Nena Fisher serves as an ATF industry operations investigator (IOI), currently working in the Indianapolis Field Office as an area supervisor. She manages a team of 10 IOIs responsible for ensuring that businesses in the firearms and explosives industry are following federal regulations. She takes her role as a leader seriously because IOIs are crucial to ATF’s regulatory mission and help to reduce violent crime by supporting legal ownership and use of firearms and explosives.
Fisher is a member of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, and a descendant of the Cheyenne and Choctaw Nations. Currently, there are roughly 2,000 members of the Iowa Tribe, also known as the Báxoǰe in their own language. When Fisher was born, her father listed her on the Iowa tribal rolls that serve as a living archive of their people. The Báxoǰe are a federally recognized tribe that historically farmed, lived in earthen lodges and used teepees temporarily when hunting buffalo.
Although many of Fisher’s relatives live on the Iowa Reservation in Kansas, she is the first generation of her family to grow up outside of the reservation. Her family had to move constantly because her father worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. During this time, Fisher’s mother taught at local schools with many Native students. Her mother would teach lessons in English and the teacher’s aide would repeat the lessons in the students’ own language.
One childhood event made Fisher realize that not everyone viewed Native heritage in the positive way she did. A childhood friend invited her over to her house to play. When Fisher arrived, her friend’s mother said that they could not play together because Fisher was Indian and all Indians were drunks. Fisher remembers standing there silent and stunned. The next day at school, her friend told her that they could only play together at school.
That incident stayed with Fisher, but she realized early on that education, dedication and integrity were crucial to her achieving her life goals. She studied hard and completed her undergraduate degree at the University of New Mexico, then began her career as a clerk with ATF’s Firearms and Explosives Import Branch. Within six months, Fisher was hired as an inspector in the Baltimore office. The same driving force that sparked her interest and commitment to her Native ancestry also helped forge her path to become a leader at ATF.
Today Fisher loves her job, especially her team’s dedication and integrity. Fisher and her IOI colleagues work closely with individuals that want to obtain a federal firearms or explosives license/permit, helping them understand and meet all of the requirements for licensure. The team also conducts inspections to ensure that licensed businesses are operating in compliance with the laws and regulations.
In the past, Fisher and her daughter organized Native fashion shows for pre-school and elementary students to demonstrate the many differences between the tribes. Today, the pair continue to attend cultural events and practice the traditions of art, beadwork and dancing to ensure their culture does not die. Fisher believes keeping these traditions alive and passing them down to the next generation is the best way to honor her Báxoǰe culture.