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Michelle LaPena, B.A. | | |

Tribal Government Programs


Local Government Programs


Certified Vendor Programs


Michelle LaPena, B.A.

Michelle-LaPena.jpgMichelle L. LaPena is experienced in tribal legal matters including tribal gaming operations and regulation, cultural resource protection, Indian child welfare, tribal taxation, administrative law and general civil litigation involving tribal governments.

She is extensively involved in developing statewide policy on tribal taxation, gaming regulation and cultural resource protection.

In 1999, she negotiated a tribal-state gaming compact with the State of California. Since that time, she has worked with gaming tribes to implement complex terms in their compacts, including licensing procedures for gaming resource suppliers, revenue sharing distribution to non-gaming tribes and public safety.

Prior to entering private practice, she edited and contributed significantly to reports that were submitted to Congress in August 1997 by the Advisory Council on California Indian Policy. She has served as a trainer for the National Indian Gaming Association, Gaming Regulator Certificate Program and lectured at primary, secondary and university levels on topics related to California Indians and federal Indian law.

In 2003, Michelle was appointed to the Governor’s Children’s Justice Act Task Force which allocates Title IV-E money to child abuse prevention programs in the state of California. Michelle is a member of the Pit River Indian Tribe, and is admitted to practice in California, all federal district courts in California, and the Hoopa Valley Tribal Court. 

She received her B.A. in 1993 and her J.D. in 1998, both from the University of California, Davis.  She was recently featured on the cover of Los Angeles Lawyer Magazine.



  • “Real Estate Transactions in California's "Indian Country": How to Conduct Business with California Indian Tribal Governments and Businesses,” Los Angeles Lawyer Magazine, January 2006 (Cover Article).
  • Book Review, “Negotiating Tribal Water Rights:  Fulfilling Promises in the Arid West,” by .  By Bonnie G. Colby, John E. Thorson, and Sarah Britton; foreword by David H. Getches.  Tucson: University of Arizona Press, American Indian Cultural and Research Journal, Vol. 30, No. 1 (2005).
  • “A Healing Process,” reprinted in Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies, University of Washington Press, Vol. 23, No. 2 (2002).
  • Book Review, “To Show Heart: Native American Self-Determination and Federal Indian Policy, 1960-75,” by George Pierre Castile, American Indian Cultural and Research Journal, Spring 1999.
  • “Federal Land Management Practices and California Indians: A Proposal to Protect Native Plant Species,” Environs, UC Davis Environmental Law Review, June 1998.
  • “A Healing Process,” Prized Writing 1992-1993, An Anthology from the University of California, 1993.
  • Contributing Editor, News from Native California, 1993-96.