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Lisa John


Lisa John, Chickasaw, received a Bachelor’s of Arts in political science and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. She began working for the Chickasaw Nation in 1994, and currently serves as the Secretary of Culture and Humanities. The department of culture and humanities includes the divisions of Arts & Humanities, History and Culture, Chickasaw Cultural Center and Historic Preservation. Under Lisa’s leadership, the department of culture and humanities looks to preserve, protect and provide awareness about Chickasaw history and culture through efforts including instruction, art, and preservations efforts.

Lisa served as the Education Division Administrator from 2005-2012. As the division of education administrator, Ms. John oversaw education programs offered by the Chickasaw Nation including early childhood (Head Start), child care services, education services, supportive programs, vocational rehabilitation and education administration.  In addition, Lisa was instrumental in the establishment of the Chickasaw Nation Native Explorer Program. 

Prior to being named the Education Division Administrator, Lisa served as the lead negotiator for the Chickasaw Nation Office of Self Governance, specifically for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service programs. In that position, she negotiated the assumption of three major programs from the Bureau of Indian Affairs: the Indian Reservation Roads program, court of federal offenses, and law enforcement. After the assumption of law enforcement, Ms. John was responsible for overseeing the creation and development of the Chickasaw Nation Lighthorse Police Department.

Lisa serves on the Ada City Schools Foundation, Oklahoma Advisory Council on Indian Education, Ada Chamber of Commerce, and the Oklahoma Center for Non-profits. She is married to Thomas John and has two children, Lauren and Trevor.

Eric Smith

Eric Smith, Chickasaw, is a well-recognized bowyer, archery historian, and teacher in the art of making traditional bows and arrows used by the plains Indians. In 1984, Eric began researching the craft of making traditional Native American bows and arrows. His ability to teach the craft of bow making is recognized by many sovereign nations and the U.S. government. Eric’s bows and arrows represent accurate replicas from several North American tribes and have been used to harvest one of North America’s largest game animals the bison. Eric’s bows and arrows are found in museums and galleries across the globe.

As an instructor at Riverside Indian School in Anadarko, Eric created and taught the history of Native American archery and bow and arrow making. This is the only class taught on these subjects in the history of a school operating under the direction of the Bureau of Indian Education. In addition to teaching at Riverside, he has taught his craft to many Native American youth from reservations across the United States.

In December 2015, Eric’s bows and arrows were featured in an Academy Award winning film “The Revenant”. After the completion of the Revenant project, another production company, HBO, requested numerous bows and arrows for a mini series titled “Lewis and Clark”, which will air soon. Currently, Eric is making archery equipment for another film “The Chickasaw Rancher”, which is in production. Eric lives in Lawton, Oklahoma.

Joe Thomas

Joe Thomas, Chickasaw, received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Native American Studies from the University of Oklahoma. He also has completed 28 graduate hours within the Geography Master’s Program from Oklahoma State University. He began working for the Chickasaw Nation in August 2013 as a grant writer. As the grant writer for the tribe, Joe successfully wrote and submitted four grants that were awarded to the Chickasaw Nation from the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the Oklahoma Zoological Society. Only employed with the tribe for three and half months, the Secretary of the Department of Culture and Humanities, Lisa John, appointed Joe as her special assistant.

Currently serving as the Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Department of Culture and Humanities, Joe prepares and edits documents, speeches and presentations for the Secretary, researches historical Chickasaw information to maintain accuracy and consistency throughout the tribe, serves on multiple committees within the Chickasaw Nation Division of Cultural Center and Arts and Humanities, and oversees other duties as instructed from the Secretary.

Prior to working for the Chickasaw Nation, Joe was selected for numerous top internships at federal agencies in Washington, DC including the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency as well as internships with the Chickasaw Nation including the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center and the Chickasaw Nation Geo Spatial Information Center.

Additionally, Joe participated in Native Explorers on two major capacities; serving as a student in summer 2011 and as a Native Explorers’ Mentor in summer 2012. Joe continues to be an advocate and supporter of Native Explorers.

Joe also has two published articles with the Chickasaw Nation including “Government Schooling and Its Effects on Indigenous Cultures” and “Chickasaws before Removal”.

Shannon Nagel


Shannon L. Nagel has committed her time and energy to the areas of education, advocating for social justice, and the empowerment of American Indian individuals, families, and communities. Ms. Nagel is affiliated with Native Explorers as a Consultant and she provides oversight, coordination, and guidance to the program. She has a strong and diverse background in professional writing and research, program development and management, curriculum development, strategic planning and group facilitation.  A strong advocate for families and education, Ms. Nagel earned her B.S. in Family Studies and her M.A. in Family Studies with a Concentration in Human Development from the University of New Mexico.

Prior to partnering with Native Explorers, Ms. Nagel worked for the Albuquerque Public School District as a Behavioral Specialist for the Special Education Department.  She was also a Certified Trainer of Nonviolent Crisis Intervention for the District; providing essential training to help ensure the safety, welfare, and security of all students and staff. She continued her commitment to education by serving as an Adjunct Faculty Member for the University of New Mexico.

A firm believer in giving back to one’s community, she enjoys volunteering her time with various American Indian programs and initiatives in the areas of positive youth development, community mobilization, research, domestic violence, prevention/intervention, and the empowerment and safety of American Indian women and children. She is a member of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma and also proudly represents the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma and the Mandan and Hidatsa Tribes of North Dakota.