Stephen R. "Steve" Ward

Stephen R. "Steve" Ward

Conner & Winters, LLP

Recognized since 2010

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Practice Areas

Gaming Law

Native American Law

Lawyer of the Year Badge - 2021 - Native American Law Lawyer of the Year Badge - 2018 - Native American Law
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Stephen Ward’s practice focuses on the areas of American Indian/Native American law, Indian country business transactions, tribal law, environmental law, and natural resources/energy law. He handles litigation and administrative litigation, and he has extensive appellate practice experience that has included cases before several of the United States Courts of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Ward leads the firm’s Indian law practice.

In the field of Indian law, Mr. Ward has counseled clients over the years in a broad range of matters. Recently, he has assisted tribal and other clients with the development and financing of large Indian country business projects, including resorts and casinos, retail developments, and other similar projects. Mr. Ward, along with the rest of the firm’s Indian country business group, have provided counsel in virtually all aspects of these projects—from development agreements to construction contracts to financings to real estate issues to regulatory matters.

Mr. Ward counsels Indian law and tribal clients on a wide array of issues. His experience in the field of Indian law includes matters involving tribal sovereignty and treaty rights, Indian land title/consolidation of fractional land title, cultural and historic preservation, tribal sovereign immunity, tribal self-governance and self-determination, Indian country environmental matters, Indian gaming and gaming business, and tribal energy development. Mr. Ward and this team assist with matters involving leasing of federal and Indian lands, including oil and gas leasing. In addition, he has expertise, and has handled significant litigation, involving tribal and individual Indian trust issues. Among other matters in this area, he assisted in litigation that resulted in a ground-breaking settlement under which a tribe received a federal contract to conduct an accounting of the historical federal management of its trust assets.

Mr. Ward and the firm’s Indian law team regularly counsel clients in the area of cultural properties law and historic preservation, including in matters involving Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and other similar federal statutes. Additionally, Mr. Ward also has experience in assisting with tribal-state negotiations, including tribal-state compacts and other similar inter-governmental agreements. He has also worked extensively in the area of tribal law, and has assisted tribal governments with the preparation of tribal codes and in the establishment of tribal court systems. Mr. Ward has served as the tribal attorney for two American Indian nations.

Additionally, in over 15 years of practice Mr. Ward has handled significant litigation and appellate cases in diverse areas, including actions involving Superfund (common law pollution laws, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other environmental laws), the federal Administrative Procedure Act, energy and energy business matters, federal and state oil and gas royalties, qui tam actions under the Federal False Claims Act, intellectual property (patent and copyright) law, and employment and discrimination claims. He has handled or has been involved in cases before a number of federal district courts. Mr. Ward has also handled appeals before the United States Supreme Court and several of the United States Courts of Appeals. He also has extensive experience in practicing before federal administrative tribunals, including the Interior Board of Indian Appeals, the Interior Board of Land Appeals, and other administrative courts of the U.S. Department of the Interior, as well as the United States Civilian Board of Contract Appeals.

After law school, Mr. Ward served as a judicial law clerk to a United States District Judge, the Honorable Layn R. Phillips, and subsequently to the then-Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, the Honorable William J. Holloway, Jr. Before he attended law school, Mr. Ward was a journalist. He was editor-in-chief of his law school law review, and he had served as editor-in-chief of his college, high school, and church newspapers.


  • 4100 First Place Tower
    15 East Fifth Street
    Tulsa, OK 74103


  • French


  • University of Tulsa , J.D., graduated 1990
  • Oklahoma State University, B.S., graduated 1978

Bar Admissions

  • Oklahoma, 1990


  • Federal Bar Association - Member
  • Muscogee (Creek) Nation Bar Association - Member
  • Oklahoma Bar Association - Member
  • Tulsa County Bar Association - Member
  • Sac & Fox Nation - General Counsel (2008 to present)
  • Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma (O-Gah-Pah) - General Counsel (2004 to present)
  • Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation - Trustee-at-Large

Court Admissions

  • U.S. District Court, E.D. of Oklahoma - 1995
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit - 1999
  • U. S. Supreme Court - 1996
  • Court of Indian Offenses - 1994
  • Court of Indian Appeals - 1994
  • U.S. District Court, N.D. of Oklahoma - 1993
  • U.S. District Court, W.D. of Oklahoma - 1990
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit - 1996
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit - 1995
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit - 1991
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit - 1997

Federal Clerkships

  • United States Court of Appeals
  • United States District Court

Conner & Winters, LLP
Headquarters: Tulsa, Oklahoma

53 The Best Lawyers in America® awards

10 Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America awards

Best Law Firms Badge
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Lawyer of the Year Badge - 2021 - Native American Law Lawyer of the Year Badge - 2018 - Native American Law

Named "Lawyer of the Year" by Best Lawyers® for:

  • Native American Law, Tulsa (2021)
  • Native American Law, Tulsa (2018)

Recognized in The Best Lawyers in America® 2022 for work in:

  • Gaming Law
  • Native American Law


  • 2018 Native American Law Best Lawyers in America “Lawyer of the Year” in Tulsa
  • General Counsel, Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma (O-Gah-Pah), 2002 - Present
  • Tribal Attorney, Sac & Fox Nation, 2008 - Present
  • Trustee-at-Large, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, 2007 - 2010
  • Contributing Editor to the Gower Federal Service, 2000 - Present
  • Tulsa Law Journal Editor-in-Chief, 1989 - 1990
  • Oklahoma State University Daily O’Collegian Editor-in-Chief, 1978, and Managing Editor, 1977
  • Donart High School Excelsior Editor-in-Chief, 1973, Managing Editor, 1974
  • Recipient of Eagle Scout award, 1972
  • Author of "Maynard v. Cartwright: How the Supreme Court Killed the Catchall Category in the Oklahoma Death Penalty," 24 Tulsa Law Journal 215 (1988)
  • Recipient of the 2009 Journal Record Leadership in Law Award
  • Listed in Best Lawyers in America© - Native American Law (2010-2020)


  • Energy
  • Indian Country Business and Finance


  • American Indian / Native American
  • Energy
  • Litigation
  • Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution

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