Dynamic Women of the Chickasaw Nation 2009 Conference and Forum

The 2009 Dynamic Women of the Chickasaw Nation Conference and Forum hosted by the Chickasaw Nation Division of Arts and Humanities and East Central University Chickasaw Clemente Humanities Courses was held on April 16th, 2009 in Ada, Oklahoma. This first ever conference, in addition to the annual forum, was well received and those in attendance agreed that the event was an enjoyable learning experience. Held in the Estep Auditorium on East Central University Campus, there was also an accompanying Chickasaw Women’s Art Exhibit, Writing workshops with famed Chickasaw writer Linda Hogan, and a book signing, where Ms. Hogan signed her new book People of the Whale.

In addition to Ms. Hogan’s creative writing workshops, the conference included six Chickasaw women speakers, three of whom were honored at the forum in the evening as the Dynamic Women of the Chickasaw Nation. The morning part of the event included two speakers. The first was Sherry Abbott Todd, the Assistant Attorney General for the State of Oklahoma. She spoke on the impacts her Chickasaw family and heritage has had on her professional life. Following Ms. Todd, this author spoke on the impact of Native Women in Arizona Indian Country. Following the morning portion of the conference, was a well attended luncheon. The speaker, Deanna Hartley-Kelso, the Chickasaw Nation Attorney General, reflected on her experiences working on behalf of the Chickasaw Nation on the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Her talk was inspiring!

The afternoon portion of the Dynamic Women of the Chickasaw Nation Conference included four speakers. The first was Jeannie Barbour, a recognized artist and the Director of the Chickasaw Press. She spoke on historic and contemporary Chickasaw art forms. Following Ms. Barbour, Chickasaw textile artist and designer Margaret Roach Wheeler, who took Best in Class at this year’s Heard Indian Fair and Market, spoke on how her heritage directly influences her textile designs and materials.

Following a short break, the afternoon speakers rounded out the conference topics that ranged from law, government, and the arts, with a discussion of women’s wellness. Dr. Tina Cooper, the Family Practice Service Chief at Carl Albert Indian Health Facility, spoke generally on women’s health issues and the importance of taking care of one’s self. Finally, Dr. Judy Goforth Parker, Professor of Nursing at East Central University gave an enlightening talk about breast cancer.

The Dynamic Women of the Chickasaw Nation Forum, held the same evening, honored Sherry Abbott Todd, this author, Margaret Roach Wheeler and Chickasaw Elder Beulah Shavney. Moderated by Lisa John, the Director of the Division of Education for the Chickasaw Nation, the panelists were asked a series of questions by the moderator and the audience. The evening was lively as Ms. Beulah Shavney spoke about her experiences in World War II as Women’s Army Corps (WAC). The event was informative and interesting to all who attended.

The Chickasaw Nation’s Arts and Humanities Division should be commended for putting on a well organized and interesting event. This author was humbled to have been in attendance and to be honored by the Chickasaw Nation as a Dynamic Woman, alongside the other women at the Forum.

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