Erin Ross, EWU alumna and member of the Cowlitz Tribe, will guide Eastern’s Tribal Relations Office.
In July, Eastern named Erin Ross ’99, ’15, alumna and member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, its new director of tribal relations. For Ross, the job is all about extending and improving engagement with the Native communities upon whose ancestral lands Eastern resides.
“I know first-hand that Eastern does great work, meaningful work, for tribal governments,” she says, citing her own time as a student in urban and regional planning. “Our students have completed projects ranging from providing planning services and tribal transportation support, to saving lives by completing research and providing solutions that have significantly reduced traffic fatalities within reservations. Additionally, we collaborate with local school districts and organizations to bring Native American students to Eastern. We want students to understand that they are capable of attending college and pursuing their goals.”
Student outcomes aren’t the only focus of the position, she says. Tribal relations outreach also encompasses efforts to shore up connections with tribal governments in the region.
“Federally recognized tribes are in effect sovereign nations, so my primary responsibility is to facilitate the relationships between EWU and tribal governments,” Ross says, adding that her job also involves providing EWU with advice and assistance for these partnerships.
“Federally recognized tribes are in effect sovereign nations, so my primary responsibility is to facilitate the relationships between EWU and tribal governments”
It’s a role for which Ross, who has worked as a tribal activist, planning manager and professional political advisor, is particularly well suited. She says these experiences and others give her a “deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities governments face… Having this knowledge allows me to properly advise EWU in its efforts to build stronger relationships.”
And what about her years as a student? Might that help?
“Yes!” she says. “I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve Native American communities and students, and to play an active role in my alma mater. Go Eags!”