We returned to Oklahoma as a part of our son’s continued search for his next academic home. This time, though, we made a purposeful side trip to tie into the youngest’s history studies. With the older two, we have journeyed to Nacogdoches and take in Caddo and Tejas Indian history. Those cultures are well worth the visit, but this time, I am glad that we were able to visit the Chickasaw Cultural Center.
We learned that the story of the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations actually began in Tupelo, Mississippi. (Funny that I have never seen a similar cultural center in that state–hmmm). There is an interesting tale of how the two nations actually began as one under two brothers, with the Choctaw leaving the Chickasaw to arrive in Oklahoma first. However, their Chickasaw brethren were forced into Oklahoma and unwillingly encroached upon their territory. Eventually, each nation was given its own space, and what they made of the space–winter and summer–was simply incredible.
It is always with mixed emotions that I tour Native American historical sites. I am in awe of the determination and resiliency, much like I feel visiting African American historical sites. But I am also saddened as I reflect on the events that got us as a nation to this place. (By the way, did you know that we were there?)
Having left in the midst of sadness, anger, and pride, perhaps proper reverence for this site is expressed in this Native American poem:
‘Don’t stand by my grave and weep, for I am not there.
I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I’m the diamond’s glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
Don’t stand by my grave and cry.
I am not there. I did not die.’