Press Release

Release Date: March 19, 2024
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

Firefighter Nancy Howell, 2023 Chickasaw Nation Dynamic Woman of the Year, blazes her own trail

A first responder trainer who has dedicated her career to safety and public service, Nancy Howell was named the 2023 Chickasaw Nation Dynamic Woman of the Year during the annual Chickasaw Nation Dynamic Women Conference.

“Women have had important roles throughout the history of the Chickasaw Nation, and we have long valued the strength that they bring, the wisdom that they have and leadership that they provide. This award pays tribute to a Chickasaw woman who has inspired, given hope, or opened new opportunities or possibilities for others through her example,” Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said. “We appreciate Nancy’s dedication and service, and we honor her as the 2023 Chickasaw Nation Dynamic Woman of the Year,” he said.

As an EMT (emergency medical technician) and firefighter instructor, Howell’s influence extends well beyond the classroom. Through the curriculum she teaches and develops, she assists and ensures that firefighters and EMTs from volunteer, municipal and industry departments statewide are prepared to save lives and property.

“The important thing to me is community and giving back to the community as a volunteer. I am a volunteer firefighter. I volunteer in my community and teach at a technology center that gives back to the community by offering free classes for the volunteers,” she said.

Howell, a Chickasaw citizen from Central High, Oklahoma, is widely known as an authority in her field. She is considered a subject matter expert for both the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education and Oklahoma State University Fire Service Training Program.

Howell’s decades of community service began as a volunteer with the local Red Cross, teaching safety classes and swimming lessons. She accepted a position as a first responder at Kirk’s Emergency Service in 1988 and later became a Central High volunteer firefighter, where she served for 20 years, retiring in 2022.

Only 9% of U.S. firefighters are women, according to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and 5% of all career firefighters are women.

Howell began teaching EMT training in 1992 and in 2000, she was instrumental in developing the EMT and firefighter course that is currently taught in Oklahoma technology centers. Howell’s first responder program at Great Plains Technology Center (GPTC), Lawton, Oklahoma, was the first in the state and among the first in the United States.

The instruction and courses she developed are used to train numerous firefighters and instructors across the state.

Her influence extends well beyond her classroom, ensuring firefighters and EMTs from departments across the state are prepared to save lives and property through the curriculum she develops.

Howell is integral to GPTC’s industry partnerships, coordinating the emergency service training for local manufacturing plants and fostering relationships with both volunteer and professional departments.

While working full time, she continued to pursue her bachelor’s degree and graduated from Oklahoma State University in 2019. She also earned an associate degree in liberal arts and an associate of applied science in fire technology from Western Oklahoma State University.

“The Chickasaw Nation education program was such a blessing. I have zero college debt and have three degrees,” she said.

Although she is planning to retire from her full-time teaching position at the technology center in June 2024, she does not plan to slow down.

“I plan to continue to teach, develop and coordinate classes for first responders on a part-time basis. I turned 60 this year and I am always going to keep working and learning.”

Howell has been honored as the 2021 Oklahoma Fire Service Instructor of the Year and 2022 Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) Postsecondary Professional of the Year for ACTE Region IV. Howell was also a 2023 national finalist for Postsecondary Professional of the Year and recently included in the Marquis Who’s Who biographical registry.

Howell said her Chickasaw lineage can be traced to her Chickasaw great-great-grandmother Katherine Harris, Chickasaw great-grandfather Lemual Blevins and Chickasaw grandfather W.C. Blevins, all original enrollees on the Dawes Rolls.

“I am so proud to be Chickasaw,” she said.

Her parents are Kenneth, a Chickasaw citizen, and Lawanna Blevins. She is married to Jerry Howell, a retired Oklahoma Highway Patrol lieutenant. They have three children and two grandchildren.