Kelbie Kennedy is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and was born and raised on her Tribal Nation's reservation in Southeast, Oklahoma. On October 11, 2022, President Biden appointed Ms. Kennedy as the first tribal affairs political appointee in the history of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security.
As the first FEMA National Tribal Affairs Advocate, Ms. Kennedy will directly advise the Administrator and the Agency on all tribal affairs and work to ensure that FEMA lives up to its treaty responsibilities to all Tribal Nations. Ms. Kennedy will also work across the Agency to implement the first FEMA National Tribal Strategy.
Ms. Kennedy received her J.D. and certificate in American Indian Law from the University of Oklahoma, College of Law. She has focused her career on field of Federal Indian Law and has worked for Tribal Nations, private firms, and the federal government. Before joining the FEMA team, Ms. Kennedy spent over four years working in Washington D.C. for the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) as the Policy Manager and Policy Lead – National Security and Community Safety. In her role with NCAI, Ms. Kennedy worked on national policy issues surrounding tribal emergency management and resilience, tribal homeland security, tribal border issues, violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women, public safety and justice, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Indian child and family welfare, and international Indigenous rights. Ms. Kennedy played pivotal role in the efforts to reauthorize the 2022 Violence Against Women Act, which restored Tribal Nation’s criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians for certain crimes. Alongside Tribal Nations she urged Congress to increase funding to build tribal homeland security and emergency management capacity and pushed FEMA to amend various polices that impacted Tribal Nations and tribal citizens. Ms. Kennedy also produced a Tribal Disaster Declaration Webinar Series in partnership with tribal emergency managers and FEMA experts.
Before working at NCAI, Ms. Kennedy worked as the Assistant Attorney General for Chuuk State in the Federated States of Micronesia. In her role as the Assistant Attorney General, Ms. Kennedy prosecuted both criminal and civil cases on behalf of the State, negotiated indigenous land claims, advised the Chuuk Governor, and testified before the Chuuk State legislature.
Ms. Kennedy brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from her time in Indian Country and from the many Tribal Nation she has worked with over the years.