During his distinguished career, Franklin Keel has honorably represented Native Americans with integrity and distinction at the highest levels of government. In 1971, he became the first Native American commissioned as a Foreign Service Officer by the U.S. Diplomatic Corps and performed with distinction while representing U.S. interests overseas.
Keel’s international influence is unparalleled. He personally carried greetings from the Chickasaw Nation to foreign political leaders, including Prime Minister (now President) Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Gűl of Turkey, Deputy Minister Volgin of Russia, Lord Alderdice of England and Deputy Minister Nazimov of Azerbaijan, among others. He also acted as the sole U.S. representative at international meetings concerning indigenous peoples in Russia, Turkey, Canada and Mexico.
Sparked by a desire to serve Native Americans, he graduated from Oklahoma City University Law School in 1978 and assisted Native Americans through his work with Legal Aid in Lawton. In 1997, Keel was appointed as Director of the Eastern Region, Bureau of Indian Affairs. He served the 28 tribes of the largest and most diverse region until his retirement in 2014.
In 37 years with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Keel earned the highest ratings for superior performance in his roles promoting Native American interests. He was appointed to the Federal Senior Executive Service, the highest rank of the career U.S. Civil Service. He also coauthored The Ethics of Anthropology and Amerindian Research – Reporting on Environmental Degradation and Warfare with professor David Dye of the University of Memphis.