Legal Barriers to Tribal Project Development



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Original Air Date:
November 9, 2023
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About the Program

This panel will focus on energy resource development by Native American Nations, with the primary goal of providing long-term benefits to the tribes:


The ability of tribes to develop requires strong and consistent governance. However, tribes often have limited resources at their disposal to support the community, much less wider national needs.

Federal Government

Due to historical abuses, the Federal Government is integrally involved in the stewardship of tribal lands. We will explore how this has been both a help and a hindrance to tribal development.

Legal & Regulatory Concerns

Due to their nature, numerous legal issues arise in connection with tribal development. Such issues include, but are not limited to, sovereign immunity and state/tribal relations.


Though many Native American Nations have significant potential natural resources in the development of renewable energy, such development has numerous roadblocks in addition to cost. Among the factors requiring an in-depth consideration are energy demand, transmission interconnectivity difficulties and possible conflicting private development partner priorities.

Meet the Speakers
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Les Jacobowitz


Partner at Arent Fox Schiff (Moderator)

Les has provided counsel on deals involving $25 billion or more, as well as restructurings and workouts of an additional $50 billion. He has worked with governmental entities, private companies, banks, investment banks and funds in all aspects of financing, including the lending, securitization, real estate, public finance, not-for-profit, health care, restructuring, energy & environment and infrastructure & privatization financing areas, and related litigation.

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Eric Henson


Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, Member of the Chickasaw Nation

Eric Henson is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and has been a research fellow/affiliate with the Harvard Project on Indigenous Governance and Development (formerly known as the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development) since 1998. Mr. Henson teaches Nation Building II/Native Americans in the Twenty-First Century (HKS DEV-502, GSE A102, FAS EMR-121, GSD SES-5427) and Land Loss, Reclamation, and Stewardship in Contemporary Native America (HKS SUP-625 and GSD SES-
5439). In his role at Harvard, Mr. Henson has continuously served as an evaluator for “Honoring Nations,” an awards program that identifies, evaluates, and honors best practices in tribal governance all across the United States.

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Rob Odawi Porter


Managing Principal at Capitol Hill Policy Group, Former President of the Seneca Nation of Indians

Robert Odawi Porter is a former President of the Seneca Nation of Indians and an aggressive, experienced and innovative advocate for advancing the sovereignty and self-determination of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

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Pilar Thomas


Partner at Quarles & Brady, Former Chief of Staff to Pascua Yaqui Tribe

Pilar’s in depth federal Indian law experience extends to her governmental work as deputy director for the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs at the U.S. Department of Energy. She was responsible for developing and implementing policies and programs to achieve the office’s objectives related to the promotion of energy development, electrification and infrastructure improvement on tribal lands.

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Ezra Rosser


Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law

Ezra Rosser joined the American University Washington College of Law faculty in 2006. He has taught Property, Federal Indian Law, Poverty Law, Land Use, Housing Law, Advanced Legal Analysis, and Wills, Trusts, and Estates. Previously he served as a visiting professor at Ritsumeiken University, a 1665 Fellow at Harvard University, a visiting scholar at Yale Law School, and a Westerfield Fellow at Loyola University New Orleans School of Law. Ezra is a past chair of the AALS Property Law, Poverty Law, and Indian Nations and Indigenous Peoples sections. His articles have appeared in journals including the California Law Review, Harvard Law & Policy Review, Washington University Law Review, Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal, Environmental Law, and the American Indian Law Review. Ezra received the Elizabeth Payne Cubberly Scholarship Award in 2017 and 2012, as well as the Emalee C. Godsey Scholarship Award in 2008.

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