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The first Oka’ Institute Water Sustainability Conference is set for Wednesday-Thursday, Oct. 26-27, in East Central University’s Foundation Hall in the Chickasaw Business and Conference Center.

After a 5 p.m. reception on Wednesday, Oct. 26, Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby will deliver the keynote address shortly after dinner to open the conference. Anoatubby will be introduced by Chancellor Glen Johnson, of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

Among the other featured speakers are: Dr. Sally Gutierrez, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Technology Innovation Cluster Development and Support Program with the Office of Research and Development (ORD), and Rowan Schmidt, who has led Earth Economics’ finance and investment program since 2010.

Also scheduled to speak are Chad Ellis, Jimmy Givens, Matt Wormus and Stephen H. Greetham as the conference will focus on such topics as sustainability; challenges of regionalization; drought resiliency; a technical panel discussing reuse, recharge, water 2060 and soil health and a policy panel, involving the Northwest Water Plan, The City of Ada, rural water districts and conservation.

Other topics include information on the Oka’ Institute and ECU’s new and unique master of science degree in Water Resources Policy and Management Program.

ECU’s newly-established Oka’ Institute is designed to bridge the gap between sustainable water management and economic development. Oka’ means water in the Chickasaw and Choctaw languages.

The conference opens on Wednesday, Oct. 26, with a reception at 5 p.m., followed by a dinner. Chancellor Glen Johnson, of the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education, will speak briefly and introduce the keynote speaker, Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby. A drone flight presentation will also be included.

After the opening reception, dinner and speech from Gov. Anoatubby, the conference resumes Thursday, Oct. 27, with a daylong list of activities, speakers and panel discussions.

The registration for the conference is $150 per person, which includes a dinner on Oct. 26 and a pastry breakfast and lunch on Oct. 27. The student rate is $25. You can register by calling 580-559-5151 or going online at

Here are some of the featured speakers:

Gov. Bill Anoatubby

Anoatubby, an ECU alumnus, has served as governor of the Chickasaw Nation since 1987 after consistently being re-elected to that position. In 1979, he was elected the first lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation.

In his first term, Anoatubby established goals of economic development and self-sufficiency for the Chickasaw Nation and its people. Today, the Chickasaw Nation is well on the way to achieving those goals. In 1987, the tribe had about 250 employees and today, the Chickasaw Nation employs nearly 14,000 people. The financial condition of the Chickasaw Nation has improved tremendously and funding for tribal operations has grown exponentially. Tribal assets have grown two-hundredfold.

Anoatubby is committed to meeting the needs of the Chickasaw people through programs and services.

Dr. Sally Gutierrez

Gutierrez is the director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Technology Innovation Cluster Development and Support Program with the Office of Research and Development (ORD). This new effort seeks to advance environmental protection in tandem with economic development through the formation of community-based public, private partnerships.

She has been leading the EPA’s efforts to leverage its research and development capability in Cincinnati, Ohio with community-based assets to establish the region as a water technology innovation hub and is leading an effort to network water innovation clusters across the United States.

Rowan Schmidt

Schmidt has led Earth Economics’ finance and investment program since 2010. Areas of the program include: providing valuation of natural resources and natural resource damages to inform government investment decisions; leading research on the nexus between accounting and natural resources, including watersheds that provide and filter water; improving asset management approaches for natural resources; enhancing bond disclosure standards to include watershed and natural capital conditions and adjusting water utility rate structures to support natural capital investments.

He has also advised a number of federal agencies on natural resources accounting, valuation and asset management.

Chad Ellis

Ellis is the manager of the Center of Land Stewardship at the Noble Foundation. Efforts of the center are focused around collaboration and research with the purpose of building leaders, expanding knowledge and developing tools to be used by producers to make informed decisions about land stewardship.

Before going to the Noble Foundation in 2012, Ellis was a regional rangeland management specialist for Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) and primarily worked in 15 central states at the Central National Technology Support Center (CNTSC).

Jimmy Givens

Givens was appointed deputy executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality in 2009. Prior to that appointment, he served as general counsel of the DEQ for more than 10 years. He has been an attorney and administrator with the DEQ and its predecessor, the environmental branch of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, since 1985.

Givens’ professional career also includes two years as an assistant attorney general for the State of Oklahoma. He received his baccalaureate and law degrees with honors from the University of Oklahoma.

Matt Wormus

Wormus is a GIS specialist for the EPCRA (Emergency Planning Right-to-Know Act) section at the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). He is chair of DEQ’s GIS Subcommittee and is a member of the Oklahoma Geographic Information Council.

During his time at DEQ, the agency has received the 2015 Esri Special Achievement in GIS Award and the 2016 SCAUG (South Central Arc User Group) Founder’s Award.

Stephen H. Greetham

Greetham is chief general for the Chickasaw Nation’s Division of Commerce. Greetham also serves as the Chickasaw Nation’s special counsel on water and natural resources, where he works closely with tribal leadership in the management of complex litigation and resource protection and development strategies.



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