Updates / Newsletters

Native Affairs Newsletter

May 6, 2022

Welcome to Van Ness Feldman’s Native Affairs newsletter. The newsletter serves as a forum to discuss a range of legal and policy developments of interest to our clients, colleagues, and friends across Indian Country. Please contact our attorneys or public policy professionals with any questions, and please send us your feedback!

Included in This Issue

  • An Uncommon Dialogue Among a Coalition of Tribes, Industry and River Advocacy Groups Leads to Proposed Legislative Changes to Streamline and Improve Hydroelectric Licensing
  • As FY 2023 Appropriations Deadlines Pass, a Reminder that Success is a Year-Long Effort
  • President Biden Signs VAWA Reauthorization Containing Expansions of Tribal Jurisdiction Over Non-Native Offenders
  • Challenges at the Northernmost Border: Alaska Native Leaders Highlight Role of Indigenous Leadership in National Security, and Participants Hear from the New Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies
  • Tribal Business Successfully Moves to Dismiss State Court Suit
  • SCOTUS To Decide Question of State Jurisdiction in Indian Country
  • Insurance Coverage Considerations for Tribal Cannabis Businesses
  • DOE Announces Grants for Federally Recognized Indian Tribes and Tribal Organizations

VNF Celebrates Big Wins for Critical Infrastructure in Indian Country

We are pleased to highlight two recent successes for our clients:

The firm worked with the Alaska Federation of Natives to secure more than $35 million under the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program for a consortium of 74 Tribes, Alaska Native village corporations, and regional non-profit tribal organizations, including housing entities.  Please contact Rick Agnew for more information.

The firm worked with a municipal government with a Native American constituency representing approximately 80 percent of its population to secure more than $230 million for a coastal erosion mitigation project.  The project will protect the community itself, the community’s drinking water source, and a significant cultural site, among other critical resources along a five-mile stretch of coastline.  Please contact Andrew VanderJack for more information.

Congratulations to Laura Jones

Please join us in congratulating Laura Jones for her promotion to Of Counsel!

Laura is a rising leader in the Native Affairs practice group. She focuses her practice on a wide range of matters with a focus on American Indian law, including economic development, federal regulatory issues, environmental compliance, and federal-tribal consultation, as well as a broad range of civil litigation. Laura represents Tribes, tribal businesses, and non-tribal businesses that want to work on or near tribal land. Laura’s expertise includes advising clients on regulatory and compliance matters, land use issues, and commercial lending transactions. Laura is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

Welcome to the Newest Members of our Team!

Nakia Arrington
We are excited to welcome Nakia Arrington to the Native Affairs practice group!   Nakia Arrington focuses her practice on litigation and investigations, including economic development work, federal regulatory issues, environmental compliance, and American Indian Law, as well as a broad range of civil litigation. Nakia has represented businesses regarding regulatory and compliance matters, land use issues, and Clean Water Act citizen suits.

Prior to joining the firm, Nakia served for 20 years in the United State Marine Corps. She was hired under the prestigious and highly competitive Attorney General’s Honors Program, where she served as Assistant General Counsel at the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the Sensitive and Strategic Information Litigation Section. She has also completed an internship with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. Nakia and her husband have three children and hail from the beautiful state of North Carolina.  Nakia is a member of the Lumbee Tribe.

Xena Burwell
We are excited to welcome Xena Burwell to the Native Affairs practice group!  Xena focuses her practice on Native American, environmental, and energy law issues.

During law school, Xena clerked with Van Ness Feldman for two summers. Xena also has experience working for federal agencies and environmental non-profits. As a law clerk for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, Xena worked on a variety of federal regulatory issues—including Clean Water Act, Solid Waste Disposal Act, and Safe Drinking Water Act—for EPA Regions 3 and 8. She also clerked for the Environmental Defense Fund, where she worked on issues for the Clean Air litigation team.

During law school, Xena was a member of the Howard Energy and Environmental Law Society. She was also a student-mediator for the Alternative Dispute Resolution Unit in the Washington Field Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Xena served as the Environmental Law teaching assistant for Professor Carlton Waterhouse, who currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Administrator of Land and Emergency Management at the Environmental Protection Agency. Xena is of Haliwa-Saponi heritage.

Gregg Renkes
We are excited to welcome Gregg Renkes to the firm as Senior Counsel!  Bringing over 30 years of experience, primarily in roles of public service, Gregg focuses his practice on matters relating to energy, environmental, public lands, Alaska Native and federal Native American law. In addition, with over a decade of prior experience as general counsel for a national commercial real estate and energy development company, Gregg brings seasoned leadership expertise to real estate, energy, and infrastructure project development teams.

Prior to joining the firm as Senior Counsel, Gregg was appointed to the position of Administrative Judge on the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) where he decided appeals from Department of the Interior bureau decisions relating to the use and disposition of public lands and their resources. Before joining the IBLA, he held the positions of Senior Counselor to the Secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy at the U.S. Department of the Interior, where he developed and led the execution of policy priorities and regulatory initiatives through departmental, inter-agency and executive processes and reviewed all matters requiring secretarial action.

Earlier in his career, Gregg served as Alaska Attorney General, was appointed to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council and the Alaska Permanent Fund Board. He co-chaired, with the U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska, the Alaska Rural Justice and Law Enforcement Commission, created by Congress to review and provide recommendations regarding federal, state, and local jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters and the criminal justice needs of rural Alaskans. Gregg served in the U.S. Senate for nearly a dozen years in various capacities including Chief of Staff for Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK) and Majority Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

VNF @ RES 2022

Come see us at RES 2022!  Feel free to reach out to Laura Jones or Andrew VanderJack to let us know if you will be in Las Vegas for RES or come visit our booth in the RES Exhibit Hall.

Nakia Arrington @ 2022 NE Regional National Hydropower Association Conference

Nakia Arrington will be moderating Hydropower’s Big Tent: Tribal Engagement and Environmental Justice in Relicensing Panel at the 2022 NE Regional National Hydropower Association Conference at the Royal Sonesta in Baltimore, Maryland on June 27, 2022 (the conference is June 27-28, 2022). The panel will focus on tribal relicensing protocols, treaty rights, environmental justice, and the impact the Federal Power Act and the Uncommon Dialogue amendments have on federally recognized Tribes.

Recent Appearances

We are delighted to be on the road again.  We hope we had an opportunity to see you at Wiring the Rez, the NACo Legislative Conference, or the Arctic Encounters Symposium. 

In case you missed it, Laura Jones presented on Tribal Consultation and Collaboration at the National Hydropower Association’s Waterpower Week Conference in April, and she recently provided a Tribal Lending Litigation Update training for Native American Financial Services Association members. Patrick Daugherty provided a Tribal Lending Litigation Update at the American Financial Services Association Regulatory & Economic Development Workshop.

If we missed you, please come see us at RES 2022 or NCAI’s Mid-Year Conference in Anchorage.