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In a 2017 interview following his appointment, Lewis told that many people lack an understanding of the historic rights Arizona's 22 federally-recognized tribes have to state water resources, the devastation endured when those rights were usurped or the fight to regain those rights. Army Infantry in 1962 and received an honorable discharge in 1965 after becoming a Ranger and rising to the rank of First Lieutenant. Lewis, Rod Lewis’s son, said his father was motivated by his time as a soldier.

“And I think tribes, from time to time, have felt that their interests were not being represented.” Lewis was a star basketball player at North High school and continued playing at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. "My dad had such a dedication to life, to whatever obstacle he wanted to obtain.

He always told me that, ‘You never give up, you never do things in a less than a 100-percent dedicated fashion.'" Lewis earned a bachelor’s of science degree from Trinity University in 1962 and master’s in history from Arizona State University seven years later.

While known for his legal prowess, Lewis's son says his dad always thought of himself as an educator.

“He was a teacher at heart, one of his first jobs was as a high-school history teacher in New York,” Gov. “He knew so much about the history of the Gila River Indian Community and the policy and history of Native Americans.” Lewis's mother was also a teacher.

MORE ON WATER: Lewis served as the general counsel of the Gila River Indian Community for 30 years, beginning in 1978.

He was sought after as a preeminent legal scholar on tribal rights, specializing in water and energy law, tribal gaming compacts and public policy.

The couple told their three children that they could study what they wanted, but they must study.

“He saw education as a very important tool to protect and defend and grow their tribal rights,” Gov. “He always said education was a great equalizer.” A resource to many, Lewis was happiest when he was with his family. "I think they understood that the road was difficult, especially, for the roles that they wanted.” MORE ON THIS TOPIC: Lewis saw his appointment last year to the 15-member CAP board as a means of providing Arizona tribes a long-overdue say in decisions about water resources.

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When Rodney Lewis was little, he watched his parents, Sally and Roe Lewis, survive droughts on tribal lands that left their crops to wither. Growing up, Lewis would listen to the stories of his ancestors whose lives depended on the river water that gave a name to his Gila River Indian Community.

Lewis would spend the rest of his life securing justice for his people and their ancestral lands.