August Message

Governor Bill Anoatubby

Annual Meeting traces roots to Seeley Chapel movement

By Bill Anoatubby, Governor, Chickasaw Nation

It will very soon be that special time of year when all Chickasaws come together to share and celebrate our Chickasaw heritage!

Our 59th Annual Meeting of the Chickasaw Nation and 31st Annual Chickasaw Festival run from Sept. 27 through Oct. 5. Our meetings, events and celebrations will be centered in our historic capital city of Tishomingo.

The Annual Meeting and Festival is always a great way to share experiences with family, friends and new acquaintances. These traditional events provide us the wonderful opportunity to reconnect with our Chickasaw heritage, traditions and culture. We revisit and honor our history as we come together as our ancestors have for generations!

Our Chickasaw Annual Meeting reaches back to its modern origin in October 1960 at Seeley Chapel. This gathering at Connerville, Okla., was a watershed event that, in many ways, set into motion the events that would propel the Chickasaw Nation to where it is today.

The 1960 gathering became known as the Seeley Chapel movement. Chickasaws at the event agreed to create a new Chickasaw Tribal Council, and a young Chickasaw man named Overton James was appointed council president.

The 1960s was a decade of tumult and change across the country. For the Chickasaw Nation, it was a time to be focused on organizing a working institutional structure and on lobbying for full recognition of the sovereign entity we had always been. Most importantly, Chickasaws were unified in their spirit and purpose. The reborn Chickasaw Nation would meet with success!

With the dawning of the 1970s, President Richard Nixon delivered his Special Message on Indian Affairs to the U.S. Congress. Nixon had become convinced federal Indian policy was misdirected. In his message, he condemned forced termination and called for Indian self-determination. The message, and resulting actions, were catalysts for much positive change as the decade passed.

In 1971, the Chickasaw Nation conducted its first gubernatorial election since 1906 and Overton James was our Governor. Our tribal direction, after decades of punitive federal policy, was now recognizably progressive. We began to see real progress with essential programs for Chickasaws, and a truly positive view of our future as a dynamic tribe. We were building on our foundation of self-determination.

Our Annual Meetings continued to grow and were now conducted at Byng High School. As our Annual Meetings grew, so did our desire to keep our tribe moving forward.

In 1983, the Chickasaw people approved a new Chickasaw Constitution that created the three departments of government – executive, legislative and judicial. Our constitution has been a real success.

By 1992, Annual Meetings were relocated to our historic capital city of Tishomingo. The Chickasaw Festival had been added in 1988.

Our Chickasaw Annual Meeting can trace its roots to the Seeley Chapel movement. Today the meeting is much bigger and offers more activities. But it remains committed to bringing the Chickasaw people together for discussion and sharing of information.

With the State of the Nation address, I have the opportunity to share with all Chickasaws what our tribe is doing, how we are doing, and what our plans are for the future.

This year, please come join us for the 59th Annual Meeting of the Chickasaw Nation and the 31st Annual Chickasaw Festival. It is wonderful time to enjoy with everyone, and you will be participating in an important event that brings forth the tremendous spirit of Seeley Chapel.

See you there!