A Davis woman was among five people inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame Friday.
Irene Digby, described as a “true diplomat of the Chickasaw Nation,” joined honorees Marvin E. Mitchell, Dr. James Wilburn Hampton and Silas C. Wolf Jr. in making a red-carpet entrance to the banquet/induction ceremonies at Riverwind Showplace Theater in Norman. Chickasaw Ambassador Charles Blackwell was also inducted posthumously.
Digby, 92, was honored for sharing the Chickasaw culture, heritage and traditions with her friends and neighbors in her hometown. The “distinguished Chickasaw storyteller” proudly shares Chickasaw tales and ways with children at Davis Public Schools, using what tribal officials called “teachable moments” to keep the Chickasaw culture and heritage flourishing. In addition, Digby, a fluent Chickasaw speaker, teaches the language, as well as beading, Chickasaw hymns and her traditional Pasholfa recipe to all generations and is also known for assisting parents finding Chickasaw names for their children.
Featured in three publications from the Chickasaw Press, Digby also consistently serves in many capacities for the Chickasaw Nation, including as an elder representative at the annual Chickasaw Nation Princess Pageant.
Mitchell is known as a rock, a leader, a mentor and a compassionate man who lives by a value system. The Fitzhugh resident has served on the Chickasaw Nation Industries board of directors since 1998. He is the sole remaining original board member. Under his guidance, CNI has grown from the $50,000 initial investment to more than $250 million in annual revenue, with 10 LLCs operating within the corporate structure.
Hampton, a dedicated Chickasaw physician, has committed a large portion of his life’s work to addressing the special health care needs of minority groups, including Native Americans. He is presently a medical oncologist/hematologist at Mercy Clinic Oklahoma Communities, Inc., Oklahoma City. Included in a long list of awards and honors in 1999, Hampton was awarded the American Cancer Society Humanitarian award for his leadership role in addressing minority groups’ health care needs and for his passionate support of the underserved, and in 2000, he was awarded Indian Physician of the Year by the Association of American Indian Physicians.
A devoted Chickasaw educator, Wolf was honored as “Male Elder of the Year” by the National Indian Education Association in 2012 for his work with Native American students in his role as Indian education tutor and mentor at Norman Public Schools. The longtime attorney closed his law practice in 2007 to follow his dream of working to better the education of young people. Wolf said he saw the tutor position as a way to give back to his Chickasaw tribe.
Wolf is a member of the Oklahoma Council for Indian Education, Native American Student Advocacy Institute and American Indian Science and Engineering Society. He is also the coach/sponsor on several academic bowl teams sponsored by Norman Public Schools Indian Education Program. In addition, he has presented many lectures to Norman Public Schools’ Oklahoma history classes meant to educate both Native and non-Native students on the concepts of tribal sovereignty.
Blackwell is described as a businessman, diplomat, professor, dean, attorney, school teacher, proud Chickasaw and ambassador. Blackwell’s positive impact on a national level included being appointed Chickasaw Nation Ambassador to the United States, the first ambassador of any Native American tribal government to be named to such a position. He served as ambassador from 1995 until his death in 2013. He rallied for tribal sovereignty, self-determination, education, health care, environmental stewardship, and other issues vitally important to American Indian tribes before Washington, D.C. lawmakers. He also strived to enforce the formal government-to-government relationship the Chickasaw Nation has with the U.S. federal government.
“It is our privilege to honor these individuals who have made significant contributions to the Chickasaw Nation and the larger community,” Gov. Bill Anoatubby said. “Their commitment to sharing tribal history, culture and heritage, protecting sovereignty, promoting educational opportunities, healing the sick and serving others epitomizes the spirit and perseverance of the Chickasaw people.”
Induction to the Chickasaw Hall of Fame is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a Chickasaw by the Chickasaw Nation.