Frank Ducheneaux, Reid Chambers, and Harry Sachse honored for lifetime achievement in federal Indian law

Lithograph representing Reid Chamber's oral argument in March 2003 before the Supreme Court in Inyo County v. Paiute Shoshone Tribe.(Photo: Reid Chambers)

Reid Chambers and Harry Sachse are monumental figures in the federal Indian legal community and Frank Ducheneaux is renowned for his decades of service to Indian Country from Capitol Hill

News Release

The Federal Bar Association Indian Law Section 

The Federal Bar Association Indian Law Section is proud to announce that Frank Ducheneaux, Reid Peyton Chambers, and Harry Sachse are the 2019 recipients of the Lawrence R. Baca Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Federal Indian Law.

“Reid Chambers and Harry Sachse are monumental figures in the federal Indian legal community and Frank Ducheneaux is renowned for his decades of service to Indian Country from Capitol Hill,” said Indian Law Section Chairwoman Ann Tweedy. “We are extremely proud to present the Lawrence Baca Lifetime Achievement Award to three outstanding individuals who have shaped federal Indian law as we know it.” 

Reid and Harry will be honored at a luncheon on April 11, 2019, and Frank at a luncheon the following day, each at the Indian Law Section’s 44th Annual Conference on Federal Indian Law, at Sandia Resort and Casino near Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

Frank Ducheneaux headshot
Pictured: Frank Ducheneaux(Photo: Frank Ducheneaux)
Frank Ducheneaux and Rep Lloyd Meeds
Pictured: Frank Ducheneaux and Rep Lloyd Meeds.(Photo: Frank Ducheneaux)

Frank Ducheneaux 

Frank, a Cheyenne River Sioux citizen and graduate of the Cheyenne River Boarding School, has advocated for American Indian rights for the last 54 years. He started his federal Indian legal career in 1967 as an attorney for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, DC. In 1970, at age 30, he was elected Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians.  

From 1970 to 1990, Frank served as Counsel on Indian Affairs to the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. For the last thirteen of those years, he served under Committee Chairman, Congressman Morris K. Udall.  

During those decades comprising “the Golden Age” of federal Indian law, he played a prominent role in every major piece of Indian legislation to come before the Committee, including the Indian Self- Determination and Education Assistance Act, Indian Health Care Improvement Act, American Indian Religious Freedom Act, Indian Child Welfare Act, and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. 

Professor Eric Eberhard calls his “record of achievement on legislative matters … unprecedented and unparalleled in the history of the nation.” 

Upon Frank’s departure from the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, Congressman Udall publicly told him: “Your contribution is difficult to put to words, Frank. There was so much of it. Quiet, effective and determined naturally come to mind. But there was a special quality—a sensitivity—to it that I will miss the most, probably because it is so hard to find. I’ll just say there goes one of the best people I’ve ever known, a good and decent man who did good and decent things.” 

After leaving the staff of Congress, Frank served tribal governments throughout the country in private practice as a lawyer and public affairs advocate. He received his undergraduate and law degrees at the University of South Dakota. 

Harry Sachse and Reid Chambers display a salmon given to us by Colville Tribes in celebration of Grand Coulee settlement Autumn, 1994
Harry Sachse and Reid Chambers display a salmon given to them by Colville Tribes in celebration of Grand Coulee settlement Autumn, 1994.(Photo: Reid Chambers)

Harry Sachse 

Harry, a founding partner of Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry, LLP, has been practicing federal Indian law for nearly 50 years. From 1971 to 1976, Mr. Sachse was an Assistant to the Solicitor General of the United States. In this role, he argued ten major cases before the U.S. Supreme Court including: 

  • McClanahan v. Arizona State Tax Commission, 411 U.S. 164 (1973), in which the Court adopted the position he advocated that states have no authority to tax income earned on reservation by a tribal member who resides on the reservation; 
  • Department of Game v. Puyallup Tribe, 414 U.S. 44 (1973), in which he persuaded the Court to adopt the position that the State of Washington could not prohibit tribal fishing for steelhead trout at the Tribe's usual and accustomed treaty fishing sites; and 
  • Morton v. Mancari, 417 U.S. 535 (1974), in which he persuaded the Court to sustain the constitutional validity of federal Indian preference. 

Harry, who recently retired from legal practice, taught federal Indian law at the University of Virginia School of Law and Harvard Law School, and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in International and Comparative Law at the Georgetown University Law Center. He was also a tenured professor at Tulane University School of Law, and a visiting professor at Stanford Law School and the University of California, Davis. 

Harry received his law degree from Louisiana State University, where he was editor-in-chief of the Louisiana State Law Review. He also holds a diploma in comparative law from the University of Paris, which he earned in 1962 while studying there as a Fulbright Scholar. He also served in the United States Army. 

As partner Lloyd Miller noted: “Harry would have excelled anywhere in the legal profession, but his heart was with Indian country and he committed himself to vindicating historic wrongs and to helping empower Tribes to better shape their own destinies.” 

Reid Peyton Chambers 

Reid, also a founding partner with the Sonosky law firm, has been practicing federal Indian law for over 45 years. He served from 1973 to 1976 as Associate Solicitor for Indian Affairs of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Prior to his time at Interior, he taught one of the first federal Indian law courses anywhere, at UCLA Law School. 

Reid has argued and appeared in numerous cases before federal district and courts of appeals, and before state trial courts and appellate courts, including: 

  • Inyo County v. Paiute-Shoshone Indians of the Bishop Community, 538 U.S. 701 (2003), in which he argued to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Bishop Paiute-Shoshone Tribe; 
  • Solem v, Bartlett, 465 U.S. 463 (1984), in which he filed an amicus brief for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe; and 
  • U.S. v. Long Elk, 565 F.2d 1032 (8th Cir. 1977), which affirmed the boundary of the Standing Rock Reservation. 

Reid has also specialized in tribal water rights litigation and advocacy, having represented the Fort Peck Tribes before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and the Hopi Tribe in water rights litigation that resulted in decisions by the Arizona Supreme Court. 

Reid has taught a seminar on federal Indian law at Georgetown University Law School since 1977, and also taught the subject at Yale Law School and Tulsa University Law School. He was a co-author of the 1982 edition of Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law. He received his undergraduate degree from Amherst College and law degree from Harvard Law School, where he was a member of the Board of Editors of the Harvard Law Review. 

In support of Reid’s nomination, Hillary Tompkins cited Reid’s mentorship, calling him a “positive influence” upon a “new generation of Native lawyers.” The Native American Bar Association of Washington, D.C. concurred: “Reid has served as a mentor to many young lawyers in the Indian law field….[H]e is also a kind and humble individual who would never seek this type of recognition for himself….Reid is an unsung hero of Indian law.”

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