An open letter to the Chickasaw people
For the past twenty years, I have been honored to serve you as your Lieutenant Governor. During this time our nation has experienced tremendous growth and development. I have been honored to serve our people on the national and international levels, including frequent testimony to the US Congress. I am currently serving as the President of the National Congress of American Indians, the nation’s largest and most representative Indian organization.
The time has come for me to step down, and for Carol and I to begin a new chapter in our lives.
On April 26, 2017, I was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma cancer. At that time, Carol and I prayed for the direction that we should go. We wondered if I should step down at that time. As we prayed, it became clear that I should wait until after my treatments to decide on a direction. We have been diligently seeking the Lord’s direction since then. I completed my treatments, and by the Grace of God there is no sign of cancer. The Lord healed me and I know that He has a plan for me.
On Friday, April 26, 2019, two years after my diagnosis, I spoke with Governor Anoatubby and told him what had been my thoughts about retirement since learning my diagnosis two years ago.
We agreed that it is time for me to begin a new chapter in my life. My term of office will end on September 30. Governor Anoatubby has asked me to continue my service to the nation. Perhaps as the Secretary of State, although the title and details will still need to be refined.
It is important that Governor Anoatubby look toward the future of the nation, and select the right person to serve with him. I am confident that he will do so.
There is no greater honor than serving your own people. Thank you for the honor and privilege of allowing Carol and I to serve you. May God richly bless you and continue to bless the Chickasaw Nation
Jefferson Keel serves as the 22nd President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native tribal government organization in the country. President Keel was elected on October 2017 at NCAI’s 74th Annual Convention to serve a third nonconsecutive term as President of NCAI.
As a proud Native American, President Keel is firmly committed to the service of Indian Country. Serving his fifth term as the Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma he is keenly aware of the roles and responsibilities expected of tribal leaders and earnestly believes in the policy of “helping our people through honorable public service.”
President Keel also represents Indian Country on numerous national boards and committees including serving on the Board of Advisors for the Center for Native American Youth, created by former Senator Dorgan at the Aspen Institute. In addition, he was appointed as one of nine commissioners to serve on Tribal Law and Order Commission established under the Tribal Law and Order Act in 2010.
President Keel has previously served as Chair of the Tribal Interior Budget Committee, on the Indian Health Service Policy Advisory Committee, the Centers for Disease Control Tribal Consultation Advisory Committee, the Self-Governance Advisory Committee, the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee, the Health Research Advisory Council for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, and the Department of Justice Tribal Advisory Group.
President Keel is a retired U.S. Army officer with over 20 years active duty service. He served three years of service in Vietnam, and received numerous awards and decorations for heroism, including two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star with "V" for valor. He is a former Airborne Ranger, infantry platoon sergeant, platoon leader, and served as an instructor in the elite U.S. Army Rangers.
President Keel earned his Bachelor’s degree from East Central University and Master’s degree from Troy State University. He is a Master Mason and a member of the East Central University Board of Directors. He is active in his church and community. President Keel and his wife, Carol, have three children and eight grandchildren.
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