Chrissi Ross Nimmo has a long history with Northeastern State University – she even jokes she was born there. The Cherokee tribal hospital where her mother gave birth in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, was located on land that would later become part of NSU’s campus. And the relationship continued. Nimmo, a first-generation college student and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, knew Northeastern State University could provide everything she wanted from college.
“I was serious about furthering my education. My high school class in Warner, Oklahoma, had 40 people and I was nervous for college,” said Nimmo. “NSU was the right fit. It was affordable, close to home, and easy to navigate for someone from a small town.” After high school, Nimmo attended NSU and received a bachelor’s degree in developmental psychology in 2002 and then earned her M.B.A. in 2005, all while working full time.
Growing up, Nimmo was a voracious reader and debater, traits that would serve her well in her future career. “People told me I was good at arguing and that I talked a lot. I dreamed of being a lawyer, but I didn’t know it was within reach,” said Nimmo. Education opened the door. After receiving her two degrees from NSU, Nimmo received a J.D. from University of Tulsa College of Law, returned to Tahlequah and began a career practicing law as counsel for the Cherokee Nation.
Since 2008, Nimmo has been deputy attorney general for the nation, but she cut her teeth litigating juvenile cases in Oklahoma state court. One of the most notable was heard before the United States Supreme Court in 2013. “I never imagined I would sit at that table,” she reflected. “It was a very surreal experience.” The case stretched on for almost three years and her work on Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl taught her a lot about practicing at different levels and even called on her childhood love of reading. “You have to read everything that has ever been written on a topic.”
Now she manages a staff of 9 attorneys who act as legal counsel to various departments within the nation and advise on operations of the tribal government. Nimmo has received numerous recognitions for her professional contributions. The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development named her a Native American 40 Under 40, she was one of Oklahoma Magazine’s 40 Under 40 and a Journal Record Achiever Under 40.
After 11 years with the Cherokee Nation, Nimmo still lives in Tahlequah with her husband and three children. She serves on the Tahlequah Public School Board. NSU has remained a part of her life: “We often have Northeastern State students in the office for shadow days, or I’ll go over to the university to speak about Indian law to different classes or groups,” she noted. “Sometimes it’s like I never left.”