Tribal member Sara Thompson assumes deputy press secretary role
By Danielle Frost
Accepting the newly created role of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde’s deputy press secretary was more than just a career opportunity for Sara Thompson.
The Tribal member also sees it as a chance to come home.
“We’re raised in Indian Country to serve our community and this was an opportunity for me to do that,” she says.
Thompson’s job will include attending various Tribal functions, drafting social media content, working with the news media, assisting the executive office with media releases, quotes and other press content, taking photographs and community outreach, among other duties.
Before accepting the job in Grand Ronde, Thompson, 39, worked for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission in Portland doing public relations and media work for12 years.
“My work was focused on salmon policy and natural resource issues,” she says. “I got to work with some amazing folks on issues I adored, but now I get to expand that.”
Thompson earned her bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University in fisheries and wildlife science, but realized late into her major choice that she preferred the human aspect of natural resources.
“But at that point, being so far down that path, I wasn’t going to start over,” Thompson says.
After taking a year off from school post-graduation, she headed back to Oregon State and earned her master’s in natural resources and Tribal policy in 2006.
Although Thompson enjoyed the time spent with her previous employer, she is happy to tackle new projects and forgo the Portland commute.
“This was an opportunity to not only come home, but expand the breadth of issues I get to work with,” she says. “Education, housing, the Tribal museum, cultural department and to tell those stories. That is really exciting for me.”
In her first few weeks working in Grand Ronde, Thompson says she has enjoyed seeing how the Tribe has changed and evolved over the years.
“It is nice re-acquainting with home, spending time at the cultural center, and just going back and visiting memory lane to when powwow was held in the gym at the elementary school,” she says. “I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with the community and getting to know folks.”
Thompson served on the Tribe’s Fish & Wildlife Commission from February 2000 to November 2003 and worked several summers for the Natural Resources Department while in college to help fund her education.
One of the first things Thompson did after starting her new job was to look for her name among the plaque on the Tribe’s list of graduates.
“I’ve used so many of these programs, such as education and housing,” she says. “This is a chance to give back.”
Thompson is hoping to bring a fresh set of eyes and new ways in which to share the Tribe’s stories with the media and community.
“I want to bring a fresh perspective,” she says. “There are amazing stories to tell about work that we do and the community that we are. I can’t wait to tell them.”
Thompson says her biggest challenge so far is having several events going on at once.
“There are so many things happening right out of the gate, but everyone has been very helpful. … I don’t have the institutional memory associated with people who have been around for years,” she says. “There are so many big things going on but it makes for an exciting time, too.”
When she is not working, Thompson says she enjoys tropical vacations with husband, Rod, as well as kayaking, hiking, yoga and diving. The couple has visited locations such as Mexico, Fiji and Belize with plans to go to Hawaii soon. They live in Keizer.