Chestnut Law Offices, P.A. attorneys have extensive experience with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (“NAGPRA”) and other federal laws relating to the protection of cultural resources and tribal patrimony.We represented the Pueblo de San Ildefonso in validating a federal cause of action under NAGPRA for cultural patrimony in federally funded museums. See Pueblo of San Ildefonso v. Ridlon, 90 F.3d 423 (10th Cir. 1996). Our attorneys have successfully negotiated the return of invaluable artifacts sacred to Pueblo culture and religion, including careful transportation of priceless artifacts to Pueblo lands.
Chestnut Law Offices gives broad definitions to cultural resources. Protection can include administrative proceedings, private negotiations and litigation to protect the use of places as well as objects and practices. A selection of actions taken to protect cultural resources includes:
Chestnut Law Offices, P.A. represents several organizations recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and/or by the State of New Mexico as non-profit corporations or cooperative associations under New Mexico Corporation laws. We have successfully assisted our clients through the application process for recognition as tax-exempt organizations under Section 501(c)(3) and have developed valuable contacts with the Internal Revenue Service as a result.
Chestnut Law Offices, P.A. has also developed resources relating to the application process for obtaining an IRS Letter Ruling recognizing tribal entities as subdivisions of tribal governments, thereby achieving tax-exempt recognition and inclusion on the federal list of such entities. Our attorneys can help organizations decide which type of exempt recognition to seek.
Chestnut Law Offices, P.A. represents clients in all areas of Water Law, including litigation of water rights, application for water rights, permits, changes-in-place, and purpose-of-use, drafting 40-year water plans for water cooperative associations, investigation of water rights, and transfer of water rights in real estate transactions.
We currently serve as senior Pueblo attorneys in State of New Mexico v. Aamodt, No. 66cv06639 (D.N.M.), the leading water rights adjudication case in federal court to determine the nature and extent of Pueblo Indian water rights. After decades of litigation and over five years of negotiations, a Settlement Agreement was signed in May of 2006 by four Pueblos and other governments involved in the Aamodt case. Implementation will require federal legislation and court action that will take years to complete.
Chestnut Law Offices, P.A. has been involved in real estate transactions over the years. Our office has negotiated, prepared and reviewed various real property transactions and related documents for our clients including financing, security interests, deeds, leases, rights-of-way, easements, use licenses, construction contracts, build-to-suit leases, promissory notes, and loan agreements.
We have assisted tribal clients with land acquisitions, both by purchase and legislation, and placement of lands into trust status. The complexity and size of these acquisitions have varied, but each has increased a tribe’s land holdings. An integral part of our real estate practice is using creative mechanisms to protect what is of greatest importance to Pueblos, such as cultural practices, easements, covenants, etc.
In 2006, we represented the Pueblo de San Ildefonso in negotiating a Settlement Agreement for the last remaining case filed with the Indian Claims Commission in 1951, (Pueblo of San Ildefonso v. United States, 35 Fed.Cl. 777 (1996)), which resulted in the passage of the Pueblo de San Ildefonso Claims Settlement Act of 2005, Public Law 109-286, authorizing the Forest Service to return some of the Pueblo’s aboriginal lands to tribal exclusive use.
Chestnut Law Offices, P.A. has considerable experience in Federal Indian Law and intergovernmental relations. Our firm includes both Native and non-Native attorneys who are dedicated to serving the needs of our tribal clients. Two senior attorneys each have over 20 years experience in Federal Indian Law. We continue to work with tribal, state, local and federal agencies to encourage positive government-to-government relations. Our attorneys have represented our tribal clients at the state and federal level on matters involving the judicial, legislative, and administrative branches of those governments.
Our firm is aware of the challenges that both Indian and non-Indian clients face when they deal with the uncertainty of tribal, state, and federal regulatory and jurisdiction issues concerning Indian Country and Indian transactions.
SOVEREIGNTY: Chestnut Law Offices, P.A. represented the San Juan Pueblo Gaming Commission in a successful defense of the limited waiver of sovereign immunity in the 2001 Gaming Compact. See Kosiba v. San Juan Pueblo, 2006-NMCA-057. We participate in the Tribal Supreme Court Project as counsel for Tribal Amici in state and federal cases to protect Indian tribal sovereignty issues.
TRIBAL SELF-DETERMINATION: Chestnut Law Offices, P.A. works with tribal clients to assist them in drafting tribal laws and policies consistent with individual Pueblo customs and beliefs. Attorneys also help tribal clients understand and comment on federal laws, regulations, and policies that may affect the ability of tribal governments to direct the future of their lands and people.
There are approximately 360 Indian Gaming facilities operating in the United States. Each tribal gaming operation is regulated pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which was passed by Congress in 1988. Indian gaming has provided tribes the opportunity to sustain tribal programs, provide educational opportunities, create jobs for tribal members and non-members, and provide opportunity for further tribal economic development projects.
Chestnut Law Offices, P.A. has been involved in gaming in New Mexico since Tribal-State gaming compact negotiations started in 1992. Our attorneys participated in negotiations of Tribal-State Gaming Compacts signed in 1995, 1997 and 2001. In New Mexico, many tribes have opened casinos enabling them to prosper economically to help tribes support their governmental functions and maintain cultural traditions. Chestnut Law Offices attorneys have broad experience in Indian Gaming, including the development of gaming management contracts, tribal gaming ordinances, and tribal gaming regulations. Chestnut Law Offices has successful working relationships with the National Indian Gaming Commission and representatives of the New Mexico Gaming Control Board. Our clients include tribal governments, tribal gaming enterprise boards, casino management, and tribal gaming regulatory commissions.
Chestnut Law Offices, P.A. has represented clients in a wide range of employment law issues, including the interpretation and application of federal employment laws to individual situations and representation of clients in administrative appeals and litigation. We have experience working with the Fair Labor Standards Act, Family Medical Leave Act, Workers’ Compensation, Unemployment Benefits and ERISA. We have drafted and reviewed personnel policies and employment contracts for small and large businesses.
Business law comprises a large part of our firm’s practice. We work with clients on their business related transactions, from routine legal review of contracts to major transactions and negotiations, to protect our clients’ interests within the context of those contracts, agreements, leases or subleases. Our experience in business includes:
We also have experience with various governmental funding authorities, including the BIA loan guarantee program, Department of Agriculture Rural Utility Services (RUS) Funding, and EDA-CDBG Funding, among others.
We are proud to serve our tribal business clients in providing resources for future generations, including tribal economic development projects. We have assisted our tribal clients in the initiation and expansion of a wide range of business enterprises. Our experience in tribal economic development involves contracts for projects, including the following: