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First Native American woman to serve as federal judge in Oklahoma honored by Tulsa alma mater

Judge Sara Hill speaks at the University of Tulsa on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.
Elizabeth Caldwell
Judge Sara Hill speaks at the University of Tulsa on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.

Tulsa’s legal community is celebrating the appointment of a new judge to the Northern District of Oklahoma.

At the University of Tulsa on Friday, well-wishers gathered in a small reception to recognize graduate Sara Hill. Hill is the first Native woman to hold a federal judgeship in Oklahoma.

Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation Chuck Hoskin Jr. said Hill is an inspiration.

“We can think about things today, and if you’re like me there are some things going on in the country that might trouble you. But I can tell you right now: a Cherokee girl can grow up to be a federal district judge in this country. As a Cherokee citizen, that is reason to celebrate,” said Hoskin.

Hill’s colleague, Gregory Frizzell, has been the only full-time judge in the Northern District for more than a year. He was visibly moved as he talked about his family’s role in tribal affairs.

“Being the son of a former law professor here at the University of Tulsa and a former solicitor at the Department of Interior who was tasked by President Nixon to begin his policy of tribal self-determination, this is an important milestone. I think my dad would be very happy that this happened today,” said Frizzell.

Hill said her time serving as Cherokee Nation attorney general from 2019 to 2023 prepped her for her new role in the Northern District.

“And learning to practice law on behalf of the Cherokee Nation, defending the Nation’s rights in court, was the highest honor. It still is, looking back. There will never be anything about it that I would change. I'm so proud of my service in the Nation," said Hill.

Hill joins just a handful of federal judges with Native roots to ever be appointed.

We must note, TU holds the broadcast license for KWGS.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.