Catching up

So, I’ve not posted in a while. I know that some folks got really interested in the Postcards from Indian Country Project.  This was really exciting to see.  It was exciting enough, that I am now working on turning the concept of the Postcards from Indian Country project into a book. That’s right, a publishing house wants to publish the project, with pictures of the postcards and all!

As you might imagine, this changed the trajectory of blogging about the postcards.  While I’ll no longer be blogging about specific postcards, I’ll at least keep readers up-to-date once in a while. In the meantime, check out my other blog, here.

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

At Buffalo Bill’s Gravesite

As part of my Postcards from Indian Territory series, on November 5th, I published the story Buffalo Bill Visits Indian Territory. Here I speculated, that because I’d found a historic postcard from the 1920s of Buffalo Bill, that my great-grandparents, Eula and Frank Morris Jr., had been a fan and seen his show. Furthermore, I believed that they had bought the postcard after they moved to Colorado in the early 1920s.  See Quote below:

A quick check of the Buffalo Bill schedule shows that The Wild West Show played in Chickasha, Oklahoma in

Buffalo Bill’s Gravesite circa 1920s

September 1912 (they lived there then) and Amarillo, Texas in October 1915 (they lived there then).  So perhaps when Eula and Frank (William F—coincidence?) moved to Colorado they went to see the gravesite where they bought the postcard after having seen the Wild West Shows. I know this is pure speculation, but it could be the case.

It seems, my speculation was correct.  Recently, as part of my research on the Postcards Project, I have been going through and cataloging family documents and photos.  So imagine my surprise and delight in finding a photo, in the original photo album belonging to Eula and Frank Morris Jr., of the Buffalo Bill grave in Colorado from the 1920s! What an exciting find! Here’s the photo.

Going “Home” to Chickasaw

I love working in Indian Country, but nothing feels like working in Chickasaw Country.  Last week, I was invited to Ada, Oklahoma to speak in the Chickasaw Clemente Course at East Central University on Crossing the Digital and Media Divide in Indian Country.

The audience waits for Dr. Traci Morris to present a lecture

This is one of my areas of specialty and I’ve spoken all over the nation to different tribes and to tribal leadership on this topic.  But, it was special presenting this information in my Chickasaw homelands, to my people, to students and community members.  The audience consisted of Chickasaw elders, Chickasaw nation employees, tribal members, and ECU students.  Since I don’t live in the homelands, going “home” is always a positive experience, but this event really stands out.

While I was at Chickasaw Nation, I also made time to visit the Chickasaw Nation Division of Arts and Humanities.  They sponsored my lecture and have sponsored me for other events in the past.  Additionally, they have this amazing new building with an art gallery in the front.  I enjoyed seen the works on display and talking to friends that work there.

I also spent some time at Chickasha Poya, the Chickasaw Cultural Center and the Holliso Research Center, both in Sulfur, Oklahoma near the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.   This is an amazing campus and I look forward to many visits in the future. Here’s a great video on this site: Holliso Center for the Study of Chickasaw History and Culture

Buffalo Bill Visits Indian Territory

As a scholar of American Indian Studies, I specialized in images and representations of American Indians.  I used to regularly teach a class on Images of Indians and I always included a segment on Buffalo Bill or Col. William F. Cody.  I’m not sure why I was always fascinated by him; maybe because I’m from Colorado and we used to go see his gravesite on Lookout Mountain, or because I read so much about him, or because he made the first movies about American Indians that used American Indian Actors,  or because the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show is still running at EuroDisney in France or the fact that Edison filmed the Wild West Show and you can watch it on YouTube.  Clearly, there are so many reasons that this historical figure is still so fascinating.

So, a few weeks ago, when my Dad gave me our family’s collection of Postcards from Indian Territory, I was mesmerized when I found in the collection a postcard of Buffalo Bill.  In fact, this one postcard is THE one that made me look at the rest of the collection.  It makes me wonder, did Eula and Frank Morris (my great-grandparents and the subject of the Postcards from Indian Country blog) visit the grave of Buffalo Bill?  He was buried there on Lookout Mountain in 1917; at that time they lived in Amarillo, Texas.  Turns out the postcard, made by Sanborn Souvenir of Denver, would have been made around the 1920s.

Col. Wm. F. Cody
Buffalo Bill Famous Plainsman and Scout

Well, I discovered there are other possibilities.  Perhaps they saw him on his tour and later visited the gravesite when they moved to Colorado. A quick check of the Buffalo Bill schedule shows that The Wild West Show played in Chickasha, Oklahoma in September 1912 (they lived there then) and Amarillo, Texas in October 1915 (they lived there then).  So perhaps when Eula and Frank (William F—coincidence?) moved to Colorado they went to see the gravesite where they bought the postcard after having seen the Wild West Shows. I know this is pure speculation, but it could be the case.

“Whether I love thee, ask this flower.”

In my second story in the Postcards from Indian Country Project, I’ll start at the beginning.  As I said, I received a collection of postcards that belonged to and were saved by my great-grandmother.   I’ve become absolutely entranced by these postcards.

My great-grandmother is Eula Maulsey Holder Morris and these postcards were sent to her over a range of years between 1907 and about 1935.  Most of the large selection of cards date from 1907-1912 and were sent to either Chickasha Indian Territory (Oklahoma now) and I know this because they are postmarked.

For this post, I thought I’d start with background information about my great-grandmother and then I thought I would pick a postcard to accompany the post.  So, I looked up her demographic info from my Dad’s genealogy report and noticed here wedding date to my great-grandfather William Franklin Morris Jr. was September of 1907.  Interestingly, the first postcard I picked out was dated 1907. I thought “ok, this will go nicely with my story.”

Postcards from Indian Country
This postcard was sent before their wedding and dated Sept. 7th, 1907

When I looked at the front side, I saw a drawing of a couple; the man on his knee with a flower. Written on the two figures depicted were “Eula” and “Frank.”  WOW!  I looked again at the

Frank & Eula in love

postmark on the other side; it was dated September 7th, 1907. The only text written on the card is “Miss Eula Holder, Chickasha.” Evidently, he sent the postcard before they were married.

Frank & Eula in their later years

Eula and Frank were married in Holder, Love County, and Indian Territory. This place does not exist anymore. Holder is gone, Love County is part of Pickens County now, and Oklahoma became a state in 1907, the same year they were married.  Love Country was made up entirely of Chickasaw lands.


Greetings from Ardmore, Okla

I had dinner with my Dad last night and we were talking about my upcoming trip to Chickasaw Nation, where I’ll be presenting a lecture.  I asked him if he wanted me to look up anything at the Chickasaw Cultural Center, which is a genealogy center.  My Dad has done significant genealogical research into our family history. As an academic, I’ve always been amazed at the complexity and thoroughness of his genealogy research.  I thought maybe while I was in Chickasaw, I could find out something paltry to supplement his work.

Vintage Postcards from Chickasaw, Indian Territory

Much to my surprise he pulled out a box of postcards to show me. I didn’t think much about them really. It is a large stack all dated from the time before allotment in Oklahoma.  I think he wanted me to donate some.  I thought this was a good idea, then I saw it—Greetings from Ardmore, OKLA—postcard.   I wanted to know who had written it and where it came from.  As I started looking at the postcards, I saw that many were from as early as 1907 and they were addressed to Chickasaw, I.T. or Chickasaw, Indian Territory.  I began to wonder what the story behind the cards was and to read them.

Vintage postcards
This postcard inspired the Postcard Project and this blog series

So, I’ve decided to explore these postcards. I’m going to document and photograph them and speculate a bit in my blog.  I hope you enjoy the narrative.  I’ll also take the cards with me on my trip to Chickasaw Nation in two weeks and see what happens there.

Lowak Sho’li: Carry the Fire Chickasaw Native Humanities Forum

The Chickasaw Nation Division of Arts and Humanities in collaboration with the Oklahoma Humanities Council announces the Lowak Sho’li  “Carry the Fire” Native Humanities Forum on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 6 p.m., in the arts and humanities building at 201 N. Broadway in Ada, OK.

There will be a special reception to meet the scholars prior to the forum at 5:30 p.m.
 With a firm belief that open conversation fosters appreciation of cultural and historical diversity, greater understanding of the role of the humanities and provides opportunities for strong, reciprocal relationships, the forum will assemble a panel of five scholars to analyze and explore these and other topics related to issues of native humanities.
In the Chickasaw language, lowak sho ‘li means to “carry the fire” next to one’s heart, a fitting symbol for this forum exploring issues of both ancient and contemporary tribal history and culture.

The Chickasaw Nation Division of Arts and Humanities carries its own ardent fire for the humanities with a goal to ignite a passion for the humanities in others. This fire—the humanities—is essential, vital, life sustaining and renewing for all.

2012 scholars include:

Phillip Morgan, Ph.D., Panel Chair
Senior Staff Writer, Chickasaw Press

Linda Hogan
Chickasaw Nation Writer-in-Residence

Joshua D. Hinson
Director of the Chickasaw Language Department and Chickasaw Language Revitalization Program
Chickasaw Nation Division of History & Culture

Heather Ahtone
James T. Bialac Assistant Curator of Native American & Non-Western Art at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and adjunct faculty, University of Oklahoma

Joshua Grasso, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English & Languages

Institute of American Indian Arts Celebrating a 50 Year Legacy

The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, NM is celebrating 50 years! IAIA is an institution of excellence in Indian Country.  With a fascinating history (checkout the timeline), IAIA’s influence on Native American art cannot be underestimated.

Personally, while never a student of the school, I have written and published about IAIA, co-authored a curriculum taught there, and been a part of teaching that curriculum there, but mostly I’m inspired by the art and artists that have come out of the various programs over the years.  Please take a minute to view their site and check out the legacy of IAIA.

The story of the Institute of American Indian Arts is a rich continuum of those who believed in and developed what became the nation’s first and only higher educational institution dedicated to promoting the indigenous arts and cultures of North America. Here we share the milestones from its visionary beginnings to its inception, to its leaders to national recognition, and expansion of the institution it is today. We invite alumni, students, faculty and friends on October 13 to share in these milestones and bountiful history as we celebrate and evolve in the next 50 years. Click here for more information about the October celebration.

World Indigenous Peoples Day: 2012 Theme: “Indigenous Media, Empowering Indigenous Voices”

As someone who works in Native media, advocating for Native American media makers, writing curriculum for and training Native American media makers, I am excited to see there is worldwide support for the work we do everyday.  Today is World Indigenous Peoples Day and this year’s spotlight is on indigenous media – television, radio, film, and social media – and its role in helping to preserve indigenous peoples’ cultures, challenge stereotypes, and influence the social and political agenda. 

“From community radio and television to feature films and documentaries, from video art and  newspapers to the internet and social media, indigenous peoples are using these powerful tools to challenge mainstream narratives, bring human rights violations to international attention and forge global solidarity,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the day. “They are also developing their own media to reflect indigenous values and fight against myths and misconceptions.”

See some of the work that Native American Media makers are doing at Native Public Media

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