The Heartbeat of a Nation
After more than 20 years of dreaming and planning, the Chickasaw Cultural Center now serves as a cultural home and an embodiment of our people’s legacy. Offering a Smithsonian-caliber experience, this world-class destination is dedicated to helping people of all ages and backgrounds share in and celebrate Chickasaw history and culture.
Through beautiful scenery, natural architecture and interactive exhibits, the Chickasaw Cultural Center tells a story of the individuals and families who have struggled, fought and thrived across generations to make Chickasaws the united and unconquerable people we are today. We look forward to entertaining, educating and enlightening you; leaving you with an unforgettable experience and broadened horizons.
About the Chickasaw People
With sophisticated townships, strong agricultural skills and evolved ruling systems with religion and laws, the Chickasaws were regarded as the “Spartans of the Lower Mississippi Valley.” We successfully traded with the French, the English and other American Indian tribes. Despite living a generally agrarian lifestyle, our ancestors were strong warriors who fought alongside the English in the French and Indian War. In fact, some historians say that the United States is an English-speaking country because of the Chickasaws’ victory over the French in the battle for the lower Mississippi.
We were moved from our original homeland in present-day Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky to new territory in Oklahoma on a route some refer to as the “Trail of Tears.” Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw and Seminole tribes also migrated along the Trail of Tears during the same time period. The Treaty of Doaksville, established in 1837, outlined that the Chickasaws and Choctaws were to share land in Indian Territory, located in present-day Oklahoma. In 1856, we separated from the Choctaws and formed our own government system, thus regaining full authority over our tribe and our people.
At Tishomingo, Indian Territory, our forefathers created a constitution and instituted executive, legislative and judicial segments of the government. Political leaders were selected according to votes from a popular election. When the Civil War began, Chickasaws allied with the Confederacy and fought in the revered Choctaw/Chickasaw Mounted Regiment. Despite the South’s eventual downfall, our people showed resilience and returned to economic success as farmers and ranchers. Chickasaws are also credited with building some of the original schools, businesses and banks in Indian Territory. However, the 1887 Dawes Treaty weakened tribal structure for some time by eliminating communal land and creating individually owned farms.
After Oklahoma statehood in 1907, Chickasaw tribal elections were suspended and the U.S. president appointed a Chickasaw Governor to “close out” tribal affairs. Faithful to his people, Governor Douglas H. Johnston worked diligently to preserve our rights to self-determination.
Congress passed legislation in 1970 that allowed the Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw and Seminole tribes to elect their own principals. Since then, the Nation has created a new constitution and continues to grow and prosper. In 1971, after Congress restored the inherent right of the Chickasaw people to elect their own leaders, Overton James was freely elected as governor of the Chickasaw Nation.
To learn more about the Chickasaw Nation and our history, visit Chickasaw.net
Our Goal Statement
- Capture the essence of Chickasaw Culture
- Revitalize and share Chickasaw culture and traditions through cultural demonstrations and community outreach activities
- Preserve, protect and add to Chickasaw history through archives, collections and research
- Provide educational opportunities to the Chickasaw people
- Share our unique culture with the world
Our logo is symbolic of the stories and artifacts that weave our people’s rich history. In a trio or separately, these powerful designs speak to our hearts and heritage and can be found cleverly tucked into architecture and exhibits throughout our campus.
The spiral symbolizes wind, which is representative of each person’s passage from birth, through life and into the afterlife.
The ogee, or “all-seeing eye,” symbolizes how our people view the world around us.
Providing light and warmth; the sun stands for rebirth, the heavens, and the giver of light.