Dedicated to the Legacy of Rodney Blaine Lewis
Rodney “Rod” B. Lewis, member of the Gila River Indian Community, was a great, inspiring leader. His pioneering accomplishments in Indian Law laid the foundation for today’s more inclusive approach to water management, recognizing the important role of Native communities. After receiving his Juris Doctorate from UCLA in 1972, he was the first Native American to join the Arizona State Bar, where he founded the Indian Law Section. He also was the first Native American to successfully argue a case before the United States Supreme Court.
Rod Lewis committed his life to advancing the interests of all Native peoples. One of his most significant achievements was to negotiate the largest tribal water rights settlement in US history, which restored the lifeblood of the Gila River Indian Community after years of privation. In 2018, the year of his death, the State Bar Indian Law Section established the Rodney B. Lewis Award of Excellence, awarded each year “to recognize an Arizona Bar member who exemplifies the honesty, integrity, courage, grace, dignity, and respect of its namesake.”
Rod Lewis was a friend of the WRRC, providing advice and encouragement for projects such as the 2015 Annual Conference, Indigenous Perspectives on Sustainable Water Practices, at which he spoke on the nature of Tribal water rights. He also presented guest lectures to Director Sharon B. Megdal’s graduate seminar on water policy in Arizona and other arid regions and graciously made himself available for discussion with her students. Sharon had the pleasure of serving on the Central Arizona Project Board of Directors with Rod, who was the first and still the only Native American to serve on this board. We were honored by his friendship.
The WRRC 2021 Annual Conference, Tribal Water Resilience in a Changing Environment, is dedicated to Rod Lewis’ legacy.
The Law of the River
Poem by Willardene Lewis
Read by Sarah Camille Chiago
Gila River Indian News - The Community Mourns the Passing of Legal Icon
and Tribal Leader Rodney B. Lewis
AZ Attorney Magazine - In Memory of Rodney Blaine Lewis
Sharon B. Megdal - A Personal Tribute to Rodney Blaine Lewis