Chickasaw Indian Nation Awards Hall of Fame Medallion to LDS Coloradoan

Contributed By Kathie Keel, Church News contributor

  • 1 September 2017

M. Franklin Keel speaks after receiving the Hall of Fame medallion by the governor and lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation.  Photo by Jacquelyn Sparks.

Article Highlights

  • The Hall of Fame is the highest honor given to a Chickasaw citizen.
  • Keel is a convert to the Church of 41 years.
  • He relies on inspiration and the promptings of the Holy Ghost to navigate difficult situations in his career.

M. Franklin Keel, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and a member of the Gleneagle Ward, Colorado Springs North Stake, has been inducted into the Chickasaw Nation’s 2017 Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Norman, Oklahoma.

Keel was given the honor in June 2017 in recognition of his career of service to the Native American tribes of the United States and to the Chickasaw Nation. It is the highest honor given to a Chickasaw citizen. Approximately 700 people attended the ceremony.

After the presentation of a documentary video describing Keel’s accomplishments, he was honored with the Hall of Fame medallion by the governor and lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation. An etched granite portrait of Keel was placed in the Honor Garden at the Chickasaw Nation Cultural Center.

Keel comes from a long line of distinguished Native American ancestors. As a member of the Hall of Fame, he joins his ancestors Chief Edmund Pickens and Governor Cyrus Harris, both leaders of the Chickasaw Nation in the 1800s. His paternal grandfather was Guy Keel, a senator in the Chickasaw Nation prior to statehood. The Chickasaw Nation was one of the great Five Tribes of the Southeastern U.S. which were relocated in the 1830s via the “Trail of Tears” to Indian Territory in what is now the state of Oklahoma.

M. Franklin Keel, honored with the Hall of Fame medallion, stands next to the governor and lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation. Photo by Michael Scott.

Among his career accomplishments, M. Franklin Keel was the first Native American selected as a commissioned foreign service officer in the U.S. Diplomatic Service, beginning his career in Athens, Greece. Later, sparked by a desire to serve Native Americans, he graduated from Oklahoma City University Law School and dedicated the next 35 years to advocating for Native American interests through his work on Capitol Hill as congressional liaison, as director of the Office of Trust, and as director of the Eastern region, Bureau of Indian Affairs, where he served the 28 tribes of the largest and most diverse region until his retirement in 2014.

His notable acts of service as director included receiving the Department of the Interior Outstanding Service Award for his leadership in directing and ensuring rapid and effective delivery of aid to affected tribes after Hurricane Katrina. Building on his legal background and expertise in U.S. Indian policy, he represented the U.S. in numerous international venues and was invited to speak at universities and law schools throughout the country.

A convert to the Church of 41 years, M. Franklin Keel states that he has relied consistently on inspiration and the promptings of the Holy Ghost to navigate difficult situations in his career, including negotiating resolutions to tribal conflicts which at times turned violent. He has served in various Church callings, including high priests group leader, elders quorum president, counselor in a branch presidency, and stake Sunday School president. He lives with his wife, Kathie, and daughter Caroline in Colorado Springs.

A biography of M. Franklin Keel. Photo courtesy Keel family.