Marion F. Werkheiser

Founding Partner
703.489.6059

Firm co-founder and chief executive Marion Forsyth Werkheiser is an award-winning lawyer and internationally recognized trailblazer in the cultural heritage field. Her well-established practice is firmly rooted at the intersection of preservation and development. She has a proven track record of convening diverse stakeholders to identify shared values, solve tough problems, and scale solutions.

Advocacy
Marion advocates for increased support for the national historic preservation program at the federal level, including common sense improvements to make the federal permitting process established in Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act more efficient and effective. Marion also advocates on the federal and state level for the rights of Indian tribes and other underrepresented communities. 

Section 106
Marion helps her clients navigate the Section 106 process at the project level. She negotiates on behalf of tribes, project proponents, local governments, and other consulting parties to achieve creative, win-win outcomes that appropriately balance preservation values and development needs.

Indian Law
Marion serves as general counsel to multiple federally recognized tribes, handling a wide array of issues including governance, economic development, federal funding compliance, sacred site protection, and child welfare. She represents tribes in consultations with federal and state agencies, negotiates avoidance and mitigation for cultural heritage impacts, and advises tribes on developing their own consultation and engagement protocols. Marion also seeks opportunities to incorporate principles of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) into U.S. law. 

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)
A natural extension of Marion’s work for her Section 106 clients in the United States, she leads the ESG practice area of the firm. She works with investors, financial institutions, and companies to conduct due diligence, assess project risk, and improve internal governance to reduce the impact of infrastructure and other projects on indigenous peoples and cultural heritage worldwide.

An experienced practitioner on ESG aspects related specifically to cultural heritage and indigenous peoples, Marion leverages her experience and knowledge to help clients and their legal teams develop policies, provide training, and draft reporting language consistent with the Equator Principles, the IFC Standards, and other investor requirements. For American Indian tribes, she advises on developing their own consultation and engagement protocols to promote free, prior, and informed consideration of project impacts.

About Marion
Marion earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School and is licensed to practice law in California, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Indiana University, where she was a Wells Scholar and earned her B.A. degree in political science and classical civilization with an emphasis in art and archaeology.

The Register of Professional Archaeologists honored Marion with the John F. Seiberling Award for her significant and sustained efforts in the conservation of archaeological resources.

REPRESENTATIVE ENGAGEMENTS

  • Negotiated community benefit agreements resolving the impacts of wind energy development for the first two offshore wind projects in the U.S., resulting in $18.5 million committed to heritage preservation efforts on Nantucket, MA and Block Island, RI.
  • Devise and execute government affairs strategy for the Coalition for American Heritage, an advocacy coalition comprised of more than 350,000 heritage professionals, scholars, small businesses, non-profit groups, and history-lovers from across the country who work together to support and promote our nation’s commitment to historic preservation.
  • Represent federally recognized tribes in Virginia to negotiate an Executive Order with the Governor to affirm the Commonwealth’s obligation to consult with tribal nations on state permits. 
  • Advocate for bipartisan legislation to create a national grant program to support efforts to research, identify, document, preserve, and interpret African-American burial grounds.
  • Negotiate agreement between real estate developer, federal and state government agencies, and American Indian Tribes to resolve impacts on traditional cultural properties and archaeological sites.
  • Represent the Monacan Indian Nation in their successful fight to save Rassawek, their historic capital and resting place of their ancestors, from unnecessary development.

SELECTED PRESENTATIONS

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

PROFESSIONAL COMMITMENTS

  • Board of Directors, PaleoWest
  • Board of Directors, SRI Foundation
  • Member, Virginia State Bar
  • Member, State Bar of California
  • Member, District of Columbia Bar