Native American Heritage Day: Chickasaw history features colorful events, unique personalities
By The Chickasaw Nation.
For The Ardmoreite
The Chickasaw Nation’s storied past has produced many colorful events and unique personalities, some of which have been archived in DVD format and made available for classroom instruction and private viewing.
Presentations on Mary Frances “Te Ata” Thompson, Pearl Carter Scott, and “First Encounter” detail the lives of two famous First Americans and one little known history altering episode between Chickasaws and Europeans.
Mary Frances “Te Ata” Thompson was born and reared in the Chickasaw Nation, where her family settled following the removal of Chickasaw people from their original tribal homelands of Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.
Thompson’s birth coincided with the United States’ efforts to dismantle tribal governments, discouraging tribal traditions and allotting collective tribal lands to individual tribal citizens. During this time of government enforced assimilation, Thompson stood out as a voice for cultural preservation.
Mary Francis embraced the Chickasaw tradition of storytelling and transformed herself into the world-renowned performer, Te Ata. Throughout her travels and performances, (including a White House performance) Te Ata kept her Chickasaw heritage close to heart and shared the unique story and spirit of the Chickasaw people.
By studying and performing traditional Native American stories, she overturned negative stereotypes and advocated the preservation of Indigenous American cultures.
The Chickasaw Nation has produced a one-hour documentary (available at Chickasaw.net) that includes educational resources for educators appropriate for elementary and secondary teachers and students. Students and teachers alike can discover how this dynamic Chickasaw woman successfully navigated the social, geographic and cultural distances to become one of the most successful Native American performers in history.
The presentation follows Te Ata’s illustrious career, wherein she entertained and educated audiences, including President Franklin and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and their guests - the King and Queen of England.
Another famous Chickasaw woman was aviatrix Pearl Carter Scott, who started flying airplanes before most kids leave junior high school.
The daughter of a successful businessman in Marlow, Oklahoma, Pearl was a dedicated and proud citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. She aspired until her passing in 2005, to do "whatever is necessary to help my fellow Chickasaws." Pearl served as a Community Health Representative, as well as a member of the Chickasaw Tribal Legislature, where she served three terms and helped oversee tremendous growth in tribal operations and services.
She was inducted into the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall of Fame, the International Women's Air and Space Museum Hall of Fame and became a charter member of the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian.
In 1990, she was honored as homecoming queen and guest of honor for the 60th Anniversary Celebration of Wylie Post's trip around the world.
A 30-minute documentary features interviews with Pearl and her family members, and is available as a companion to the Pearl DVD by accessing Chickasaw.net.
Hernando de Soto was one of the most famous conquistadors who set out to explore America. Landing on the shores of Tampa Bay, Florida, in May of 1539, de Soto and his army were seeking riches and glory.
Upon landing, de Soto and more than 700 Spaniards immediately began taking over native villages to use as camps. De Soto and the Spaniards proceeded to take advantage of the tribe’s people and their resources. It wasn’t long before de Soto learned of the “land of the Chicasa” and turned his expedition toward what is now Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and the Carolinas.
In December of 1540, the Spaniards arrived in Chickasaw territory. A reluctant relationship was formed between the two groups. Soon, de Soto began to assume unjustified authority over the Chickasaws and to disrupt their way of life.
He began making harsh demands of tribal leaders and the Chickasaws began planning an ambush to oust their increasingly unwelcome visitors. The Chickasaws overcame de Soto, disrupting his plans and ultimately putting an end to his expedition in America.
“First Encounter” (available at Chickasaw.net) is a documentary that portrays the actions taken by the Chickasaws that proved to be the catalyst for the dwindling of Hernando de Soto’s mission for gold and riches in America during the late 1530s and early 40s.
It was the first European contact for the Chickasaws, but perhaps the most important and set the standard by which the tribe remained for centuries, and still remains today - “unconquered and unconquerable.”
“First Encounter” also includes educational resources for educators appropriate for elementary and secondary teachers and students.
Educational resources are available for many of the film projects that provide learning opportunities for students. The series consists of documentary films, short history film projects, educational videos and more featuring the Chickasaw Nation and its people from European contact to modern day. View available video projects at Chickasaw.net.