proven legal expertise to every facet of federal, state, local and tribal law to meet the legal needs of our tribal clients.
At WHD, we know the exercise of tribal sovereignty depends on a strong government-to-government relationship that observes and enunciates tribal rights and sovereignty. We understand the well-being and livelihood of tribal members depends on their government’s ability to serve them. When a tribal client forms a relationship with WHD, it is a privilege and we recognize a serious commitment to serve the best interests of the tribal membership.

Our Approach

At WHD we develop a thorough understanding of our tribal client's operations, objectives and expectations, and we assemble a team to meet those needs. We are committed to serving our clients promptly and appropriately. WHD attorneys understand the importance of being responsive and are available 24/7 to help our tribal clients.

Representative Engagements

Indian Gaming: Our team has a solid record of performance from new gaming projects to expanding mega-casino enterprises. We work closely with tribes to fully realize their gaming opportunities through learned strategy and expertise. We closely monitor the ever-changing trends in the Indian gaming industry, including administrative policies, proposed changes to Class II and III gaming definitions, the fee-to-trust process, and federal management of the industry. Examples of our experience include:

  • Successful negotiation of tribal gaming compacts, compact disputes including one for over $100 million, and intergovernmental agreements;
  • Gaming project development team counsel for both application for, and opposition of, off-reservation gaming projects on the tribal, state and federal levels;
  • Review contracts for financing, operation and construction of casino projects;
  • Acquisition of land suitable for gaming;
  • Successful representation of clients involving gaming rule promulgation;
  • Successful representation of clients before the National Indian Gaming Commission on gaming contracts and regulatory issues;
  • Secured gaming-related contracts with local municipalities and other providers for police, fire and ambulatory services;
  • Gaming employment issues;
  • Representation of tribes in dispute resolution and compliance with regard to federal income, employment and excise tax matters; and
  • Gaming facility insurance defense. 
Government Affairs: Our team has proven experience in representing tribal clients’ position at all levels of government. We are candid with clients on the realities of governance to protect, preserve and enhance tribal interests. We monitor federal and state legislation, case law and news articles on a daily basis to timely advise our clients of new trends. Examples of our experiences include:
  • Federal government affairs for the tribal position, including, but not limited to, gaming, health care, housing, education, environmental legislation, appropriations and energy;
  • Successful administrative and multi-agency representation in facilitation of the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act with focus on Section 106 and tribal consultation, the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, Indian Reservation Roads Program, the Army Base Realignment and Closure (including contract-driven military base closures), the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and Department of Interior-administered programs;
  • Negotiated and secured a 1,500+ acre federal excess real property offer to a tribal client; and
  • Federal recognition. 
Litigation: Our team is comprised of performance-driven litigators experienced in administrative, tribal, state, appellate and federal judicial forums, including matters before the Interior Board of Indian Appeals. We have represented tribal interests in multi-million dollar gaming and economic development disputes as well as the tribal position on tobacco sales in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Examples of our experience include:
  • Represented a tribe in litigation with the State of Wisconsin for $100+ million compact dispute;
  • Represented a tribe in on-reservation cigarette sales tax dispute with the State of Wisconsin;
  • Represented a tribe in multi-million dollar commercial development litigation;
  • Represented a tribe in various employment litigation matters;
  • Represented tribes in treaty rights litigation; and
  • Represented a tribe in water rights litigation and secured water allocation plans and agreement of tribal priority for water rights. 
Business & Commercial Transactions: Our team offers a wide range of corporate merger, acquisition, divestiture and reorganization transactions. Our team is composed of experts in the fields of tax law, securities law, corporate finance and general corporate counseling. Several of our attorneys are either certified public accountants or have degrees in accounting or finance. Examples of our tribal transaction experience include:
  • Represent tribe in due diligence of corporate ventures and investment opportunities; and
  • Assist with tribal economic development, business transactions, bonds, construction contracts, mergers and acquisitions, securities, commercial loans, public and private financing and venture capital transactions.
Real Estate: Our team has represented tribes in complex real estate transactions on matters involving fee, reservation and trust status land. Our attorneys are experienced in representing tribal clientele as both buyers and sellers in commercial and residential real estate transactions. We have secured favorable and unprecedented real estate transactions for tribes, including, but not limited to: acquisitions, sales, fee-to-trust land applications (gaming and non-gaming), negotiations, covenants, easements, mineral rights and condemnation. Examples of our experience include: 
  • Represented a tribe as seller’s agent and buyer’s agent and coordinated closings;
  • Represented a tribe in land contracts with private parties and the state of Wisconsin;
  • Represented a tribe in deed correction, transfer fee exemption applicability, 25 C.F.R. Part 151 fee-to-trust applications and amendments, federal surplus land deposition claims and negotiated binding agreements between federal, state, local and tribal governments;
  • Represented a tribe as counsel to major highway transportation construction projects, including voluntary sale terms; negotiating land values; critiquing appraisals; access, utility, sewage and water issues; negotiating land exchanges; Indian Reservation Roads program coordination; commercial/residential designation; and favorable design and aesthetics to tribal enterprises;
  • Represented a tribe in unprecedented conveyances of state Department of Transportation land to a tribe;
  • Assisted tribal clients with numerous successful fee-to-trust land applications;
  • Represented tribal clients in property damage matters; and
  • Represented a tribe in land use planning, zoning, and condemnation matters. 
Tribal Governance: Our team has experience working directly for tribal governing bodies. We have provided legislative counsel for tribes that includes developing tribal codes, incorporating traditional laws and customs, and enforcing tribal law at local, state and federal levels. Examples of our experience include:
  • Drafting tribal constitutions, laws and ordinances and tribal code development;
  • Represented tribes on application of tribal employment rights ordinances and Indian preference hiring policies;
  • Represented a tribe in numerous cultural resources and historic preservation matters that involve the application of traditional law and custom;
  • Advised clients on various jurisdictional matters on Indian land, including Indian reservations and Public Law 280 issues; and
  • Chaired employment grievance board on behalf of a tribe as employer. 
Cultural Resources and Historic Preservation: Our team is nationally recognized as an advocate of protection of tribal cultural and historical resources and has secured numerous local, state and federal intergovernmental agreements on behalf of tribes. Our attorneys work directly with the National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and agency offices in all phases of tribal consultation and mitigation of potential adverse effect. We work directly with the Wisconsin State Historical Society on active cases and secure binding protections of irreplaceable resources. Examples of our experience include:
  • Represented tribes nation-wide in numerous Section 106 consultations on multi-million dollar development projects including, but not limited to, federal land disposition, wind energy farm, federal highway construction projects, and tribal development projects;
  • Secured and enforced agreements including memorandums of agreement for intergovernmental cooperation, Section 106 review, assessment and mitigation, contractor agreements, and curation agreements;
  • Represented a tribe for revisions to the Wisconsin Burial Law, Wis. Stat. §157.70;
  • Successfully represented a tribe in defeating state legislation that would threaten tribal cultural sites on state-owned properties by metal detecting activities;
  • Drafted and secured historic preservation plans and archaeological covenants with local landowners on private properties; and
  • Represented a tribe in a Section 106 review process through 36 C.F.R. Part 800.7 and secured the most favorable opinion issued by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to deny a project based on its permanent and irreparable harm to cultural and historic resources.