November Message

Governor Bill Anoatubby

November is the perfect time to reflect on our heritage, our veterans

By Bill Anoatubby, Governor, Chickasaw Nation

November offers two important observances, Native American Heritage Month and Veterans Day. Both provide us opportunities to reflect on who we are as a people, and how our Chickasaw history is filled with a legacy of service to country.

Native American Heritage Month can trace its origins to “First Americans Day.” This observance was initiated by the Boy Scouts of America well over a century ago. President Calvin Coolidge, almost 100 years ago, declared “American Indian Day” the second Saturday of May. Finally, in 1990, President George H.W. Bush designated November “National American Indian Heritage Month.” The country now recognizes November as Native American Heritage Month.

As Native people, we hold a unique place in history. Long before European contact, the Chickasaw Nation, along with many other Native tribes, operated their governments, communities and industries in North America. Our ancestors lived in a world it is important for us to appreciate. Chickasaws were hunters, builders and, of course, warriors. We developed successful commerce and agricultural endeavors. We were a dynamic tribe, and that dynamism continues to this day.

Our heritage is built on trust, industry and love for our families and communities. We worked together for the common good of our people, and that work is ongoing throughout the centuries.

Take time this month to study your Chickasaw history. There are many resources available to you. The Chickasaw Cultural Center, along with the Holisso Center on its grounds, offer many opportunities to learn. You will also find good information online. One of the best ways to discover who you are is by talking with Chickasaw elders. So much of our history has been passed down in the oral tradition. Take time today to talk with an elder!

Veterans Day is November 11. Many Chickasaw men and women have served, or are presently serving, in the U.S. military. We are so thankful for all our veterans, and for the sacrifices they have made for each of us. Indian military service has consistently been robust.

Originally called Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, November 11 was designated in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson as the day we honor our veterans. The date coincided with the Nov. 11, 1918 Armistice that ended World War I.

Indian warriors served critically important roles during the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. During the American Revolution, Indian warriors were vital allies as the new country fought for independence.

America’s 1917 entry into World War I resulted in the enlistment of thousands of Indian volunteers. Despite the fact many Indian people had not yet been granted U.S. citizenship, approximately 12,000 Indian soldiers served in World War I, a huge number given the total Indian population at that time.

Over 600 Oklahoma Indians served with the 142nd Infantry, 36th National Guard Division in France. The men saw heavy combat and were celebrated for their “enthusiasm for the battle.” Four Indian soldiers were awarded France’s highest military honor, the Croix de Guerre.

Native men and women again served in disproportionately high numbers during World War II. Approximately 44,000 Indians out of a total population of about 350,000 served.

Indian men and women served with honor in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is important to understand that over 90 percent of Indian veterans were volunteers.

Our warrior tradition is an important part of our heritage. The warrior essence is part of being Chickasaw. That attribute has served our country very, very well.

This month is a good time to study your Chickasaw heritage, reflect on our history, and on what we are accomplishing together today. Be sure to ask questions of our elders. They are a great source of knowledge.

We should reflect on the service and sacrifice of our Chickasaw veterans. So many have paid a high price for the freedoms we today enjoy in our country. They deserve our continuing love and respect.