Community Fund picks Warm Springs member as new Hatfield Fellow

Spirit Mountain Community Fund selected Warm Springs member Robert F. Ahern has the 2016-17 Hatfield Fellow, the 17th in the fund’s history.

Ahern is a graduate of Pacific University where he received a bachelor of arts degree in sociology with an emphasis on political science.

Each year, the Community Fund sponsors a congressional fellowship with a member of the Oregon delegation to enhance the mutual understanding between the federal government and Indian Country.

Past fellows have served in a number of Senate and House congressional offices, including those of Sens. Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley and Gordon Smith and Reps. Kurt Schrader, Darlene Hooley, Peter DeFazio and Greg Walden.

“The Hatfield Fellowship is a yearly investment in strengthening the understanding between Oregon Tribes and our congressional representatives,” said Community Fund Program Coordinator Louis King. “By spending eight months as part of a congressional office, these Tribal members come away with an invaluable understanding of how things are done in D.C. During the fellowship experience, working relationships are formed that will benefit the fellow throughout their career. The congressional staff also learn from a colleague about the realities in Indian Country and the huge potential for our communities. This is absolutely a learning exchange.”

Ahern will begin his fellowship in November with a month-long orientation with the American Political Science Association in Washington, D.C. Following the orientation, he will assume his placement with Rep. Earl Blumenauer and will work on crucial behind-the-scenes duties necessary to pass important legislation.

Ahern graduated from Madras High School and played four years of varsity basketball while attending Pacific University. He said he has a deep interest in Tribal politics and Tribal issues stemming from his early years growing up on the Warm Springs Reservation in eastern Oregon.

Ahern also was a 2014 campaign volunteer for Oregon Rep. Susan McLain and has many years of volunteering and mentoring experiences on and off the Reservation.

“I believe that it is very important to have a Tribal voice when addressing issues that impact Native Americans,” he said. “As a Native American, I want to be that voice and want to serve as a role model for Tribal youth who often don’t see higher level jobs as an attainable goal for themselves.”

Ahern said he aspires to become a Tribal attorney and has previously interned with the Warm Springs Government Affairs Office.

The Hatfield Fellowship was created in 1998 to honor Sen. Mark Hatfield’s public service to Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Additional information about the program is available at