Tom Shipps is the senior partner in the Durango, Colorado law firm of Maynes,
Bradford, Shipps & Sheftel, LLP, which has served as the general legal counsel
for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe for more than forty years. He has served as
the legal advisor to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe Growth Fund and as a member
of the Growth Fund Management Committee since its inception.
As a young attorney, Mr. Shipps assisted the firm’s founder, the late Frank E. “Sam” Maynes, with a
growing practice that included general representation of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, numerous water
districts, and the community’s rural electric cooperative. Principal areas of his early practice involved
tribal governmental administration and jurisdiction and monitoring tribal oil and gas lease compliance
and related litigation.
In the course of his career-long representation of the Tribe, he has been a negotiator of a number of
intergovernmental agreements, including: the initial tribal gaming compact with the State of Colorado;
congressional confirmation of the boundaries of the Southern Ute Indian Reservation; Memoranda of
Understanding on oil and gas regulation among the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, the Bureau of Land Management,
the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission; and the Taxation
Compact Between the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, La Plata County and the State of Colorado of 1996.
He served as the lead counsel for the Tribe, from the trial court through final arguments before the
Supreme Court, in the seminal federal case involving ownership of coal bed methane gas on federal and
tribal lands (Amoco Prod. Co. v. Southern Ute Indian Tribe, 526 U.S. 865 (1999)). Successful settlement
of that case provided initial capital for the Tribe’s extensive economic diversification through the Growth Fund.
As the legal advisor for the Growth Fund, Mr. Shipps has been the senior legal counsel in thousands of
commercial transactions ranging from oil and gas acquisitions and mergers, commercial real estate
purchases and development, syndicated financings, and venture capital investment. His recognized
advocacy on behalf of tribes led to his appointment by the Secretary of the Interior to the Federal
Royalty Management Advisory Committee and to the Royalty Policy Committee under the Clinton Administration
and both Bush Administrations. Mr. Shipps has authored a number of professional articles addressing
Native American natural resource regulation and development, and he has been a lecturer at programs
sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, the American Bar Association, and the Federal Bar Association.
Mr. Shipps received his law degree from the University of Houston (J.D. 1979) and his undergraduate degree
from Fort Lewis College (B.A. 1976, summa cum laude). In addition to serving as president of his law school’s
academic honor society, while in law school, Mr. Shipps assembled and co-edited a casebook on Native American
law, DANIEL L. ROTENBERG & THOMAS H. SHIPPS, THE AMERICAN INDIAN AND THE CONSTITUTION (1978).