The Federal Bar Association Indian Law Section has named University of Arizona Law Professor Robert A. Williams, Jr. the 2017 recipient of the Lawrence R. Baca Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Federal Indian Law. The award will be presented at the April 7 luncheon for the 42nd Annual Federal Bar Association’s Indian Law Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Williams is the E. Thomas Sullivan Professor of Law and Faculty Chair of Arizona Law's Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLP) Program. The award is in recognition of his leading contributions in the fields of Federal Indian Law, human rights advocacy, and critical race theory, and his mentorship and support of Native law students throughout his four decade-long teaching career. Paying homage to Williams as IPLP’s founder, his former student Jordan Thompson calls the program “a Native rights stronghold.”
A 1980 graduate of Harvard Law School, Williams is among the most prolific and respected indigenous legal rights scholars in the world. He has published four books, most notably "The American Indian in Western Legal Thought: The Discourses of Conquest," his seminal work on the genesis of federal Indian law. He is also co-author of the leading Indian law casebook in the field, "Federal Indian Law: Cases and Materials" (7th ed., with David Getches, Charles Wilkinson, Matthew Fletcher, and Kristen Carpenter 2017). Two of his former students, Jesse and Leah Sixkiller, aptly refer to Williams as “the most notorious mind in Indian law.”
As one of the founding faculty members of the IPLP Program at Arizona Law, Williams has taught and mentored more than 150 Native and indigenous students from throughout the United States and around the world.
“Rob has left his mark on Indian Country through the countless Indian lawyers who he has mentored and cultivated,” said Award Committee Chairman and IPLP alumnus Gabe Galanda.
Williams and IPLP clinic students have represented tribal and indigenous clients before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples, the United States Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court of Canada. He has also served as Chief Justice for the Court of Appeals of Pascua Yaqui Indian Reservation, and as Justice for the Court of Appeals and trial judge pro tem for the Tohono O’odham Nation.