Robert Anderson, Harvard Law Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor of Law, was named to serve on a national commission that will evaluate the management and administration of nearly $4 billion in Native American trust funds and associated assets by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Anderson is a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.

“This commission will play a key role in our ongoing efforts to empower Indian nations and strengthen nation-to-nation relationships,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in naming Anderson and the other appointees to the Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform. “The five members each bring extensive experience and knowledge to the commission, and I look forward to their findings and recommendations for how we can fully meet our trust responsibilities to the First Americans.”

Dean Martha Minow said, “The entire Harvard community has benefitted greatly from Robert’s expertise in federal Indian law and his significant practice experience both in government and in the private sector.”

Under federal law, the Department of the Interior is responsible for managing 56 million surface acres and 57 million acres of subsurface mineral estates for 384,000 individual accounts and about 2,900 tribal accounts (over 250 tribes). Tribal trust assets include land, timber, grazing, oil, gas and mineral resources.

Salazar established the framework for the commission in a 2009 secretarial order, which addressed the department’s future responsibilities for trust management after a settlement agreement set forth resolution of a class action lawsuit regarding the U.S. government’s trust management and accounting of individual Native American trust accounts and resources.

Commission members were chosen after public nominations based on their experience and expertise in the fields of government and trust, financial, asset and natural resource management. Within two years, the commission is expected to carry out an extensive evaluation of the administration of the trust and make suggestions for how to improve it.

From 1995 to 2001, Anderson worked at the Department of the Interior, as associate solicitor for Indian Affairs and as counselor to the secretary of the Interior on Indian law and natural resource issues. In 2008, he was co-lead of the Obama transition team for the Department of the Interior.  Anderson said he is “honored by the appointment and looks forward to the opportunity to help the federal government improve the implementation of its trust responsibility to Indian nations.”

The Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor of Law at HLS, Anderson is professor of law and director of the Native American Law Center at the University of Washington. He is co-author of “American Indian Law: Cases and Commentary” (Thomson/West 2008) and co-author and member of the board of editors of Cohen’s “Handbook of Federal Indian Law” (2005).

For more information on the commission, read the full press release.