James’s Chickasaw Citizenship
Chokma. Chickasha saya. In English: Hello. I am Chickasaw. Chickasaw citizenship is my birthright as a lineal descendant of my grandfather, whose name appears on the final roll of Chickasaw Indians by blood created in 1906. Enrollment was an important step in the government’s plan to break up tribal governments and communal lands in Indian Territory and prepare Oklahoma for admission to the Union as a state. My grandfather was born in the Chickasaw Nation in 1891 but did not become a citizen of the United States until the roll was approved by Congress.
I was born and raised in Oklahoma and live there today because my Chickasaw ancestors came west on the Trail of Tears to what was then Indian Territory in 1837. I am the fifth generation of my family to call the Sooner State home. My roots run deep in the land whose name is derived from the Indian words okla and humma meaning “red people.”
The Chickasaw Nation
The traditional Chickasaw homeland occupied a wide swath of the southeastern woodlands: parts of southwestern Kentucky, western Tennessee, northern Mississippi and northwestern Alabama. At the time of the arrival of the first Europeans, the Chickasaws had flourished for centuries as fierce warriors, hunters, agriculturists, and traders. In the years that followed, they adapted to the changing world by developing substantial farms and prosperous businesses; they came to dominate trade along the lower Mississippi River. They became Christians and adopted a code of written laws, established a legislature and a court system, and fought at the side of General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. Then came the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the move to Indian Territory.
Always dynamic and resilient, the Chickasaws adapted again after the removal. They survived being uprooted and forced to travel to a wilderness some 500 miles away, the destruction of the Civil War, and the subsequent efforts of the government to extinguish them altogether. In 1970, the Chickasaw Nation restored its government and gained full recognition from the United States as a Native American nation.
Over time, the Chickasaw Nation prospered as never before. Today, the Chickasaw Nation is a federally recognized Native American nation headquartered in Ada, Oklahoma. It has a total population of more than 66,000. A sovereign nation, it governs itself according to its own written constitution and code. The powers of the government are divided into three departments: executive, legislative, and judicial.
The Nation is economically strong and culturally vibrant, operating more than 100 diversified businesses including manufacturing, energy, health care, media, technology, hospitality, retail and tourism. It owns and operates Chickasaw Community Bank, a $200 million dollar community bank, which is the number one source of Native American home loans in America. It accounts for many thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wages and benefits to Oklahoma workers.
Known from the early days of their contact with Europeans as the Spartans of the lower Mississippi, the Chickasaws have never been defeated. One 18th century invader referred to them as “unconquered and unconquerable.” So they were then and so they remain today.
Learn more about the Chickasaw Nation on their website: