Our tribe’s rich education history is the foundation for our students’ success

This article appeared in the May 2021 edition of the Chickasaw Times

Chickasaw Nation history would not be complete if our tribe’s long and storied dedication to education was not included.

After the American Civil War, our tribe quickly grew its number of elementary, secondary and other schools. In 1867 alone, the Chickasaw Nation added 11 new schools. Those institutions welcomed scores of Chickasaw and other Indian students. The tribe also made significant investments in secondary institutions known at that time as “seminaries.”

Bloomfield Female Seminary, Chickasaw Male Academy, Wapanucka Institute and Lebanon Orphan School each provided quality education.

The Chickasaw Nation became known as a highly progressive, education-focused tribe that valued learning and improving the lives of its young students.

That Chickasaw commitment to education has never wavered. Over the generations, growing numbers of Chickasaws earned their high school degrees and entered the work force prepared. The value of higher education has long been recognized, and Chickasaws began earning bachelor’s and advanced degrees.

Our tribe built its resolve and promoted the benefits of a good education for our young people.

Since the turn of the century, the Chickasaw Nation has witnessed an explosion in the numbers of college-educated citizens. More Chickasaws than ever understand the importance of a college degree, and the dedicated effort it takes to earn one. Each year we see greater numbers of recent Chickasaw high school graduates moving on to higher education, and bright futures.

These young people reflect our history as an education tribe, and they are building on that legacy. Chickasaws know the educated mind will deliver a huge return on investment, for the individual, his family and his tribe.

This month, hundreds of young Chickasaws are graduating from high school. More than ever, many of them are choosing to continue their educations in college, university, vocational and trade schools. Across the country, these young Chickasaws have excelled in a wide array of disciplines, scholarly pursuits and extracurricular activities. We are so very proud of them for what they have accomplished in their young lives, and what they will accomplish in the years ahead.

At one time, our tribe was very limited in what it could invest in our citizens’ educations. We relied almost exclusively on federal funding for a range of programs serving pre-kindergarten to college and university students. Today, things have markedly improved.

The Chickasaw Nation invests tens of millions of dollars each year in education programs. Those funds help students from three-year-olds to men and women completing advanced degrees. And we continue to grow our investment in our students year after year. Today, if you are Chickasaw and are willing to work and study hard, your tribe is going to support you all the way!

It is difficult to place a monetary value on a good education. But we know education can make tectonic shifts in Chickasaw lives, both financially and in terms of overall happiness. College graduates, on average, earn substantially more than people holding high school degrees only. In terms of satisfaction, accomplishment and pride, no dollar value can express the importance of what Chickasaws are doing in the world.

It is important to the Chickasaw Nation that we position people to take full advantage of their intellectual abilities. We make education a top priority, and that pays dividends in Chickasaw people making tremendous contributions to their tribe, their country and their world.

The public health crisis has made this a very challenging senior year for our new graduates. We congratulate them on their persistence and success, and we look forward to continuing to assist them as they move into the studies and careers that await!