Hilary C. Tompkins ’90 (Doctor of Humane Letters)

Tompkins received an honorary degree at Dartmouth’s 2019 commencement ceremony.

HILARY CHANDLER TOMPKINS, as a highly accomplished attorney and leader in natural resources, environmental and Indian law, you’ve proven yourself the gold standard of fair-mindedness and competence. 

Born at Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico to a struggling Navajo family, you were raised by Quaker parents in New Jersey in a multi-racial adoptive family. An enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, you earned your degree from Dartmouth as a proud member of the Class of 1990. 

Eager to reconnect with your Indian heritage, you returned to the reservation to practice tribal law before earning your law degree from Stanford Law School. With a passion for conservation, you began your career as a trial attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. 

In 2009, you became the first Native American to serve in the presidentially appointed, U.S. Senate-confirmed position of solicitor for the U.S. Department of the Interior. From the development of legal reforms following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the successful defense of the first renewable energy projects on public lands, your work stands as a testament to your intelligence, aptitude and keen understanding of the law. 

With deep expertise in federal Indian law, you led the historic settlement of the Cobell tribal trust litigation—the largest and most complex class action lawsuit in U.S. history—opening the door to improved relations between the federal government and Native American tribes. In addition, you paved the way for the establishment of multiple national monuments. 

For your responsible representation of America’s land, water and wildlife, for your deeply held respect for indigenous people and the planet, and for your outstanding contributions to environmental law, Dartmouth is proud to award you the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.