Meet OU’s New Associate Vice President of Tribal Relations
In every step of Tana Fitzpatrick’s career, she has gained valuable insight into the importance of collaboration when it comes to building strong tribal partnerships.
Fitzpatrick joined the University of Oklahoma last month as associate vice president of tribal relations, pending OU Regents’ approval. In this role, she is not only poised to strengthen the ties between OU and tribal nations and Indigenous communities, but also her relationship with her own native heritage.
Throughout her 14-year career, Fitzpatrick has served as an attorney for tribal communities and in various roles in the federal government, advising Congress and the executive branch on tribal law and policy. Now, she’s returned to her home state to be an advisor to OU’s Office of the President on tribal relations.
“I believe this position has the potential to have broad impacts on tribal issues and Indigenous communities, both within the university context and across the state of Oklahoma,” Fitzpatrick said. “Because this role is responsible for developing and enhancing relationships with tribes, I see lots of opportunities to come together with tribes on matters of mutual importance, and to support the advancement of programs serving Indigenous students in obtaining a higher education.”
Fitzpatrick will also work to develop and implement a strategic plan for OU’s Indigenous peoples initiatives, while also supporting related areas in OU’s “Lead On, University” Strategic Plan. Another aspect of her role includes supporting faculty in all colleges in their scholarship and outreach toward native peoples with one-on-one meetings with administration across all three campuses.
Facilitating these types of connections is an art in which she is well-practiced.
“Effective tribal consultation is a key component to establishing enduring relationships with tribes. I have firsthand knowledge of great examples of meaningful tribal consultation, and I have often seen tribal consultations that could have been better executed,” she said. “I intend to use my experience to facilitate meaningful engagements with tribes on behalf of the university.”
Fitzpatrick is passionate about honoring tribal sovereignty and self-determination, highlighting tribal issues and emphasizing significant tribal influences within the state of Oklahoma. She pointed to a recent study by the Oklahoma Tribal Finance Consortium that found in 2019, tribes in Oklahoma had a $15.6 billion total economic impact on the state’s economy.
“I’m hopeful that Indigenous faculty, staff, students and others working in these spaces will feel seen and heard – moreover valued – for their remarkable contributions to the university and to their communities,” she said.
An avid traveler, having made solo treks to five countries, her move back to Oklahoma is an opportunity for Fitzpatrick and her family to be closer to their Native culture, she said. A member of the Crow Tribe of Montana and a Sioux, Ponca and Chickasaw descendent, she is looking forward to being immersed in the activities, dances and celebrations that carry deep meaning in each culture.
“In many respects, I feel like my entire career experience has prepared me for this moment - everything from learning about the substantive issues in the areas of federal Indian law and policy to growing and maturing as a professional Native woman,” Fitzpatrick said. “I am excited to use the knowledge I have gained over the years to the benefit of the university, tribal nations and Native students.”
By Jaimy Jones
Article Published: Wednesday, April 20, 2022