Chickasaw storyteller Glenda Galvan receives Silver Feather Award

This article appeared in the November 2020 edition of the Chickasaw Times

ADA, Okla. – Celebrated Chickasaw storyteller and author Glenda Galvan is the 2020 recipient of the prestigious Silver Feather Award.

The honor was created in 1999 by the Chickasaw Nation to spotlight Chickasaws who have committed their lives to the preservation and revitalization of Chickasaw culture, language and traditions.

“I was really surprised and this award is the most precious one to me because of what it means: preserving our culture, Ms. Galvan said.

“I love the culture of the Chickasaw Nation and who we are. I also love who we were. Our ancestors before us passed down our stories and history. They worked diligently to keep the Chickasaw culture proud and it is up to us to continue that legacy,” she said.

Ms. Galvan has published three children’s books in both English and Chickasaw, and presented these stories at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Born in Coal County, Oklahoma, she worked for the Chickasaw Nation for more than 27 years before retiring as manager of the Chickasaw White House in Emet, Oklahoma.

She is currently active helping the U.S. Census count individuals residing in the United States. The census count is promoted and encouraged by the Chickasaw Nation. When the total population is tallied, it will determine how billions of taxpayer dollars are distributed in America’s cities, counties, health facilities and states. It could also increase or decrease the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives depending on population shifts.

Ms. Galvan was born into the fox clan of the Chickasaw Nation and is the storyteller of her clan. Her family name, Ayakatubby, means “to go down and kill” in Chickasaw. Her family served the tribe as hunters.

She has served on numerous museum boards and her writing has been published by organizations such as the Smithsonian Institute, the National Park Service, Wonderland Press, Chickasaw Press and Chelsea House Publishers. She often travels the country, as well as Canada and Mexico, sharing her culture and traditional Southeastern First American stories.

Ms. Galvan received a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Oklahoma and was the first curator and repatriation representative for the Chickasaw Nation Museum and Library.

One of her publications, a children’s book titled “Chickasha Stories, A Shared Spirit,” won the Oklahoma Department of Libraries “Best in Category” award. “A Shared Spirit” was the first in a series of three books. The trio of books is illustrated by Jeannie Barbour, who serves the Chickasaw Nation as creative development director. Barbour also is a writer and historian, invaluable to the tribe in the movies “Te Ata” and “Montford: The Chickasaw Rancher,” which is in post-production.

All the stories in Ms. Galvan’s books are drawn from Chickasaw oral tradition. The books mark the first bilingual book series published by the Chickasaw Press. The stories are told in both English and Chickasaw.

Her books serve as an introduction to the Chickasaw language, while preserving the storytelling tradition so vital to Chickasaw culture. The books introduce the kindred spirit Chickasaw people have always shared with animals and nature. Each of Ms. Galvan’s stories teaches important life lessons and provides an ancient Chickasaw perspective on why things in nature occur the way they do.

Previous Silver Feather awardees include Adam Walker, Pauline Walker, Charlie Carter, Juanita Byars, Sim Greenwood, Geneva Holman, Leerene Frazier, Rose Jefferson, Stanley Smith, Marie Beck, Jerry Underwood, Catherine Pickens Willmond, Weldon Fulsom, Emma McLeod, Jerry Imotichey, Virginia Alexander Bolen, Sam Johnson, Sue Fish, Daniel Worcester, Pauline Brown and Harold Stick.