Dawn Sturdevant Baum, Janet K. Bill Honored for Achievements in Indian Law

BAKERSFIELD, CA – The California Indian Law Association, Inc. (CILA) recently announced that the late Dawn Sturdevant Baum is the 2023 recipient of CILA’s Outstanding Achievement in California Indian Law Award and Janet K. Bill is the recipient of the 2023 Outstanding Young Attorney Award.

CILA’s Outstanding Achievement in California Indian Law Award honors one legal professional annually who has made significant contributions to California Indian law. Previous recipients of this award include Judge Abby Abinanti, Chief Judge of the Yurok Tribe; Dorothy Alther, Legal Director of California Indian Legal Services; Carole Goldberg, Distinguished Research Professor; Jonathan D. Varat, Distinguished Professor of Law Emerita at UCLA School of Law; and Michael Pfeffer, Partner at Maier, Pfeffer, Kim, Geary & Cohen.

CILA’s Outstanding Young Attorney Award recognizes attorneys in practice for 10 years or less who exemplify high achievement, innovation, leadership, and service within the field of Indian law. Previous recipients of the Outstanding Young Attorney Award include Lenny Powell, Senior Associate at Jenner & Block; Christina Snider, Tribal Advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom; Fatima Abbas, Director of the Office of Tribal and Native Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Treasury; Lauren van Schilfgaarde, Assistant Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law; and Geneva E. B. Thompson, Assistant Secretary for Tribal Affairs at the California Natural Resources Agency.

“Dawn was an excellent attorney, mentor, and friend,” said Loretta Miranda, CILA Board of Directors. “As a prominent member of the CILA community, Dawn impacted generations of attorneys with her mentorship and encouragement both inside and outside of California. Dawn was a fierce advocate for tribal sovereignty and a powerful force for justice. Universally admired for her kindness and generous spirit, Dawn’s legacy will stay with us forever.” CILA’s Outstanding Achievement Award celebrates Dawn’s legacy and her significant contributions to California Indian law.

In her short career, Janet K. Bill has made a substantial impact in advancing the interests of tribal communities in California, especially when addressing Missing and Murdered Indigenous People, meriting the Outstanding Young Attorney Award.

“Chairperson Bill is at the forefront of combating California’s Missing And Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) crisis,” said Cheyenne Sanders, CILA Board of Directors. “Earlier this year, Chairperson Bill went to the Capitol in Sacramento for the first MMIP Day of Action and called on legislators for a historic investment of $200 million to build programs and services that prevent girls, women and people from becoming missing or murdered. Chairperson Bill is always the first to roll up her sleeves and get work done. As a lawyer, Chairperson Bill has shown us what a great advocate she has become for her tribe, the state, and Indian Country as a whole.”

Dawn Sturdevant Baum and Chairperson Janet K. Bill will be celebrated during the CILA Awards Dinner on Monday, October 2, 2023 during the 23rd Annual California Indian Law Conference, which is being held October 2-3, 2023 at Graton Resort and Casino.

Dawn Sturdevant Baum

Dawn Sturdevant Baum was the General Counsel for the Yurok Tribe. She is remembered for her kindness and her leadership.

At the Yurok Tribe, Baum developed a mentorship program for young attorneys and paralegals and inspired several young tribal members to continue their education and develop advocacy skills. Baum had a gift for bringing out the best in people. For six years, she was Adjunct Professor of Indian Law at University of Tulsa College of Law, teaching Indian education and gaming law classes after work in her free time. As part of her work with the Yurok, she went to Egypt in November 2022 for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 27) where she spoke about the importance of using Indigenous knowledge with sovereignty in addressing the climate crisis.

Dawn passed away on June 10 of this year.

Janet K. Bill

Janet K. Bill is the Tribal Council Chairperson for the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians. Chairperson Bill is currently a licensed attorney through the State Bar of California and was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Sierra Unified School District. She was the first Native American to serve in this distinguished position in the school district’s 100-year existence.

Chairperson Bill’s work experience includes: assisting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on tribal healthcare initiatives; working for the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians’ AOA (Elders) Department and Indian Child Welfare Department; conducting legislative research for the Office of the Governor – State of California, Office of the Tribal Advisor; providing case counseling and site manager services at the Big Sandy Rancheria site for the OVCDC Tribal TANF; conducting legal assistance for tribal communities with the ASU Indian Legal Clinic, Legal Department for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, and the Office of General Counsel at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community; providing research services for the ASU Indian Legal Program; administering legislative analysis for the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs – Office of the Vice Chairman, Senator Udall; volunteering with the State of California Department of Justice – Office of Native American Affairs on its Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples awareness initiative; serving tribal clients in various aspects of the law at the Berkey Williams LLP law firm; and serving her tribe as Tribal Council Chairperson.

While staying dedicated to serving tribal Communities, Bill consistently promotes tribal economic development initiatives and preserving cultural traditions for generations to come.