Robert Odawi Porter has achieved significant successes on behalf of his clients during his career, primarily focused on assisting tribal governments protect treaty rights, promote better tribal government operations, and pursue greater sovereignty and self-determination in the face of threats from the federal and state governments—

Federal and State Threats to Sovereignty.

  • Led the effort to enforce tribal employment rights ordinance that allowed completion of $28 million in highway improvements being denied by the state government and secured nearly $1 million in TERO fees

  • Developed the legal strategy to cancel state highway rights-of-way through tribal lands and pursue Nonintercourse Act claim against a state government for trespass on treaty-protected lands

  • Advised tribal officials during state police invasion of tribal lands in connection with state government effort to violate treaty rights and impose state taxes on tribal commerce

  • Developed and implemented the legal strategy to protect treaty rights by preventing EPA regulatory interference with tribal casino construction

  • Developed and implemented the legal strategy to protect treaty rights by preventing union organizing campaign and NLRB regulatory interference in casino operations

  • Initiated tribal government effort to pursue FERC hydropower license that led to a $100 million settlement with licensee power company and enhanced tribal rights over hydroelectric facility

  • Advocated to secure tribal government recognition by the U.S. Department of the Interior

  • Developed and implemented the legal strategy to allow tribal government to assume contract responsibility for certain educational services previously provided by the state government


Treaty Rights.

  • Advocated before Congress and regulatory agencies to protect tribal treaty fishing rights against potentially destructive development project planned for construction in “usual & accustomed” fishing area

  • Advocated to protect Jay Treaty border crossing rights and recognition by regulatory border control agencies, as well as help build Jay Treaty Border Alliance

  • Developed and implemented the legal strategy to protect treaty rights by securing EPA recognition of tribal government-issued wastewater discharge permit for a new tribal wastewater treatment plant


Indians Not Taxed”

  • Served a lead lobbying role in coalition-building and policy advocacy that led to the enactment of the Tribal General Welfare Act of 2015, 26 U.S.C. §139E, which immunizes from federal income taxation nearly all tribal government benefits provided to their tribal citizens

  • Advised on tax policy in relation to the Treasury Tribal Advisory Committee

  • Advocated for protection of tribal tobacco economy against state taxation



  • Developed the legal strategy that led to $230 million settlement of a tribal-state gaming compact exclusivity dispute

  • Led the effort to complete $130 million Class III casino project in Buffalo, New York with significant support from local business, political, and civic community

  • Advised process for restoration of Class III casino subject to NIGC closure order


Business Development

  • Drafted amendments to tribal casino corporation charters to improve effectiveness and legitimacy in board operations, as well as accountability to tribal government and citizens

  • Developed and led the effort to establish a tribal holding company, Seneca Holdings LLC, to diversify the tribal economy and expand tribal government revenue stream


International Indigenous Rights

  • Initiated efforts to incorporate the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into tribal legislation and petitions to the U.S. president for redressing grievances required by treaty


Political Leadership

  • Advised on comprehensive political and media strategy to elevate tribal government profile and influence regionally, statewide, and nationally

  • Administered 1,200 employee tribal government with a $130 million annual budget, with responsibility for overseeing tribally owned enterprises that generated $700 million in revenue for year with a $1 billion regional economic impact


Expert Testimony

  • Prepared expert witness report for a federal district court on the historical and legal dimensions of tribal land claim

  • Prepared expert witness report for a federal district court on the authority of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to oversee tribal electoral process


Constitutional Reform and Legal Development.

  • Advised tribal general council constitutional reform committee in development and implementation of amendments to define legislative powers, to stabilize electoral process, to create an ethics commission, and to remove approval requirements of the Secretary of the Interior, including management of the BIA amendment approval process

  • Developed amendments and led the tribal constitutional reform effort to create tribal court of appeals, improve judicial election process, and remove state law restrictions on tribal government actions

  • Drafted tribal ethics legislation, including establishment of tribal ethic commission and other tribal codes, including education law, judicial appellate procedure rules, natural resources laws, and child welfare laws

  • Drafted documents to create independent tribal government agencies to regulate delivery of tribal health care, to implement tribal housing programs, to administer tribal tobacco laws, and to pursue a FERC hydropower license


Regulated Consumables

  • Designed a comprehensive tribal tobacco regulatory system, including provisions to require tribal stamping, ensure minimum retail pricing, regulatory agency enforcement, and consistency with federal tobacco regulatory laws

  • Organized the first national conference on marijuana regulation in Indian Country following the Wilkinson Memo in February 2015