WHAT I DO:

I handle planning, coordinate financing, negotiate construction and design contracts, and navigate disputes on Indian Country building projects, both on behalf of tribal owners and their vendors. In addition, I represent clients in matters relating tribal governance; finance; environmental regulation; rights-of-way; energy development; jurisdiction; treaty rights; court development; business deals; and many other matters.

I also mediate and arbitrate a broad range of civil disputes, both inside and outside Indian Country.  I am a Qualified Neutral under Rule 114 of the Minnesota General Rules of Practice, and am on the American Arbitration Association Roster of Construction Neutrals.  I have also had the privilege of sitting as an Associate Judge for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribal Court in South Dakota.

WHERE I COME FROM:

I grew up in western South Dakota with a criminal-defense attorney dad, an anthropologist mom, and a great older brother. I came to the Twin Cities for college, majoring in Spanish at the U of M (including a study abroad in Santiago, Chile). I then spent a couple of years as a paralegal in the construction practice at the large Minneapolis firm now known as Faegre Baker Daniels. Among my duties were editing what has now grown into a 12-volume treatise, Bruner & O’Connor on Construction Law (Thomson Reuters).

I returned to Faegre after law school as a construction litigation associate and worked closely with the Indian law practice. A few years later I joined Jacobson, Magnuson, Anderson & Halloran, a nationally recognized, Native-owned tribal law firm in St. Paul. I practiced there for nearly 10 years, first as an associate and then as a shareholder. I went from there to run the tribal practice at a small firm in Minneapolis, and then moved on to open Van Norman Law.

I live in south Minneapolis with my partner. I love to travel, bike around the Cities, read and write fiction, follow local politics, and try new food trucks.

SELECTED TRANSACTIONS:

  • Indian country construction work. Negotiate numerous construction and design contracts and manage disputes on behalf of developers, general contractors, and tribal owners throughout Indian country on projects ranging from tribal government buildings, to casinos, to health clinics, to housing.
  • Other business work. Represent diverse vendors in transactions with tribes and others.
  • Tribal project development and financing. Represent tribal borrowers on a wide variety of projects including all stages of both traditional and nontraditional financing.
  • Tribal environmental and utility work. Assist tribes in securing Treatment-in-the-Same-Manner-as-a-State (“TAS”) status under provisions of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. Represent tribes in connection with large, proposed, off-reservation federal undertakings throughout complex federal and state permitting process. Negotiate right-of-way agreements for oil, gas, electrical, telecommunications, and road rights-of-way, and resolve related disputes in federal and state regulatory fora.
  • Tribal-court assessments. Managed, conducted, and advised on over 40 assessments of tribal courts throughout the country. Includes work with tribes in Alaska, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

SELECTED CASES:

  • Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa v. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.  Representing relator tribe in appeal over reissuance of NPDES permit for tailings basin at iron ore processing facility that pollutes wild rice waters in off-reservation treaty area.  (Minn. Ct. App. 2018)
  • In the Matter of the Application of Enbridge Energy, Limited Partnership for a Certificate of Need and Route Permit for the Line 3 Replacement Project.  Representing intervenor tribe in state permit proceedings for crude-oil pipeline project routed across both off-reservation treaty lands and on-reservation Indian lands–one of the largest construction projects in Minnesota history. (Minnesota Public Utilities Comm’n 2017-present).
  • Wolfchild, et al. v. Lower Sioux Indian Community, et al. Successfully represented tribe in securing dismissal of lawsuit over tribal land status. (D. Minn. 2014, 8th Cir. 2016)
  • Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa v. EPA, No. 13-1324 (JRT/LIB) (D.Minn. 2014). Sued EPA Region V and successfully persuaded it to withdraw federal approval under section 303(c) of the Clean Water Act for discharges from a facility in Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota.
  • City of Duluth v. Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa. Represented tribe in multi-jurisdictional dispute over casino revenue-sharing agreements. (Minn., D.Minn., 8th Circuit 2009-2013)
  • New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Connecticut & Prairie Island Indian Community v. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Represented tribal client as intervenor in challenge to NRC waste storage rules. (D.C. Cir. 2012)
  • In re M.H. Represented tribe in state-court appeal regarding ICWA’s tribal-court transfer provisions. (Ill. Ct. App. 2011)
  • Saginaw Chippewa Tribe v. Granholm. Successfully represented tribe in long dispute over reservation boundaries and tribal jurisdiction, negotiating set of 11 settlement agreements. (E.D. Mich. 2010)
  • Sober v. Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort.  Obtained dismissal on jurisdictional grounds of improper FMLA, ADA, and Civil Rights Act claims against tribal entity.  (E.D. Mich. 2009)

RECENT PRESENTATIONS AND PUBLICATIONS:

  • Interrelationship of Tribal Environmental and Cultural Resources (MSBA/MAIBA, Minneapolis, Mar. 7, 2019).
  • Spotlight on the Construction Industry, Presenter and Program Co-Chair (MinnCLE, Minneapolis, Feb. 20, 2019).
  • Minnesota Tribes and the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline Replacement Project on Panel, Climate Change and Genocide (World Without Genocide, Mitchell Hamline School of Law, Aug. 1, 2018)
  • Successful Indian Country Construction:  Negotiating Effective Tribal Contracts and Navigating Disputes (MSBA 2018 Construction Law Symposium, June 21, 2018)
  • Minnesota Tribes and the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline Replacement Project on Panel, Tribal Environmental Issues: Water, Wild Rice and Mining (MAIBA/MinnCLE, May 4, 2018)
  • The Indian Child Welfare Act: Current Issues (Ramsey Cty. Bar Assoc., May 25, 2016)
  • Tribal Court Assessments through the BIA Office of Tribal Justice Support (BIA Midwest Region Partners in Action Conference, Aug. 5-7, 2014)
  • Rights-of-Way on Indian Lands (Nat’l Tribal Land Assoc., Apr. 9, 2014)
  • Energy Law 101, Environmental Law 101, and Indian Law 101: How the Three Interact for Tribal Resource Development (LSI, Milwaukee, WI, Feb. 20, 2014)
  • “Protecting Off-Reservation Tribal Resources from State and Federal Projects,” in Emerging Issues in Tribal-State Relations (Thomson Reuters/Aspatore: 2013).
  • Piercing the Tribal Corporate Veil: An Unsettled Area of the Law (Minn. CLE, Prairie Island Indian Community, MN, May 18, 2012)
  • Tips on Structuring Business Relationships in Indian Country: Keys to a Successful Transaction (LSI, Pueblo Cultural Center, Albuquerque, NM, Mar. 11, 2011)

ADMISSIONS:

Admitted to practice (State): Minnesota

Admitted to practice (Federal):

  • U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Cir.
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Cir.
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims
  • U.S. District Court, E.D. Mich.
  • U.S. District Court, D.Minn.
  • U.S. District Court, D.Nebr.

Admitted to practice (Tribal):

  • Grand Portage Band Court
  • Fond du Lac Band Court
  • Lower Sioux Tribal Court
  • Red Lake Band Tribal Court
  • Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Court
  • Stockbridge-Munsee Tribal Court (pending)

SERVICE:

  • Northern Lights.mn (current): Board Chair for a public arts non-profit that puts on the annual Northern Spark Festival in the Twin Cities.
  • Conflict Resolution Center (current): Volunteer Community Mediator.
  • Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center (past):  Board Co-Chair.
  • Indian Child Welfare Law Center (past):  Board Vice President.

MEMBERSHIPS:

  • Minnesota American Indian Bar Association (Special Member)
  • Minnesota State Bar Association, Construction and ADR Sections
  • Minnesota Lavender Bar Association
  • Associated General Contractors of Minnesota

EDUCATION:

  • J.D., cum laude, University of Minnesota Law School, 2004
  • B.A., Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude, University of Minnesota 1999