Curtis Berkey


Mr. Berkey specializes in the areas of tribal water rights, land conservation transactions, cultural resource protection, governance, land claims and environmental protection.  He has worked in the field of Indian law his entire legal career, from 1979 to the present. He was a staff attorney at the Indian Law Resource Center in Washington, D.C. from 1979 to 1990, where he litigated many significant Indian land claims cases.  In 1990, Mr. Berkey became the Washington Director of the Indian Law Resource Center, a position he held for five years.

In 1995, Mr. Berkey joined the U.S. Justice Department as a senior trial lawyer in the Indian Resources Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.  In that capacity, he litigated a number of environmental cases and complex water cases for Indian tribes.  In 1997, he received the Department of Justice’s Meritorious Award for his efforts in litigating and settling a multi-million dollar groundwater contamination case on behalf of the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma.

In 1997, Mr. Berkey entered private practice with an exclusive focus on Indian law.  He has represented a number of Indian tribes in securing the return of their ancestral lands or obtaining access and use under conservation easements and similar arrangements.  He represents several Indian tribes in major water rights cases.  He represented the Yurok Tribe in several significant victories in federal court establishing their fishing and water rights in the Klamath River.  He represented a consortium of Northern California tribes in securing the right to continue traditional harvesting and gathering within marine protected areas set up by California.

Mr. Berkey is a frequent speaker at conferences on Indian law and has published widely in professional journals. He is co-author of the critically acclaimed book Exiled in the Land of the Free:  Democracy, Indian Nations and the U.S. Constitution (1992).