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Doing Business with Companies Backed by an Indian Nation

Doing Business with Companies Backed by an Indian Nation

Indian Nations across the United States are sovereign governments. The Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) has possessed full legal sovereignty since time immemorial, as was recognized by the United States in 1855, when the Quinault River Treaty (also known as the Treaty of Olympia) was negotiated. The Quinault govern their own people and territory in matters of legislation, taxation, law enforcement, administration, and regulation. Sovereignty means the QIN governs itself and creates laws that make sense for its population and to be inclusive of their culture.

Tyson Johnston

Quick Take:

  • Doing business with the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) as a sovereign nation is the same as doing business with any government entity; this means tribal laws may be different from state and federal laws, but this dynamic also offers businesses unique advantages
  • The QIN has a long history of managing its own enterprises as well as joint ventures and projects with governments (local, state, and federal), companies, nonprofits, and agencies, giving us both public and private sector wisdom and experience
  • Companies seeking to do business with QIN are protected by detailed, rigorous contracts, just as they would with any other business partner, an arrangement that is no different from what they can expect with other ventures
What is Sovereignty?‍

Indian Nations across the United States are sovereign governments with inherent rights. The Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) has possessed full legal sovereignty since time immemorial, as was recognized by the United States in 1855 when the Quinault River Treaty (also known as the Treaty of Olympia) was negotiated. The Quinault govern our own people and territory in matters of legislation, taxation, law enforcement, administration, and regulation. Sovereignty means the QIN governs itself and creates laws that make sense for our population and are inclusive of our culture.

On QIN territory, the tribe’s Constitution governs our land and our people. This means that QIN also deals with other tribes and nations on a government-to-government basis. With this unique designation, it is recommended that companies doing business with QIN should familiarize themselves with the QIN laws that will govern our agreements. Resources, including the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the Small Business Administration’s Office of Native American Affairs, offer guidance on tribal business dealings.

The QIN Constitution outlines all the laws that govern its people and its territory of roughly 210,000 acres. Any business entity wholly owned by QIN – either the government itself or our individual citizens – is bound to these same laws. QIN-owned businesses, therefore, are free to do business with other nations without additional state or federal involvement. 

Put simply, QIN’s sovereignty means that the laws are, in some cases, different compared to local, state, or federal laws, but not that the laws are necessarily vastly different  or unfavorable to non-QIN people and organizations. QIN also has the authority to offer a limited waiver of our sovereign immunity in contracts, depending on the circumstances, effectively moving jurisdiction surrounding the venture to another authority.

‍Benefits of Partnering with QIN‍

As a company wholly owned by QIN, Toptana Technologies has the same privileges and immunities as QIN government.

There are some misconceptions about what it means to work with sovereign indigenous nations. Some of these could give the misleading impression that doing business with QIN could be riskier compared to ventures done with other government bodies. In reality, doing business with a sovereign nation is an advantage that creates a variety of beneficial opportunities for both QIN and our partners in a variety of areas.

Political Stability

A little-known fact about QIN is that, as a culturally tight-knit and deeply bonded community, our tribe has had cultural stability that’s uncommon outside of our borders. Since our formal federal recognition as a sovereign nation in 1855, QIN has had only ten presidents, and many of our other elected officials have similarly served long, consistent terms in office. This stability in leadership creates a highly valuable level of political predictability – businesses and governments working with QIN know that laws and politics remain highly consistent year over year, from administration to administration. Unlike elsewhere, where political climates, contentious elections, and ideological shifts can create geopolitical instability and tangible business risk, particularly with capital-intensive and longer-term ventures, QIN politics offer reliability and an evenly-keeled environment on which to build successful, stable businesses.

Legal and Operational Flexibility

QIN administration is, by design, operationally nimble and entrepreneurially minded. The Legislative branch of QIN also oversees its enterprise board, giving it strategic oversight of the tribe’s business ventures. This structure reflects the tribe’s underlying belief that business and law are closely and harmoniously linked, and should operate accordingly. The efficiency of this system makes business dealings with QIN simpler and more straightforward.  

Governments and organizations doing business with QIN benefit from streamlined regulations, simplified approval processes, and exemptions from non-tribal local zoning requirements and other requirements that can be time-consuming and costly to successfully navigate. This means projects that are executed with greater efficiency, minimizing delays and unforeseen developments that are more likely to develop when more complex bureaucratic structures are in place. 

Conventional Contracts

Business contracts executed with QIN are no different than those executed in any other jurisdiction in the United States. Both parties set and negotiate detailed terms to outline expectations from both sides and establish what will happen in the event of changes and modifications along the way. An example of a standard QIN business contract can be found here. QIN’s sovereignty poses no risk to outside business partners – it simply means that, in the event of a dispute between parties, the matter would be dealt with within the QIN legal system. The QIN Judicial branch is a separate and independent court that makes rulings based on its objective interpretation of the law. As an impartial branch of government, it does not, nor has it ever, given de-facto approvals universally in QIN favor. Depending on the circumstances, QIN has the authority to waive sovereign immunity, and the Nation has, in the past, occasionally voluntarily ceded jurisdiction to other courts.

Cultureand Sustainability

Each indigenous nation has its own unique culture and norms. While they vary from tribe to tribe, one unifying principle among tribes is a solemn commitment to the preservation of resources and the environment. This commitment takes precedence over any business venture. QIN codified this commitment into formal law in several of our legal statutes, including Title 48 (Land Use and Development Code), Title 51 (Hunting/Fishing/Gathering Code), and Title 61 (National Resource Management Code). This ingrained value already deeply ingrained in indigenous culture is the core of what companies today call Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) programs. Businesses partnering with indigenous nations such as QIN can be confident that their work complies with the core objectives of ESG, including education and talent gap development, community building, environmental protection, and sustainability-focused business practices. Companies seeking to leverage an experienced, collaborative ESG partner will find one in partnering with indigenous communities, such as QIN.

QIN Businesses and Partnerships‍

QIN has a long history of partnering with outside firms, governments, and agencies on joint ventures and other projects. This experience with both private and jointly held ventures gives QIN a deep bench of cross-industry entrepreneurial experience. 

On our own, the tribe has also led over a dozen successful businesses, which generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year and employ over eight hundred  people, making QIN the largest employer in Grays Harbor County. QIN enterprises include various retail and hospitality ventures, including the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino, Quinault Pride Seafood, Quinault Sweet Grass Hotel, and Quinault Marina & RV Resort.  In 2022, QIN launched a new healthcare business – a medically assisted treatment and wellness center open to treat patients throughout our region – adding another valuable sector to the Nation’s portfolio of businesses.

Promising Prospects for Growth‍

Sovereignty creates a unique legal dynamic that makes doing business with a sovereign nation a prospect with tangible advantages. Cohesive, stable political leadership, operational and regulatory flexibility, and a strong cultural commitment to ESG make partnering with QIN businesses, such as Toptana Technologies, a strong opportunity for businesses to achieve sustainable growth. The strategic benefits, coupled with the opportunity to support growing the future of an indigenous nation, make partnering with a venture such as Toptana an exciting prospect.

Final Thoughts

  • Sovereign nations are governed by a separate set of laws, which are independent, though not necessarily always different from state, and federal laws. QIN has the authority to offer limited waivers of its sovereign immunity, depending on the circumstances.
  • Doing business with a sovereign nation, such as QIN’s Toptana Technologies, offers the potential of unique benefits, ranging from political stability to operational efficiency and regulatory flexibility. 
  • Contracts drawn up with QIN are similar to any other contract agreements between businesses. By default, they are governed by QIN law, managed by an independent and impartial Judicial branch.
  • Indigenous nations such as QIN have an inherent commitment to the principles of ESG, making us experienced partners for companies that make ESG a strategic priority
  • QIN has a successful history of privately held and jointly owned ventures with mutually beneficial outcomes and experience on both sides –  public and private sectors alike.

Looking to learn more about doing business with Toptana Technologies? Get in touch


About Toptana Technologies 

Toptana is driven by a vision of a truly connected world. We’re an indigenous-owned internet infrastructure and technology company focused on bringing connectivity to unserved and underserved communities. Our mission is to connect the digitally disconnected so that all people can fully participate in the digital economy. 

Our Washington State cable landing station offers subsea transpacific connectivity from the U.S. to Asia-Pacific markets. The backhaul network offers terrestrial connectivity along the I-5 corridor to Seattle, WA and Hillsboro, OR. We offer businesses the opportunity to get their traffic where it needs to go while protecting our precious resources and improving the lives of those in need.