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The Indian Law Section Attorney Achievement Award gives the Section an opportunity to recognize the amazing accomplishments of its members. The Section includes some of the foremost Indian law practitioners in the country who have made important contributions to our profession and to our communities. The nominee for the Attorney Achievement Award must be a member of the Indian Law Section and the nomination must explain, in one page or less, the nature of the nominee's extraordinary achievements in Indian law and the nominee's contributions to the community.
For more than 50 years, Thomas "Tom" Luebben has been actively representing Native nations and Native individuals recover their lands and other natural resources in his federal Indian law, environmental and natural resources law practice. More than 20 years ago, Tom founded the Native American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the law firm of what is now Barnhouse Keegan Solimon & West. Tom currently represents tribal clients in his solo practice and serves as the director of litigation for the non-profit Native Lands Institute.
Early in his legal career, Tom became immersed in the Western Shoshone land rights struggle where he, and lead attorney John O’Connell, litigated on behalf of Mary and Carrie Dann for the protection of their aboriginal lands. See e.g., United States v. Dann, 572 F.2d 222 (9th Cir. 1978); United States v. Dann, 470 U.S. 39 (1985); United States v. Dann, 873 F.2d 1189 (9th Cir. 1989). Under the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley, the Western Shoshone never ceded their lands, however the courts proceeded to uphold a stipulated “takings” date for them. Despite long odds, Tom fought voraciously, however the lands were never recovered.
Because of Tom, courts and new generations of law practitioners have recognized the elaborate frauds to take Indian lands, and the ever present need to continue to pursue land recovery. This passion is what keeps Tom litigating on behalf of tribes to this day. It is Tom’s dedication, clear sight and courage that inspired us then and continues to inspire us now.
2022 - Thomas Luebben
2021 - Peter Chestnut
2020 - Richard W. Hughes
2019 - Christina S. West
2018 - Paul W. Spruhan
2017 - Rosalie "Lisa" Chavez
2016 - M.P. Gross and C. Bryant Rogers