“Storyteller” is a title that should be bestowed upon only a select few who deserve it. How many people have you personally known who could tell a great story? Storytelling is an art that can take decades to perfect. For Te Ata Fisher, storytelling was second nature.
Fun Facts About Chickasaw Storyteller Te Ata
Te Ata (December 3, 1895 – October 25, 1995) was a Chickasaw storyteller and actress. Born Mary Frances Thompson, Te Ata was a “Jack” of many trades. She sang, danced and acted, all in an effort to enrich her stories. Here are a few fun facts about her life:
- She was a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation.
- “She performed as a representative of Native Americans at state dinners before President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s,” stated Wikipedia.
- She was pronounced Oklahoma’s first State Treasure in 1987.
- In 1957 she was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
- She lived to the age of 99.
- She had a 70-year career.
- She was named Woman of the Year by The Ladies Home Journal in 1976.
Something interesting about Te Ata is her name, which was given to her by an unknown person. “Te Ata” is not a Chickasaw name; it is the Māori (New Zealand Aboriginal) word for “The Morning.”
“(Te Ata’s) one-woman interpretations of American Indian folklore earned her national and international acclaim throughout her 70-year career.” — Smithsonian Newsdesk
Te Ata’s Education and Start in Acting
Te Ata began her schooling in a one-room tribal school. After two years she was sent to a Chickasaw boarding school for girls. “In the fall of 1915, Te Ata began college at the Oklahoma College for Women (now the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma) in Chickasha, and graduated in 1919. During her time at Oklahoma College for Women, she worked as an assistant in the theatre department for theatre instructor Frances Dinsmore Davis. It was during this time that Te Ata was first introduced to the stage,” stated the article Te Ata Fisher.
“Using tribal drums, rattles, music and dance, Te Ata shared Native American culture with audiences all over the world, including U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, European royalty and indigenous peoples across South America.” — Who Is Te Ata?
Chickasaw Nation Produces Film About Te Ata
Regardless of her many honors, some people have no idea who Te Ata was. The Chickasaw Nation recently produced a film about her life to remedy this as well as to honor her legacy (see trailer above). Visit the film’s website to learn more about “Te Ata” the movie.
Te Ata was not only a compelling storyteller and actress, but also an activist. “Thanks to her passion for preserving and spreading tribal culture, Te Ata helped popularize Native American oral traditions during a period of discrimination and racism against American Indians, becoming an unexpected civil-rights icon in the process,” wrote Smithsonian Newsdesk.
Truly, she was a treasure.
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