Governor Anoatubby dedicated to preserving Chickasaw storytelling craft

ADA, Okla. – While the Chickasaw Nation is dedicated to bringing the life of Te Ata Thompson Fisher to the silver screen, it is equally dedicated to keeping the art of storytelling a vibrant element of the arts.

Te Ata, a Chickasaw actress and storyteller, is revered by the tribe, state and nation. She lived to be almost 100 and is a member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, Chickasaw Hall of Fame, was named the first Oklahoma Treasure, and appeared on national television and her image graced national magazines.

Keeping that legacy active in the tribe requires training.

The Chickasaw Nation annually hosts the Chickasaw Youth Story Telling Workshop. Six students currently are working on stories to be presented to the public in a concert Nov. 22, at 1 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre of the Chickasaw Nation Arts and Humanities building located at 201 N. Broadway.

Students range in age from 10 to 13, according to instructor Lorie Robins, interim director of special projects for the arts and humanities division.

Robins, who has instructed the course for three years, explains she is “still learning the craft of storytelling.” She explains the craft is constantly in a state of flux with the story one chooses to tell.

“I have students this year who will tell a traditional Chickasaw story, a few who will tell scary stories and one who is going to tell a personal story,” Robins said.

Instructing the class teaches students how to keep the Chickasaw tradition alive for future generations. It also teaches students the culture and history of the tribe, but it assists them in other avenues as well, Robins explains.

Much like music equates into improved math skills, storytelling improves vocabulary, public speaking and writing skills, too, Robins said.

“Students learn storytelling requires a storyboard, just like they have in movies,” Robins said. “They don’t memorize the story, they are asked to merely become comfortable telling the story.”

Her class is in the process of perfecting stories for the concert.

Currently, the course is underway. At enrollment, it is open to all students, Native and non-Native.

Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby visits with Q’Orianka Kilcher on the set of “Te Ata” during filming in Oklahoma City. Kilcher portrays Te Ata Thompson Fisher in the Chickasaw Nation-inspired film about the late Chickasaw actress and storyteller. (Photo courtesy of the Chickasaw Nation)