Robert Anderson, a citizen of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, delivers an opening statement at his confirmation hearing to be Solicitor at the Department of the Interior on May 18, 2021.

Anderson was nominated to the position by President Joe Biden. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he would be the second Native person to oversee the legal affairs at Interior, the federal agency with the most trust and treaty responsibilities in Indian Country.

“My first law job was as a staff attorney for the non-profit Native American Rights fund based in Boulder, Colorado,” Anderson told the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in his opening statement. “In 1984, I moved to Anchorage, Alaska as one of two attorneys who opened NARF’s Alaska office to work on matters related to tribal status, tribal jurisdiction, and Native hunting and fishing rights.”

“I had the gratifying experience of representing a revered Alaska Native elder named Katie John in her successful battle to secure her subsistence fishing rights guaranteed under federal law,” Anderson said in his written statement. “I was able to represent Alaska Native tribes and organizations throughout the state on matters related to tribal self-determination, and protection of subsistence rights under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.”

Anderson currently serves as Principal Deputy Solicitor at Interior, a position that does not require Senate confirmation. He works alongside Secretary Deb Haaland, who is the first Native person to lead the department.

“If confirmed, I would be honored and humbled to work with Secretary Haaland to achieve her and the President’s goals to protect our environment, fulfill the federal trust responsibility to Indian Nations, and act as a responsible steward of our natural resources for future generations,” Anderson testified.

“I commit to high ethical standards in all aspects of the Interior Department’s operations. I look forward to the opportunity to serve as the leader of over 400 tremendous attorneys who have dedicated their careers to public service,” he said.

The first Native person to serve as Solicitor was Hilary Tompkins, a citizen of the Navajo Nation. She held the role during the entirety of the Barack Obama presidency.

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Notice
Full Committee Hearing To Consider Pending Nominations (May 18, 2021)

Note: Thumbnail photo by Marilyn Heiman / Harvard University