Ms. Deanna Hartley-Kelso, Chickasaw, is a senior partner at the Indian and Environmental Law Group, PLLC, with offices in Tulsa and Ada, Oklahoma. Her practice focuses primarily on Indian law matters, including large scale litigation on behalf of tribes and handling governmental, business and gaming matters for tribes or tribal agencies. Her tribal clients include both large and small tribes, primarily located in Oklahoma. With other members of the firm, she also participates in Indian tribal trust litigation and environmental tort litigation, on behalf of both tribal and non-tribal clients, in federal and state courts and with state administrative agencies.
Ms. Hartley-Kelso is an adjunct professor, teaching criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country in the Masters of Jurisprudence program at Tulsa University College of Law, a previous adjunct professor in legal studies at East Central University and a past volunteer with the North Texas Legal Services-American Indian Law Project.
Ms. Hartley-Kelso served as attorney general for the Chickasaw Nation and was an executive officer and administrator of the nation’s division of justice from 2004-2014. She also served the Chickasaw Nation as its general counsel from 2001-2004 and its first legislative counsel from 1997-2001. During her tenure with the Chickasaw Nation, she established an in-house legal department that later became the attorney general’s office. Over the years, she has participated in numerous projects geared toward the development of legal and law enforcement infrastructure for the Chickasaw Nation, including revising and updating various provisions of the tribal code, key roles in implementing the nation's criminal code, establishing a prosecutor's office, the development and re-establishment of both the tribal law enforcement and the tribal court functions, developing and implementing a juvenile justice program and the legal groundwork under tribal law for a tribally owned bank. She also has extensive experience in drafting tribal employment policies, conducting employment related hearings and developing training presentations and materials for tribal employees. Ms. Hartley-Kelso is licensed in the courts of the Chickasaw Nation, the states of Oklahoma and Texas and the Northern, Eastern and Western Districts of Oklahoma and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado. As for professional memberships, she serves on the board of trustees for the Oklahoma Bar Foundation, and holds memberships with the Chickasaw Bar Association, serving as its president in 2013-2014, the Oklahoma Indian Bar Association, Native American Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association. She is also a fellow of the College of the State Bar of the State of Texas, an organization recognizing professionalism through education.
Ms. Hartley-Kelso is a previous chair, vice-chair, treasurer and a current member of the Chickasaw Foundation Board of Trustees. She served as a citizen appointee to the Arkansas Riverbed Authority from 2001-2014, and numerous boards and committees within the Chickasaw Nation. Ms. Hartley-Kelso was appointed to serve as an advisory board member for the eastern Oklahoma region to the Indian Law and Order Commission and provided testimony related to law enforcement issues in Indian Country. She was appointed by Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry to the Oklahoma Juvenile Affairs Board from 2009-2013, serving as its 2012 chair. She also represented the Chickasaw Nation at the 2004 United Nations Human Rights Working Group on the Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva, Switzerland, and provided subsequent testimony in 2012 to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights.