Vol. LIII No. 1
January 2018

Celebrating American freedoms and Chickasaw history

This month, all Americans celebrate the 241st anniversary of our country’s Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.

This Declaration marks one of the most significant events in our country’s long existence. With the Declaration, Americans rejected colonialism and the many injustices created by the relationship with England. Thus began the battlefield struggles for our fundamental American freedoms.

The American Revolutionary War began in 1776. Real independence was not achieved until the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781. This American victory was followed by the official recognition of American independence with the 1783 Treaty of Paris.

For those of us who are citizens of both the U.S. and the Chickasaw Nation, Independence Day marks a day of celebration. We can celebrate this day, and also recall the contributions Chickasaws have made throughout the history of the U.S.

Chickasaws, and citizens of many other tribal nations, had monumental impact on the outcome of the American Revolutionary War. Our warriors sided with the British in our traditional homeland area of the Southeast. It was only with Chickasaw assistance that the French colonialists were forced to withdraw. With the end of hostilities between the British and Americans, the Chickasaws and Americans made peace.

With the establishment of the United States and the historic presence of the many Indian tribes, the new government quickly recognized the sovereign status of the tribes. This recognition is traced to the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which empowered the U.S. Congress to regulate commerce with the tribes. Our sovereignty was and is legally derived from this commercial regulation as this element impacted exclusively sovereign foreign powers and sovereign Indian tribes.

Of course, our history as a tribe of longstanding with a fully functioning government in what was to become the United States is the foundation upon which our sovereignty rests.

Each of us understands how we exist as a sovereign nation within the United States, and enjoy the pride of being citizens of both the U.S. and the Chickasaw Nation. Despite the many hardships and challenges over the generations, Indian people have been among the most devoted American citizens. As a population, Indian men and women serve in the U.S. military in much higher proportion than the U.S. population as a whole. Indians, since the country’s establishment, have continually sacrificed to guarantee our American freedoms.

We have embraced the American nation, and all the good things our country represents, since the beginning of United States history.

We also treasure the Chickasaw Nation. We have maintained and nurtured our Chickasaw culture throughout the centuries of fluctuating federal Indian policy. We have cherished and preserved our tribal government structure and ensured its survival during times of attempted elimination and assimilation. Most importantly, we have counted on each other and preserved the essence of our tribe with the strength of Chickasaw families, friends and fellow citizens.

It is possible to celebrate the birth of the U.S., be a patriotic American citizen, and still be totally loyal and committed to the Chickasaw Nation. People who are not Chickasaw often have trouble understanding our love of both nations.

But for us, our dual citizenship is unique, historic and fully blessed.

For both the United States and the Chickasaw Nation, we celebrate the relationship, the freedoms and the sacrifices that have brought us to this point of enjoying all the blessings of being American, and being Chickasaw.