Norman, Okla., – From the Chickasaw Nation Ambassador who helped hundreds of Native Americans gain acceptance into law school to a former attorney turned tutor, education was a common thread connecting five Chickasaws inducted into the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame. Induction ceremonies were May 1 at Riverwind Showplace Theater in Norman.
The 2014 Chickasaw Hall of Fame inductees include the late Chickasaw Ambassador Charles W. Blackwell, Irene L. Digby, Marvin E. Mitchell, Dr. James Wilburn Hampton and Silas C. Wolf, Jr.
Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said each of the inductees has had an impact on many, many lives.
“Each of our inductees, past and present, serve as an inspiration to us all,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “They remind us that with hard work, determination and perseverance, anything is possible. They also prove that a single person can do extraordinary things.”
Ambassador Charles William Blackwell served as the first ambassador to the United States of America from any Native American tribal government.
“Charles Blackwell served as a champion for our tribe. He embodied the best qualities of a diplomat in serving as our first ambassador to the United States,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “He gave our people a voice in one of the highest levels of government. In addition to serving his own tribe, he was an advocate for all Native Americans. He left a legacy of strong support for Native American economic development and education.”
In 1972, Mr. Blackwell earned a law degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law. A few years later, Mr. Blackwell was simultaneously appointed assistant dean and adjunct professor at that same university. In these positions, he helped open doors and remove obstacles for more than 700 Native Americans and Alaska Natives to help them gain entrance into law schools across the United States.
A man who labored his entire life to improve the overall quality of life for all Native American people, Ambassador Blackwell helped shape students in business, law, economics and Indian affairs. He also helped shape federal policy toward tribes and Native Americans through testimony before the U.S. Congress and by using the art of persuasion. He served as ambassador from 1995 until his death in 2013.
Irene Lois Pettigrew Digby can often be found sharing Indian tales and teaching Chickasaw ways to children at Davis Public Schools. The 92-year-old matriarch strives to keep Chickasaw culture and heritage flourishing by sharing her knowledge with all generations.
“Irene Digby finds strength in her heritage and in sharing it with those around her. She is a strong defender of our language, and continues to be both a student and a teacher,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “For decades, Ms. Digby has nurtured the very root of what makes Chickasaw people so strong - and that is our families. She fully represents the honor and wisdom we celebrate in our revered elders.”
Mrs. Digby passes on her well-known traditional Pishofa recipe to other cooks. Parents in the community consult with Mrs. Digby to find Chickasaw names for their children, a tradition she established with her own children and grandchildren.
Marvin Mitchell was one of the first students to attend college on the State of Oklahoma Indian Scholarship Program administered by former Chickasaw Gov. Overton James.
Mr. Mitchell was selected by Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby to serve on the Chickasaw Nation Industries Board of Directors in 1998. He is the sole remaining original board member of CNI.
“As a young man, Marvin Mitchell committed himself to earning an education,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “He spent much of his life putting what he learned to good use paving the way for many economic efforts of our tribe. As an original board member of Chickasaw Nation Industries, he has been instrumental in its growth.
“He also served his state. He retired as a Master Sergeant after serving for 34 years in the Oklahoma National Guard...”
Mr. Mitchell served more than 30 years within the U.S. Department of Labor, as administration officer for a five state region, as well as a wage and hour investigator in the Ada field office. He also served as the federal liaison to the Oklahoma Governor’s office for the U.S. Department of Labor and the Oklahoma Employment Agency.
Dr. James W. Hampton has committed a large portion of his life’s work to addressing the special health care needs of minority groups, including Native Americans.
Presently a medical oncologist/hematologist at Mercy Clinic in Oklahoma City, Dr. Hampton was awarded the American Cancer Society Humanitarian award in 1999 for his leadership role in addressing minority groups’ health care needs and for his passionate support of the underserved.
“Dr. James Hampton is truly a Chickasaw medical warrior,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “He is a reminder that we have talented Chickasaws representing our tribe in nearly every field. Dr. Hampton is a great example of the Chickasaw drive to succeed and do our best in whatever we choose to do.”
Because of his dedication to Native Americans, Dr. Hampton has led the way in conducting studies of the impact of cancer among Native Americans and Alaska Natives.
Silas Wolf Jr., a devoted Chickasaw educator, was honored as “Male Elder of the Year” by the National Indian Education Association in 2012.
Mr. Wolf received the prestigious award for his work with Native students in his role as Indian Education tutor and mentor at Norman (OK) Public Schools.
“Silas Wolf Junior chose to be a lawyer by trade. After many years of practice, he decided to follow his dream of educating young people,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “He began a new chapter as a tutor for Norman public schools in the Indian education program. He continues to be an advocate of Native American education, and educate young people on tribal sovereignty.”
As an educator, Mr. Wolf is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, the late Key Wolf, a Chickasaw from Davis, Okla., who was a leader in Indian education.