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Jefferson Keel, lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation, will discuss the National Congress of American Indians, which he heads as president, Thursday [FEB. 2] at East Central University.

Keel, who became president of the nation’s oldest and largest tribal organization in 2009, will be the speaker for the Lou Watkins Endowed Lectureship at 7 p.m. in the Estep Multimedia Center in the Bill S. Cole University Center. The lecture is free and open to the public.

The lectureship honors Lou Watkins, former chair of ECU's political science department, and brings recognized authorities to ECU to address subjects of public interest at the local, state or national level.

Keel outlined Indian Country’s vision for 2012 in the annual State of Indian Nations Address which he presented Jan. 26 [THURSDAY] at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

He previously served two terms as first vice president of the NCAI and is in his fourth term as lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation. He was named ECU’s Distinguished Alumnus for 2008.

The NCAI was founded in 1944 to press for unity and cooperation among tribal governments to protect their treaty and sovereign rights. Now serving as the major national tribal government organization, NCAI is positioned to monitor federal policy and coordinated efforts to inform federal decisions that affect tribal government interests.

Keel also represents Indian Country on numerous national committees and has served as chair of the Indian Health Service Policy Advisory Committee, the Centers for Disease Control Tribal Consultation Advisory Committee and the Department of Justice Tribal Advisory Group. He also works on the Self-Governance Advisory Committee, the National Indian Child Welfare Association Board of Directors and the Health Research Advisory Council for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health.

He is a retired U.S. Army officer with more than 20 years’ active duty service and credits the military for preparing him for a leadership role. His combat experience includes three years’ service as an infantryman in Vietnam where he received the Bronze Star with “V” for valor, two Purple Hearts and numerous other awards and decorations for heroism. He also was an infantry platoon sergeant and platoon leader, an airborne ranger and an instructor in the elite U.S. Army Rangers.

In addition to his bachelor’s degree from ECU, he received a master’s degree from Troy University. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the ECU Foundation Inc., a Master Mason, a graduate of Leadership Ada and is active in his church and the community.

Keel and his wife, Carol, have three children and eight grandchildren.

Lou Watkins taught at ECU from 1980 until she and her husband, former U.S. Rep. Wes Watkins, moved from Ada in 1991. She became chair of ECU's political science department in 1985. She is president of World Export Services Inc. and is a member of the Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical Colleges.

The lecture is made possible with funds from the Lou Watkins Endowed Lectureship and with the support of the East Central University Foundation Inc.

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