Homeland tours to connect elders with Chickasaw history

This article appeared in the March 2024 edition of the Chickasaw Times

Feedback from Chickasaw elders at the 2023 Chickasaw Nation Elders Conference in Thackerville has inspired a new program to facilitate elder tours to the Chickasaw Homeland at no cost to them.

“Visiting the Chickasaw Homeland provides an opportunity to connect with Chickasaw history, to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors and experience a new perspective of our story,” Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said. “It is important to offer this opportunity to our treasured elders, whose determined work throughout the years helped preserve the integrity and sovereignty of the Chickasaw Nation.”

Before Removal to Indian Territory in what is currently Oklahoma, Chickasaws inhabited their ancestral Homeland. This area is now parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.

There, the unconquered and unconquerable Chickasaw people made a name for themselves as the “Spartans of the Lower Mississippi Valley,” due to their courage and prowess in battle. They also established trade and treaties with England and the early United States. It is also where the Chickasaw repelled the Spanish in their first encounter with Europeans and fought against the French.

“These individuals built a strong foundation on which the Chickasaw Nation’s success was built. For this and many other reasons, the Chickasaw Nation strives to offer many programs and opportunities specifically for elders, and a trip to the Homeland is one way to show our appreciation for their service,” Governor Anoatubby said.

As elders, themselves, are important connections to Chickasaw history, these Homeland tours will strengthen the tribe’s ties to its past.

Beginning in April of 2024, the Chickasaw Nation is planning to send 40 elders every year, over two trips, to the Chickasaw Homeland, where today the tribe is dedicated to preserving and sharing Chickasaw history and culture.

Sites that Chickasaw elders will be able to visit on these tours include Owl Creek Mounds, William Colbert’s last home site marker, Tishominko’s last home site marker, a Chickasaw village site and more.

The Chickasaw Nation will provide transportation, hotels and meals to 20 elders and one companion that is a spouse or blood relation of the elder and is 21 or older.
Elders can apply online at Chickasaw.net, in-person or by phone at area Chickasaw Nation Senior Centers, or by calling the Chickasaw Nation Aging Division at (580) 795-9790. Senior center and aging division staff can help elders complete their applications.

Chickasaw elders 60 years of age or older are eligible, and elders need not live within the Chickasaw Nation to qualify.
Applications only need to be submitted once to place elders on a list to be considered for these trips, which occur every year.

In response to inquiries about Homeland tours being made available to other Chickasaw citizens, the tribe is working to develop a new program that will be in place by the fall of 2024.