Native American

  • Overview
  • Team

McAfee & Taft has an active practice representing Native American tribes in business transactions and in litigation at all levels, including tribal courts, state courts, federal district courts, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. We are, first and foremost, business lawyers dedicated to helping Native American tribes achieve their economic and business diversification goals while enhancing their tribal sovereignty and maintaining their unique culture and way of life.

Our clients include tribes in Oklahoma and surrounding states, the economic development divisions of Indian nations, and tribal-owned and operated businesses.

Our collective experience involving Native American tribes includes matters involving:

  • Sovereignty and governance
  • Economic development and diversification
  • Gaming law
  • Federal funding
  • Financing
  • Real estate and construction
  • Environmental compliance and permitting
  • Entertainment
  • Workplace issues, including employment, union avoidance and safety
  • Group health and welfare plans
  • Copyrights, trademarks and other intellectual property rights
  • Tax issues
  • Insurance
  • Business disputes

Of specific note, in recent years McAfee & Taft attorneys have played a lead role in negotiating land leases and subleases of allotted land, negotiating the purchase of fee-to-trust land, handling organizational and corporate governance matters, reviewing liquor ordinances, drafting resolutions related to gaming, negotiating unemployment insurance matters with the State of Oklahoma, and representing a tribe in an action to reinstate federal funding under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act.

Comprehensive Legal and Business Services

Business and Growth Strategies

As one of the region’s preeminent business firms, our reputation has been built on helping clients achieve their operational and growth objectives. In addition to assisting clients in forming new entities and developing new businesses from the ground up, our lawyers are highly experienced in negotiating and closing deals involving mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and sales of various businesses.

Our proven experience includes representing tribes in acquiring Small Business Administration 8(a) companies, making investments in foreign companies using newly created investment vehicles, and consulting on alternative business diversification strategies. We have also assisted clients in acquiring horse racing and casino entertainment venues from non-tribal companies and developing and constructing a number of new casinos.

Indian Gaming

In the specific area of Indian gaming, the scope of our work has encompassed such issues as entity formation, gaming ordinances, tribal/state compacts, gaming consultant agreements, gaming management agreements, National Indian Gaming Commission negotiations, loans and security agreements collateralizing the loans, the issuance of tax-exempt Tribal Economic Development Bonds as well as taxable public debt, real estate agreements with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, zoning, taxation, Indian preference law and TERO programs, and defense of Notice of Violations. Our attorneys have also represented tribes in litigation involving land, jurisdiction and sovereignty determinations under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and in negotiations with U.S. attorneys and representatives of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Litigation and Dispute Resolution

McAfee & Taft’s trial lawyers provide aggressive representation on behalf of tribal clients involved in business disputes as well as litigation pertaining to matters of Indian law, including sovereignty, land trust rights and federal funding, and involving such agencies as the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Employment, Labor and Benefits

Workplace issues play a crucial role in the life of every business, and our attorneys provide comprehensive counseling and support in all aspects of employment, executive compensation and employee benefits law. General employment matters common to most businesses include those involving wage and hour compliance, workplace safety, anti-discrimination and harassment, hiring and interviewing techniques, proper procedures for disciplining and terminating employees, and supervisor and management training. We also assist tribes in protecting their business interests by drafting non-competition and no-solicitation agreements used in the hiring of new employees. In recent years, we have alerted our tribal clients about labor unions that have targeted their businesses – particularly their gaming operations – for organizing activity and have provided pro-active union avoidance training to casino management.

The firm also provides tribes with specialized counseling in the area of employee benefits law, advising them of the special rules applicable to, and benefits and special planning opportunities available for, tribal governments. Our comprehensive work in the area of employee benefits law encompasses group health and welfare plans, qualified and nonqualified retirement plans, and numerous types of executive compensation plans. We also counsel clients on legal compliance, funding and taxation issues, litigation benefit claims, and handle the employee benefits and compensation aspects of business transactions consummated by tribes.

Environmental, Health & Safety

Of increasing importance to Native American tribes who are engaged in business development and industry, as well as tribes undertaking implementation of federal environmental regulatory programs, is the highly regulated field of environmental, health and safety law. Our lawyers provide specialized assistance to regulated businesses regarding compliance, permitting, transactional due diligence and litigation services regarding all facets of environmental, health and safety law, particularly matters involving clean air, clean water, waste disposal, compliance audits and worker safety. We also assist tribes with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tribal consultation and coordination, delegation authority, implementation of environmental programs, and environmental justice. Our lawyers have great expertise in air programs and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and are ready to provide advice on the Clean Air Act’s Tribal Authority Rule, assist tribes in drafting and adopting their own Tribal Implementation Plans for approval by the EPA, advise on proposed and new regulatory requirements affecting tribal authorities and the scope and implementation of NEPA, including Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements.

Of course, our Native American industry clients have many of the same needs as other business clients, and we draw upon the talents of all of the firm’s lawyers as necessary, whether it be tax, real estate, construction, entertainment, aircraft financing and registration, or any other field of law helpful to our business clients generally.

To learn more about McAfee & Taft’s Native American Industry Group, please contact:

Vickie Buchanan
(405) 552-2331


Vickie J. Buchanan
Shareholder, Practice Group Leader, Industry Group Leader
(405) 552-2331
Steven P. Cole
(405) 552-2230
W. Chris Coleman
Shareholder, Industry Group Leader
(405) 552-2234
Elizabeth L. Dalton
Of Counsel, Industry Group Leader
(405) 552-2217
Kate N. Dodoo
Of Counsel, Practice Group Leader
(405) 270-6057
Clifford C. Dougherty, III
(405) 552-2302
Emalie L. Foster
(918) 574-3071
Frank D. Hill
Of Counsel
(405) 552-2259
Alan G. Holloway
(405) 552-2344
Myrna Schack Latham
(405) 552-2278
Brandon P. Long
Shareholder, Director
(405) 552-2328
Robert T. Luttrell, III
Of Counsel
(405) 552-2291
Michael D. McClintock
Of Counsel
(405) 552-2213
John A. Papahronis
(405) 552-2231
Terra Lord Parten
Shareholder, Practice Group Leader
(405) 552-2324
Michael J. Power Jr.
(405) 552-2336
Paul A. Ross
(405) 552-2383
Joshua D. Smith
Shareholder, Director, Industry Group Leader
(405) 552-2301
N. Martin Stringer
Of Counsel
(405) 552-2284
Jeff L. Todd
Of Counsel
(405) 552-2269
Nathan L. Whatley
Shareholder, Practice Group Leader
(405) 552-2365


An Elderly Native American Woman (Navajo) Wearing Turquoise Rings on Her Fingers Touches a Woven Navajo Basket

What’s law got to do with it?

The Brand Protection Professional |

At The Podium

Sovereignty Issues Affecting HR and Benefits

Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes
Thackerville, Oklahoma | July 10, 2014

Unique Employee Benefits Issues Facing Indian Tribes as Employers

Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes
Tulsa, Oklahoma | May 7, 2013

Industry Group Leader