Loretta A. Tuell

Loretta A. Tuell


Loretta A. Tuell focuses her practice on American Indian law, governmental law and policy, and gaming matters.

For more than 20 years, Loretta has worked in the arena of federal Indian law and policy. She has devised strategies, executed legislative advocacy, developed national policy and advocated before the U.S. Congress, the White House and federal agencies such as the Department of the Interior, the National Indian Gaming Commission, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

In Congress, she served as the Majority Staff Director and Chief Counsel for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to Senator Daniel K. Akaka and Counsel to the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye. During her tenure on the Committee, Loretta advised on virtually all matters under the Committee’s jurisdiction dealing with Indian tribes, Alaska natives and native Hawaiians.

She has developed legislation with a focus on trust lands, Indian gaming/Internet gaming, the environment, education, housing, energy, federal recognition, religious freedom and repatriation, fish and wildlife, trust lands, water, subsistence issues, climate change, emergence response/disaster relief, economic development, taxation, and other related issues. Loretta is experienced with authorizing legislation, the budget and appropriation process, and the leadership functions in the U.S. Congress as well as the White House and federal agencies.

Loretta is also experienced as a senior official in the Executive Branch. At the Department of Interior, she served as Special Assistant and Counselor to the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs and Acting Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs – Office of Tribal Services before she was appointed by President Clinton to be the Director of the Office of American Indian Trust, the secretarial office charged with the development, coordination and implementation of the American Indian trust and self-governance policies and international indigenous rights department wide.

At the Department of the Interior, Loretta managed a myriad of legal and policy issues. She directed the rulemaking and consultation process for trust fund account reform, land-into-trust regulations and both the general assistance and blood quantum regulations. She advised on Indian gaming and compacts. She managed the largest service program provider for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, including social service programs, child protection services, housing improvement, federal recognition and tribal government relations and elections, enrollment appeals and tribal courts.

Loretta served as Co-Chair to the Joint Federal-Tribal Task Force that developed the 2000 Bureau of Indian Affairs Consultation Policy. She testified before Congress and the United Nations on indigenous rights and the environment. Loretta also served on White House Domestic Indian Policy Working Group and the joint Department of Interior – Department of Justice Federal Task Force on Native Hawaiians which issued the report "From Mauka to Makai: The River of Justice Must Flow Freely" on the Native Hawaiian Reconciliation Process.

Loretta was recognized in 2009 as one of five women—and the first American Indian woman in history—to receive the prestigious Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award from the American Bar Association.

Since 2002, Loretta has served as the Chair of the Board of Trustees for United National Indian Tribal Youth, (UNITY Inc.), a nonprofit dedicated to the development of leadership skills for Native youth through indigenous based programs, workshops, and conferences. In 2015, she was appointed to the Board of Trustees for the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). Loretta is an enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho. 

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  • Majority Staff Director & Chief Counsel, U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, 2011-2013
  • Director, U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Secretary, Office of the American Indian Trust, 2000-2001
  • Acting Director, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Summer 1999
  • Special Assistant and Counselor, U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, 1998-1999
  • Democratic Staff Counsel, U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, 1993-1998
  • Senior Law Clerk, Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, Summer 1991 and Fall 1992
  • Summer Law Clerk, Nez Perce Tribe, Office of Legal Counsel, 1990

Recognition & Leadership

  • Team Member, "2016 Hot List: Indian Law Practitioners," Indian Country Today, Summer, 2016
  • Recipient, Margaret Brent Award, American Bar Association, 2009
  • Board Member, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI)
  • Board Member, United National Indian Tribal Youth Inc., (UNITY)
    • Chair, Board of Trustees, 2002-Present
  • Member, American Bar Association
  • Member, California Indian Law Association
  • Member, Federal Bar Association
  • Member, International Association of Gaming Advisors
  • Member, Native American Bar Association


  • J.D., University of California at Los Angeles, School of Law, 1992
  • B.A., Washington State University, 1988
  • District of Columbia
  • California