Thoughts on the Passing of Chickasaw Nation Ambassador Charles Blackwell

BlackwellCharlesThere have been just too many passing’s of late in Indian Country. I am reminded of how I felt when Vine Deloria and Wilma Mankiller walked on.  Who will take up the mantle for these Native elders that served our communities and the nation so well?

 I was recently saddened to learn of Senator Inouye’s death before Christmas. While I never met the Senator, as a scholar in the field of American Indian Studies, his legacy was enormous on the field and for Indian Country as a whole.

 Today, I learned of a Chickasaw elder that passed, Ambassador Charles Blackwell. In 1995, he founded Pushmataha House, named for the Choctaw chief who died on a diplomatic mission to Washington in 1824. A tireless public servant, the Ambassador served as the only Native American Tribal Ambassador, where oversaw the Chickasaw Nation’s diplomatic efforts in Washington DC.

 Unlike Senator Inouye, whom I did not know, or Vine Deloria and Wilma Mankiller, both of whom I only met once, Ambassador Blackwell was someone I knew.  While he had a huge legacy of public service to Indian Country, I was saddened because I knew him and I know the family that is dealing with the grief now.


Ilbashasha alhiba’ hooaashka  ishibaahikki’ya’shki

Chokka-chaffa’ ishpisaka hottopaka ishapila’shki

Published by Traci L. Morris

Dr. Morris, the Director of the American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University is a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. Under her leadership, the AIPI has grown and diversified its service to Indian Country via an MOU formalizing a long-standing partnership with the Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA) and forming the Tribal Economic Leadership Program offering training in Tribal Economic Governance and Tribal Financial Management; access to Entrepreneurship training and tribal business support through Inno-Nations; and Economic Development Consulting; and, the formalization of the Institute via by-laws and an advisory board comprised of both internal ASU leadership and external tribal and non-tribal leadership. In her work at both ASU and prior, Morris has worked with Native American tribes; Tribal businesses; Native American non-profits; Native media makers, artists, and galleries; written a college-accredited curriculum in Native American new media; and has advocated for digital inclusion at the Federal Communications Commission and on Capitol Hill. Morris’s research and publications on Native American media and the digital divide is focused on Internet use, digital inclusion, network neutrality, digital and new media curriculums, digital inclusion and development of broadband networks in Indian Country. Her book, Native American Voices: A Reader, continues to be a primary teaching tool in colleges throughout the country. Dr. Morris is Affiliated Faculty at ASU's School for the Future of Innovation in Society, an Affiliate of ASU's Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology, a Senior Sustainability Scholar at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, President of the Board of the Phoenix Indian Center, Board member of the Arizona American Indian Chamber of Commerce, and on the Advisory Council of the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums. Formerly, Morris served member of the Advisory Board for the Department of Labor's Native American Employment and Training Council and served a two-year appointment (2014-2016 and 2010-2012) on the Federal Communications Commission's Consumer Advisory Committee. As an entrepreneur prior to her ASU appointment, Morris founded Homahota Consulting LLC, a national Native American woman-owned professional services firm working in policy analysis, telecommunications, education, and research assisting tribes in their nation-building efforts and working with Native Nations, tribal businesses and those businesses working with tribes. Morris has an M. A. and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona’s American Indian Studies, in addition to a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Colorado State University.

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