Our commitment to education supports development of great careers, lives

This article appeared in the May 2023 edition of the Chickasaw Times

The Chickasaw Nation has for generations been committed to educational access for all Chickasaws.

Prior to Removal, a number of Chickasaw students attended schools established by religious missionaries. Following Removal, the tribe began establishing schools of its own. The Chickasaw Nation rapidly expanded the number of elementary and secondary schools following the U.S. Civil War. In 1867 alone, the Chickasaw Nation opened 11 new schools and welcomed scores of Chickasaw and other Indian students. The tribe also invested in secondary institutions known in that time as “seminaries.”

Bloomfield Female Seminary, Wapanucka Institute, Chickasaw Male Academy, and Lebanon Orphan School all provided what today we would equate to a high school education.

The Chickasaw Nation became known as an innovative, progressive, education-focused tribe that valued its educational institutions and learning.

That Chickasaw commitment to education has remained constant throughout our history. With each generation, growing numbers of Chickasaws have earned their high school degrees and entered the work force prepared to achieve. Soon, higher education became recognized by tribal leaders as a key educational component. As the tribe grew, more Chickasaws began earning bachelor’s and advanced degrees.

Today, the number of college-educated Chickasaws has increased exponentially. Chickasaws, now more than ever, understand the benefits of a college degree. Each year we see greater numbers of recent Chickasaw high school graduates moving on to higher education, followed by fulfilling careers.

Additionally, many of our Chickasaw students are now choosing educational paths that lead to careers in technology and the trades. This growing category of post-secondary education is driven by burgeoning needs in the U.S. economy. Our students choosing technology or trades educations are also benefiting from our investment in education scholarships, grants and stipends.

All these young people are our legacy. Chickasaws know the educated mind will deliver a huge return on investment, for the individual, his or her family and his or her tribe.

In this issue of the Chickasaw Times, you will read about many bright, ambitious and talented young people who are completing their secondary educations. Across the country, these young Chickasaws have excelled in a wide array of scholarly pursuits and extracurricular activities. They are a tremendously valuable resource. Many will continue on to institutions of higher learning.

The Chickasaw Nation’s investment in our students continues to grow. In the last year alone, the tribe invested over $28 million in our education programs. This investment has helped approximately 6,000 Chickasaw students. We believe this is one of our biggest and best investments in our common future. The benefits of having a highly educated citizenry are wide and varied. The continued strength and success of the Chickasaw Nation will be, in large part, built on the Chickasaws who are highly educated and prepared to serve the Chickasaw people.

Years ago, we were strictly limited in what it could invest in our children’s educations. We relied almost exclusively on federal funding for a range of programs serving pre-kindergarten to college and university students. Today, things have improved greatly.

The funds we invest today help students from three-year-old Head Start kids to men and women completing master’s theses and doctoral dissertations. Today, if you are Chickasaw and are willing to work hard at your studies, your tribe will be with you all the way!

What value can we place on a good education? In terms of dollars, college graduates, and those earning degrees and certifications in technology or the trades, earn substantially more than those with only a high school degree. In terms of satisfaction, accomplishment and pride, no dollar value can express what Chickasaws are accomplishing in the world.

Our minds have incredible capacity to accept information and learn. But we must position people so they may take full advantage of their intellectual abilities. The Chickasaw Nation makes education a top priority. That pays dividends in Chickasaw people making tremendous contributions to their tribe, their country and their world.