Rod Lewis (PLSI ‘69) Walks On

Here is “Negotiator on Gila River water rights settlement dies.

And “Gila River Indian Community mourns death of tribal leader.

From Mario Gonzales:

Rod Lewis was married to my cousin Willardene Poor Bear-Lewis.  I started law school  with him in a pre-law program for Indian students at the University of New Mexico School of Law in the Summer of 1969.  Rod enrolled in the UCLA Law School and I enrolled in the University of North Dakota School of law in the fall of 1969 and we both graduated from law school in 1972.

I would like to mention a few of our classmates from the UNM School of Law summer law program of 1969 who went on the have distinguished careers:  Tom Fredericks, John Sinclair, Richard Trudell, Ralph Keen, George Goodwin, John Oguin, Gary Kimble, and Phil LaCourse.  Movie actor and musician Floyd Westerman was also one of our classmates.

Richard Trudell arranged for us to attend two Indian law classes at the Catholic University School of Law in Washington, D.C. during the summer of 1971.  Graham Belle was our law professor (he was related to Alexander Graham Belle — inventor of the telephone).  Trudell wanted us to get some exposure to the roles law firms, federal agencies and Congress play in Indian affairs on a national level.

Rod Lewis got a job with the Interior Department and I got a job with the law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Kampleman at the Watergate 600.  We worked during the day and attended Graham Belle’s Indian law classes in the evening.  Rod liked to tease and would sometimes call me and pretend he was someone else, and we would sometimes have lunch together at the Interior Department cafeteria with other Indian law students.

I also recall that my wife and I (and our three children) had trouble finding a place to rent for the summer and Rod and Willardene invited us to stay with them in Reston, Virginia until we could find our own place to rent.

Richard Trudell and Alan Parker started the American Indian Lawyer Training Program (AILTP) and began publishing the Indian Law Reporter, one of our main sources of Indian law in the 1970s.  Trudell and Parker also started a program to get four newly graduated Indian lawyers into private practice and selected four individuals for the program:  Rod Lewis (Gila River), Louis Denetsosie (Navajo), Larry Echohawk (Pawnee) and I (Oglala Sioux).

Trudell and Parker also set up a class for the four of us on law office management in Los Angeles, California with LA attorney Jay Foonberg as our instructor.  Rod set up his law office in Sacaton, Arizona and I set mine up in Martin, S.D.  in 1975.

In 19778, I became an Oglala Sioux tribal attorney and moved to Pine Ridge, S.D.  Louis Denetsosie set up his law office in Ft. Defiance, Arizona and I believe Larry Echohawk set up his law office in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Louis later became the attorney General of the Navajo Nation and Larry became the Attorney General of the State of Idaho.  And Rod, of course, became one of the nation’s outstanding Indian litigators and Indian water rights expert.

I would like to close by saying that I have always been so proud of Rod Lewis and his accomplishments in Indian law and the accomplishment of his family members; Willardene also became an attorney and an administrative law judge, and their son Steven is now serving as Governor of the Gila River Tribe.

Pre-Law Summer Institute Accepting Applications for PLSI 2018

Share this with future Native lawyers!  The Pre-Law Summer Institute (PLSI) is accepting applications for PLSI 2018. Join other future Native American lawyers at the oldest and most successful pre-law program for American Indians and Alaska Natives. For more information and to download an application, go to

Important Dates:
March 23 — Applications Due
May 30-31 — Registration
June 1 — Mandatory Orientation
June 4 — Classes Begin
July 27 — Program Concludes

Pre-Law Summer Institute 50th Anniversary Details

John Echohawk is Keynote Speaker at Pre-Law Summer Institute’s 50th Anniversary Conference — Gila River Indian Community is 50th Anniversary Benefactor Sponsor

Press Release here (PLSI 50th Anniversary Keynote Speaker and Sponsors).

Pre-Law Summer Institute 50th Anniversary Celebration and CLE, September 28-29, 2017 (registration closes September 14)

Evolution of Indian Law CLE Conference Agenda:

CLE and Dinner Registration, and hotel information:

PLSI Alumni Website:



American Indian Law Center — Pre-Law Summer Institute 50th Anniversary Conference and Dinner


Pre-Law Summer Institute 50th Anniversary Celebration and CLE, September 28-29, 2017 (registration closes September 14)

Evolution of Indian Law CLE Conference Agenda

CLE and Dinner Registration, and hotel information

PLSI Alumni Website
Press release(PDF):

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Sam Deloria on Indian Law in the Supreme Court

Here. The first part of this article is coverage of the American Indian Law Center’s “First Thirteen” event. Sam’s commentary is below:

But the judges are not so clearly divided pro and con Indian cases either, as is seen in the recent Jicarilla 8-1 vote, which resulted in protection of privileged communications between trust administrators and the government, so it could be a long wait. And long-time Indian policy analyst Sam Deloria (Standing Rock Sioux), is not content to wait, and argues for a new approach.

Deloria, who currently heads the American Indian Graduate Center and served as director of the American Indian Law Center since the 1970s, shepherding many future attorneys through the Pre-Law Summer Institute, declared, “It’s not going to do us any good to keep constantly complaining that they’re not accepting our arguments. And, I think it would make much better sense to think very deeply about what it is that seems to be troubling them, and I think what troubles them is, what we want.

“It’s not that they don’t understand Indian law, it’s that the version of Indian law that we keep urging on them unsuccessfully, they don’t buy it. And one of the reasons they don’t buy it is they don’t see clearly what the outlines are of tribal powers that we’re talking about and because they’re afraid of what lawyers call ‘the slippery slope’– that if they let these guys do this, then what’s next?

“They’re very skeptical about going along with tribal claims because they just don’t understand what it is we’re talking about – I’d think we’d be much better off trying to depict to the court a workable set of governmental relationships that include tribal, state and federal and how that actually would work in practice—they don’t know the situation of tribal governments on the ground and so, they have misgivings. Well, let’s find out what their misgivings are, and address those, instead of just coming back every time quoting cases from the 1830s, or cases from the 1950’s and early 60’s, let’s go back and see what their problem is and try to address their problem.”

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PLSI Reunion Announcement

Calling all PLSI Alumni from the Classes of 1972, 1982, 1992, & 2002!

Good morning! I am Heidi Macdonald from the American Indian Law Center. I am working with our beloved Heidi Nesbitt on a Four-Year Reunion Dinner for the PLSI Classes of 1972, 1982, 1992, and 2002. Can you believe how quickly the time has passed since you first began your legal education with PLSI? We are very excited to offer such a momentous occasion. We hope you can join us for your PLSI class reunion dinner! The PLSI Four-Year Reunion Dinner will be the night before the Federal Bar Association’s 37th Annual Indian Law Conference on April 18, 2012 at 7 p.m. at Gabriel’s Restaurant. This PLSI class reunion dinner will give you the chance to catch up with old friends and meet new ones!

The American Indian Law Center is also pleased to announce the creation of the “PLSI Alumni Scholarship Fund.” During the PLSI Reunion Dinner this year, the alumni of each of the four classes will have the opportunity to contribute to the PLSI Alumni Scholarship Fund. Any contributions for the PLSI Alumni Scholarship Fund will ensure future generations of Native students are able to experience PLSI as we did. As alumni, we know the importance PLSI has played in our lives and the foundation it has created for our legal careers. During PLSI, we have accomplished our dreams, met some of our best friends, and learned where passion and perseverance can take us. If you are a member of one of the PLSI classes (1972, 1982, 1992, and 2002) and have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. My email address is or (505) 277-5462. Thank you for your continued support!”

Shinnecock Tribal Member Receives First AIGC Fellowship

From ICT:

The American Indian Graduate Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving cultural and economic well-being for individuals and tribes through undergraduate and graduate education, recently announced that it has awarded its first fellowship scholarship to a Shinnecock Indian Nation member.

Members of the Shinnecock Nation, which became the 565th Native American tribe recognized by the United States government earlier this year, were formerly ineligible for the fellowship program because the tribe lacked federal recognition.

Kelly Dennis, a law student at the University of New Mexico School of Law in Albuquerque, N.M., received the $3,000 fellowship award. A member of the Shinnecock Nation, graduate of the Pre-Law Summer Institute at the American Indian Law Center, and participant in the American Indian Law Certificate Program, Dennis hopes to represent her tribe and other underrepresented American Indian tribes upon her graduation.

“Kelly would like to use her expertise to assist tribes striving to find creative paths that will strengthen and rebuild their nations,” said Sam Deloria, AIGC director. “AIGC recognizes the potential of these dreams and considers it a privilege to lessen the financial burden of paying for a law degree in order to achieve such aspirations. And we like to hope that her award marks the first federal assistance to the Shinnecock Nation.”

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2010 Pre-Law Summer Institute Award Winners

Watch out for this group!

The winners of the book awards for 2010 are:

Overall Best Student: Tanner Amdur-Clark (Citizen Potawatomi)

Advocacy: Victoria Hatch (White Earth Ojibwe) and Aubony Burns (Oklahoma Choctaw)

Oralist: Katie Parker (Oklahoma Choctaw) and Lucas LaRose (Northern Cheyenne and Winnebago Tribe)

Indian Law: Matt Murdock (MHA Nation and Standing Rock)

Property: Tim Cornelius (Wisconsin Oneida)

Civil Procedure: Madison Simmons (Chickasaw)