The 10th Native American Symposium was hosted by Southeastern Oklahoma State University last week under the theme “Native Ground: Protecting and Preserving History, Culture and Customs.”
Keynote speaker Dr. Brad Lieb of the Chickasaw Nation Division of Historic Preservation delivered a presentation at the symposium banquet on Thursday which highlighted that nation’s efforts to document, preserve and reconnect with specific locations once held by the tribe in northern Mississippi.
“Re-creating the pre-contact Chickasaw worldview is a goal of the Chickasaw Nation,” Lieb said. “The greatest part of my job is seeing Chickasaws reconnect with their homeland at a deep level.”
Unlike the Choctaw Nation which has connections to ancient homelands via the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the Chickasaws were fully removed from their homelands around Tupelo, Miss., in the early 1800s. Until recently, the tribe had no land holdings in its old country.
“Part of our responsibility is to relocate the original Chickasaw towns,” Lieb said. “The results of these efforts have been amazing. Trying to envision what the Chickasaw landscape looked like is not easy today.”
These efforts have helped locate the site of the pivotal Battle of Ackia (1736) in which English-supported Chickasaws defeated the French and Choctaws as France attempted to unify its colonies at opposite ends of the Mississippi River.
A unified French colony in the heart of North America would have drastically changed the course of history just 40 years before the American Revolution.
It is these historic native-influenced impacts on all of American history which many speakers at the symposium focused upon.
Other events during the symposium included “Native Traditions: Then and Now” art on display at the Centre Gallery of Southeastern’s Visual and Performing Arts Center, as well as presentations of traditional Choctaw social dancing and the locally produced Choctaw code-talker drama, “To Us It Wasn’t Code.”
Presenting the social dancing was the Billy Family of Broken Bow, which includes several Choctaw language teachers at Southeastern. Most notably, Thursday’s presentation was SE instructor Curtis Billy’s first return to the educational forum since heart bypass surgery last month.
On Thursday and Friday, speakers from all over the U.S. spoke on a variety of topics including native politics, films, art, literature, and sovereignty.