ELY - Robert Anderson, who grew up in Ely and is a Native American law expert, was nominated by President Joe Biden last week to be solicitor of the Interior Department. The move underscored how the …
ELY - Robert Anderson, who grew up in Ely and is a Native American law expert, was nominated by President Joe Biden last week to be solicitor of the Interior Department. The move underscored how the administration is putting a priority on placing Native Americans in charge of the agenda at Interior.
If confirmed, Anderson would play a central role in the department’s rulemaking and interpreting how it should apply federal laws.
Before joining the administration, Anderson, an enrolled member of the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, was the Oneida Indian Nation visiting professor of law at Harvard Law School and was the lead editor of a leading Native American law textbook.
“Bob has extensive legal expertise with regard to Native American Tribes, public lands, and water— all of which will help advance Interior’s mission to steward America’s natural, cultural and historic resources and honor our nation-to-nation relationship with Tribes in accordance with the spirit and letter of the law,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.
Last month, Haaland, an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo, was confirmed by the Senate as the first Native American to lead a federal department.
Anderson has been Interior’s principal deputy solicitor since Biden took office Jan. 20. The Senate would have to confirm his new role.
A leading national figure in Native American law, Anderson has written that tribes should have more influence in federal decisions, like the controversial permitting for the Dakota Access Pipeline, that affect their lands and people. Former President Barack Obama’s approval of construction for the Dakota Access Pipeline, which transports crude oil from the Bakken formation in North Dakota to Illinois, sparked protests over concerns that a spill would threaten the water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and other areas near the proposed path.
“Tribal input into most projects affecting tribal lands and water is advisory only,” he wrote in a 2018 law review article. “The [Dakota Access Pipeline] experience shows the shortcomings in this approach and should serve as a springboard for changes in federal law… It is not enough to be consulted if the permitting agency is free to reject tribal input subject to deferential judicial review.”
Before Harvard, Anderson directed the University of Washington’s Native American Law Center for 20 years, according to a biography provided by the administration.
He was also part of the past two Democratic administrations, according to a resume on his page on Harvard Law School’s website.
From 2011 to 2013, Anderson participated in a five-person committee that reviewed the federal government’s management of $4 billion in Native American trust funds and suggested reforms to the program. He also advised Obama’s transition team in 2008 and 2009.
He was associate Interior solicitor for Native American affairs and a counselor to the Interior secretary during former President Bill Clinton’s administration.
Anderson graduated from the University of Minnesota’s law school and began his career at the Native American Rights Fund, a nonprofit advocacy group.
The solicitor is the chief attorney for the Interior Department and legal adviser to the secretary. The position oversees 430 attorneys and other staff.
Jacob Fischler, of the Wisconsin Examiner, contributed to this report.