Chickasaw Nation Announces Hall of Fame Inductees

A Native American preservationist, an honorable state and tribal judge, a tribal peacemaker and historic governor will be inducted into the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame 6:30 p.m., Thursday, May 3 at Riverwind Showcase Theatre in Norman, Okla.

Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby will participate in the induction ceremonies.

The 2012 Chickasaw Hall of Fame inductees include; Towana Spivey, Charles Tate, Levi Colbert and Cyrus Harris. Colbert and Harris will be inducted posthumously.

“It is our privilege to honor these individuals for their significant contributions toward developing greater understanding and unity between the people of the Chickasaw Nation, other tribal nations and the United States,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “Their commitment to preserving tribal history, protecting sovereignty and serving others epitomizes the spirit and dedication of the Chickasaw people.”

Towana Spivey

Throughout his life and career, Towana Spivey, Madill, has been involved in preserving the history, language and material culture of many Oklahoma tribes, including the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Comanche, Kiowa, Chiricahua, Apache and the Warm Springs Apache.

While conducting archaeological investigations at 19th century military posts and historic sites, Mr. Spivey worked simultaneously as curator for the Chickasaw White House, conducting research and restoration of the home to its original form.

He was also a consultant on the preservation of the 1855 Chickasaw Council House in Tishomingo.

Since 1982, Mr. Spivey has served as director/curator of Fort Sill National Historic Landmark and Museum in Lawton, Okla.

He is also a senior curator for the U.S. Army Museum System and is currently involved in the planning for the new Field Artillery Museum at Fort Sill, as well as the ongoing development of the National Historic Landmark and Museum.

Mr. Spivey has served on numerous boards and advisory committees for such organizations as the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey, Governor’s Review Committee for Oklahoma State Preservation, Oklahoma Museums Association and Southwest Oklahoma Historical Society.

Mr. Spivey has authored several books and articles pertaining to frontier history and has served as a primary consultant or been featured in at least 35 television documentaries.

He has also worked as a historical consultant to movie productions, playing an intricate role in the development of characters and ensuring historical accuracy in the making of the movies “Windtalkers” and “Dances with Wolves”.

Mr. Spivey graduated from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in history and natural Science. He earned his Master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in Anthropology/Archeology and Museum Studies.

Mr. Spivey is the descendent of several generations of Chickasaws who came to Indian Territory in 1837 from northern Mississippi. He was born in Madill, Okla., and still lives on the original 140-acre Chickasaw allotment of his grandparents, Henry “Buck” Russell and Gladys Rogers.

Charles Guy Tate

In the early 1970s Charles Guy Tate, Ardmore, began his service to tribal nations soon after he earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma.

Not long after graduation, he moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he worked for the Legal Aid Society, and in 1971, he began work for the All Indian Pueblo Council as in-house counsel.  He then moved to Oklahoma to work as a staff attorney for Oklahomans in Indian Opportunity, a nonprofit organization.

At the end of 1974, he moved to Ardmore, where he set up a law partnership with his father, Ernest.

Mr. Tate was elected as a tribal judge for the Chickasaw Nation. He also contracted with the Chickasaw Legislature to provide legal counsel for legislative activities.

In 1988, Mr. Tate was selected to serve on the Court of Indian Offenses and served in that capacity until 2006.

He has also accepted various positions in the tribal court for several Oklahoma tribes, including tribal judge for the Sac and Fox Nation, the Kickapoo Nation of Oklahoma, the Kickapoo Nation of Kansas, and the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes.  As a member of the National Tribal Judges Association, he was appointed as a visiting judge to cases in the Winnebago Tribe in Nebraska in 1994-1995.  In 2011, he was appointed as Supreme Court Justice for the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma.

In December 1995, he was appointed as Special District Judge for Carter County, Okla., and served in that position until his retirement in November 2009.After retirement Mr. Tate accepted a new contract position with the Chickasaw Nation to locate, identify and retrieve historical materials relating to the Chickasaw Nation. The materials he is gathering will become part of the new library and archives of the Holisso Research Center, at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma.

As a child, Charles became active in Boy Scouts, earning the rank of Eagle Scout when he was 14 years old.   He has served on the Executive Board of the Arbuckle Area Scout Council for over 20 years and, in 2005, was honored with the Silver Beaver Award for service to Scouting.

Born February 9, 1940 in Ardmore, Okla. to Ernest W. Tate and Juanita J. Keel Tate, Mr. Tate is a descendant of Edmund Pickens, first elected Chickasaw chief in Indian Territory, and a descendant of Cyrus Harris, the first elected Chickasaw Governor.

Levi Colbert

Levi Colbert, or Itawambe Miko (Bench Chief), an early leader of the Chickasaw Nation, was born east of the Tennessee River in Alabama in 1759.

According to the nomination, Mr. Colbert had a high degree of intelligence and integrity and was honorable, true and faithful to the Chickasaw people from his youth to the date of his death.

He and his siblings grew up bilingual and were educated in both Chickasaw and European-American traditions.

Mr. Colbert and his brother, George, were prominent among Chickasaw negotiators who met with the U.S. president and government officials regarding treaties and removal.

In 1832, Mr. Colbert and other representatives of the Chickasaw Nation organized a treaty meeting with General John Coffee and various U.S. representatives to sign a treaty based on the tribe’s removal west of the Mississippi River to Indian Territory.

Mr. Colbert and other Chickasaw leaders bargained shrewdly for as much compensation as possible for their homelands and the improvements they had made. In a long, detailed letter to President Andrew Jackson in November 1832, Colbert noted that General Coffee resented the Chickasaw position and had ignored their comments and viewpoints. As a result of the dismay at the way they had been treated by General Coffee, more than 40 leaders of the Chickasaw Nation signed the letter with Mr. Colbert.

Throughout his life, Levi Colbert strived to maintain peace with the U.S. government while also maintaining the integrity of the Chickasaw people and culture.

Mr. Colbert died June 2, 1834 at Buzzard Roost, Colbert County, Alabama at the age of 74. He did not live to see his people finally agree to a treaty that would relocate the Chickasaw people to Indian Territory.

Cyrus Harris

Cyrus Harris was the first elected governor of the Chickasaw Nation after the Chickasaw people formally adopted their own constitution in 1856.

Mr. Harris’ executive abilities were recognized by his people and he was subsequently elected Governor for five different 2-year terms. He served from 1856-58, 1860-62, 1866-68, 1868-70, and 1872-74.

During his time as governor, Mr. Harris continued to express the concerns over the infiltration of non-Indian people on Chickasaw lands and policies of the federal government advocating for allotment of Chickasaw lands held in common.

He was a strong advocate for education and signed numerous pieces of legislation leading to the establishment and maintenance of boarding schools in the Nation.

Mr. Harris was fluent in both Chickasaw and English and became an interpreter at the numerous councils held to arrange details of the Chickasaw removal to the West.

After moving to Indian Territory in 1837, he eventually settled on the Blue River in present day Johnston County, Okla. and opened a successful mercantile business.

Mr. Harris accompanied Edmund Pickens as a delegate to Washington in 1850 and served again in 1854.

Mr. Harris was born August 22, 1817 to Elizabeth Oxberry and James Harris near Pontotoc, Mississippi, on the estate of his grandmother, Molly Colbert Gunn.

His grandfather was General William Colbert, a renowned leader of the Chickasaws.

In 1827, he was sent to Monroe Mission School and later to an Indian school in Giles County, Tennessee. In 1830, he returned to Mississippi to live with his grandmother, mother and later his uncle Martin Colbert.

Cyrus Harris died January 6, 1888 at the age of 70 in Mill Creek in what is now Oklahoma.

RSVP Information

Inductees will make a red carpet entrance at 6 p.m. and the banquet will begin at 6:30 p.m.

There is no charge to attend, but reservations are required for the event, which is expected to accommodate approximately 525 guests.

Reservations are now being accepted. To make reservations contact Krissy Easterling at 580-332-1165 or email

Induction to the Chickasaw Hall of Fame is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a Chickasaw by the Chickasaw Nation. For more information about the Chickasaw Hall of Fame, visit

About the Chickasaw Hall of Fame and Honor Garden

In 1987 the Chickasaw Nation began honoring Chickasaws who made significant contributions to Chickasaw people or the Native American community by induction into the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame. Since then, many Chickasaw men and women have been nominated and inducted into this prestigious circle of honor. Induction to the Chickasaw Hall of Fame is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a Chickasaw by the Chickasaw Nation.

Plaques of Hall of Fame inductees adorn the Chickasaw Nation Honor Garden.

Located adjacent to the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Okla., the Chickasaw Nation Honor Garden is crafted from natural elements including rock, granite and copper. The architecture is an original design inspired by the four directions and incorporating spiral symbols indicative of traditional Chickasaw culture.

At the center of the garden is a granite fountain adorned with copper feathers and natural stone.

Built as an official Oklahoma Centennial Project, the fountain sits in a pool of flowing water which is directed down a path through the garden and then seemingly disappears into the landscape.

Towana Spivey
Charles Guy Tate
Levi Colbert
Cyrus Harris