Monday, April 19, 2010

Chickasaw Struggles For Cultural Survival: One Oklahoma Family Aims to Keep Their Native Language

[this is a Cherokee, not a Chickasaw, syllabary, and was found here.] 

What follows next is from *here*.

Chickasaw Location

At some time around 1300, the Chickasaw crossed the Mississippi River from an earlier location to the west (presumed to have been the Red River Valley). According to tradition, their first permanent settlement east of the river, was Chickasaw Old Fields on the Tennessee River just west of Huntsville, Alabama. Although they maintained a presence in northwest Alabama in later years, by 1700 Chickasaw Old Fields had moved southwest to the headwaters of the Tombigbee River in northeast Mississippi, their homeland during the historic period. The Chickasaw also controlled western Tennessee and Kentucky west of the divide between the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers including the Chickasaw Bluffs which overlook the Mississippi River at Memphis. One group moved east during 1723 at the invitation of South Carolina and settled on the Savannah River near Augusta, Georgia. They remained until 1783 when their lands were confiscated for their support of the British during the American Revolution. The eastern band spent a few years among the Creeks in eastern Alabama before rejoining the main body in northern Mississippi. After the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830, the Chickasaw ceded their land east of the Mississippi in 1832 and agreed to remove to the Indian Territory. The failure to find suitable land delayed their move until 1837, after which the Chickasaw settled in southeast Oklahoma on land leased from the Choctaw. Their union with the Choctaw was not happy, and in 1854 the Chickasaw separated and relocated to their own territory in south-central Oklahoma. The Chickasaw Nation remained in existence until dissolved in 1906 to allow for Oklahoma statehood. Although many Chickasaw left or merged with the general population after allotment took their lands, 12,000 still live in the vicinity of their tribal headquarters at Ada.


Although generally the least known of the "Five Civilized Tribes" (Chickasaw, Cherokee , Choctaw, Creek, Seminole), no other tribe played a more significant role in Britain's victory over France for control of North America. Variously described as the "Unconquered and Unconquerable" or the "Spartans of the lower Mississippi Valley," the Chickasaw were the most formidable warriors of the American Southeast, and anyone who messed with them came to regret it, if they survived! British traders from the Carolinas were quick to recognize their prowess in this regard and armed the Chickasaw to the teeth, after which, no combination of the French and their native allies was able to dislodge the Chickasaw from the stranglehold they imposed upon French commerce on the lower Mississippi. The Chickasaw could cut New France in two, which seriously crippled the French in any war with the British. From the high ground overlooking the Mississippi River at Memphis, the Chickasaw took on all comers, including tribes four to five times their size and never lost until they picked the wrong side in the American Civil War. Even then, the Chickasaw Nation was the last Confederate government to surrender to Union forces.

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What follows next is a cross post from *here*.

By NANETTE LIGHT The Norman Transcript

NORMAN, Okla. — The Shackleford crew of Lexington is trying to revive the dimmed life expectancy of their native Chickasaw language. They're not alone. The fate of fluency in the Wichita tribe of Oklahoma wavers on the timetable of an 86-year-old woman. "The language of our family was lost in a generation gap," said Keith Shackleford after his four children who are about one-quarter Native American won for their skit performed in their native Chickasaw language in the grade 6 to 12 spoken language category. "We're trying to reclaim that and introduce it to the kids." 

Recently, 635 children across the state participated in the eighth annual Oklahoma Native American Language Fair — the largest in the country, showcasing 30 different Native languages at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

Students from public and private language programs competed in a variety of categories such as spoken word, language performance with dance or music, book, poster, Power Point language presentations and language advocacy essays.

The fair is an opportunity for students to demonstrate progress in their language learning and network with other Native American children, said Mary Linn, associate curator of Native American languages at the museum.

"If it's cool to speak your native language, then that's one of the most important retention factors," Linn said, adding that while many of the languages have lost fluent speakers, they're being taught by young people lacking textbooks and teaching supplies who are dedicated to restoring the languages' vitality.

"You get these kids coming in here speaking these languages you've never heard on the face of the Earth," she said.

Like Juanita Antone of the Wichita tribe's 3- and 4-year-old girls.

Antone doesn't speak the native language. Regretting her ignorance, she enrolled her children in Kitikiti'sh Little Sisters, an organization that teaches young girls about the Wichita tribe's culture.

"It helps them know who they are and where they truly come from," she said of her girls' participation in Kitikiti'sh Little Sister, which won third place for its rendition of "Amazing Grace" at the fair in the category of grade 6 to 8 group language with music or dance.

Antone's confidence in the tribe's prospects, however, wavers. As the tribe struggles to sustain its dying language, Antone said it has lowered its blood quantum so more people can formally claim lineage to the Wichita tribe.

"I don't think we'll ever have another fluent speaker," she said shaking her head.

Shackleford, who began studying the Chickasaw language intensely in his adult years and now teaches it to other adults of the tribe, began introducing his smattering of native vocabulary to his five children when they were young.

"These kids are where it's at," Shackleford said. "If we can get them taught, that'll add on another generation."

At home, sentences are spoken in a mix of English and Chickasaw, said Shackleford's wife, Mary, adding that it's mainly because they don't know all the words, yet.

Since the children are homeschooled, Keith Shackleford said he integrates language learning into their academic studying, along with the family's discourse while seated around the dinner table, where the idea was birthed for their winning script — a comedy where the two younger children mocked the 16-year-old twins' driving abilities.

"They're learning how the language fits into everyday lives. It's not just a list of words," Mary Shackleford said.

Keith Shackleford said he expects his children, who range in ages from 10 to 19, to surpass his abilities, laughing off notions of his prospects for fluency.

"It's who we are," 16-year-old Skye Shackleford said matter-of-factly, shrugging her shoulders.

By NANETTE LIGHT The Norman Transcript

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

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What follows next is a video and unfortunately the audio track isn't in sync with the video, but the discussion is about preservation of Chickasaw songs:

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