Robert Odawi Porter is an experienced tribal attorney and advocate who has devoted his professional career to advancing the rights of sovereign American Indian nations and tribes in the United States. A citizen of the Seneca Nation of Indians, Rob was raised in the Nation’s Allegany Territory and earned his education from Syracuse University and Harvard Law School. He began his legal career at a large Washington, D.C. law firm in general corporate and securities practice and later worked at Dentons, the world's largest law firm.
Rob's career has focused on public service and he was appointed as the first Attorney General of Seneca Nation and later served as the Nation's Senior Policy Advisor and Counsel. He was the founding chairman of Seneca Holdings LLC, the Seneca Nation’s diversified investment company. In 2010, he was elected as the 67th President of the Seneca Nation of Indians.
Rob has had a career as a tenured law professor at the University of Kansas, the University of Iowa, and Syracuse University, and written numerous academic articles on tribal law and governance and a book on American Indian sovereignty.
Prior to and through his work at the firm, Rob has been a proven advocate demonstrating leadership in major conflicts with the U.S. federal and state governments to protect tribal sovereignty and treaty rights, including efforts to stop New York State from taxing treaty-protected Seneca commerce. He served a lead role in lobbying for the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act of 2014, which ended the practice of IRS auditing of Indians for benefits received from their tribal governments. On gaming issues, he developed the legal strategy that resulted in the Seneca Nation securing a $210 million settlement from New York State for its violation of the State-Tribal Class III gaming compact. And on numerous occasions, he successfully secured recognition of tribal sovereign authority by the federal government for exclusive tribal regulation over land use, labor relations and environmental regulation.
During his career, Rob has represented sovereign tribal nations, private Native-owned businesses, Alaska Native companies, and Fortune 500 corporations. He has also been an active media contributor, and served as a consulting expert and expert witness in matters pending before US and Indian tribal courts.
- Federal and state government relations
- General and special counsel legal services
- Treaty rights defense and claims
- Tribal constitutional, governmental and legal development
- Taxation, economic development and tribal empowerment
- Regulation of adult consumables
United States Senate
- Finance Committee, Hearing on "Tax Reform: What It Could Mean for Tribes and Territories", May 15, 2012
- Indian Affairs Committee, Hearing on Internet Gaming, Feb. 9, 2012
U.S. House of Representatives
- Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor & Pensions, Hearing on H.R. 2335, Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2011, July 25, 2012
- Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, Hearing on H.R. 3532 (Trust Land Conversion to Restricted Fee), Feb. 7, 2012
Admissions and Qualifications
- Seneca Nation of Indians
- United States of America (Connecticut, District of Columbia, New York)