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Press Release

Release Date: March 26, 2020
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

ARDMORE, Okla. – Dr. Bob Palmer, a retired art professor, and his crew of professional muralists depicted Chickasaw history with a five panel mural painted Feb. 15-17 across the east wall of Ardmore’s Skateland.

On the corner of Veterans Boulevard and Commerce Street, the mural is one among thousands of art pieces Palmer has created across Oklahoma, in Canada, Mexico and Eastern Europe since the late 1970s.

Though Palmer and his pack of painters – one for each panel – put the pigment down, they had the support of the Ardmore Beautification Council (ABC) and received guidance from historical experts with the Chickasaw Nation.

"I like painting, don’t get me wrong. But I really like meeting people, being a helper for them to articulate what they want," Palmer said. "Everyone’s got a story. Murals are a good way to tell that story. And obviously the Chickasaw Nation has a great story to tell."

To get the story right, Palmer spent two years learning and planning – a long time when compared to his average four-week mural completions. He said he wanted it to be true to life.

"When you do public art, you better do your homework on the history and details, because someone is going to catch you on it," Palmer said. "If you put the wrong hood ornament on a ‘57 Chevy, someone who is an expert on a ‘57 Chevy is going to tell you about it. People get out and look at it up close, so you better have your facts checked."

Palmer is no stranger to historical painting. Oklahoma history can be found in many of his murals, big city pieces as well as small town productions.

In downtown Norman between Main and Gray Street, he depicted the history of the town since statehood. He crafted nearly every one of Oklahoma City’s Bricktown murals. His work can also be found in places like Cushing and Anadarko.

Within the boundaries of the Chickasaw Nation, Palmer-enthusiasts can look to Ardmore, Tishomingo and Sulphur for his work. Even so, Ardmore’s new Skateland mural was his first venture into Chickasaw history.

"It gave me a nice connection to the Chickasaw Nation. That’s one of the reasons that mural painting is intriguing. I’ve learned more about Oklahoma history, U.S. history and Chickasaw history through doing stuff like this. You have to learn it to know how to paint it," Palmer said.

To avoid inaccurate deviations, Palmer worked with Chickasaw historical and cultural advisers from the Chickasaw Nation Departments of Culture and Humanities as well as Communications and Community Development.

He said the mural has the potential to start a dialogue, past the honks and thumbs-ups the team received while working. He appreciates when anyone takes time out of their busy lives to view his work.

"There are moving stories and dialogue in those images. I chose particular vantage points. It almost brings you in. Being up close, to me, it’s a lot more emotional. You react to the color and images. You want to know the story," Palmer said.

A history, panel by panel

Dr. Bob Palmer’s new Skateland mural tells a story which stretches back to before recorded history. It is made up of five sections, each depicting a distinct period in the lives and times of the Chickasaw people.


The first panel tells the migration story. Long ago, the Chickasaw people needed to move east. After seeking guidance from the Creator Aba’bínni’li’ and holding council they sought home in the direction of the rising sun. Serving as guide would be Itti’ Fabassa’ Holitto’pa’, a sacred pole, which would lean to direct their path until the journey’s end when it would stand perfectly straight. Along the way, the group would split to follow two brothers, with Chiksa’ leading one group and Chahta leading the others. The two groups traveled together. Leading the processions as a guard and scout was a large white dog, Ofi’ Tohbi Ishto’. They came to a great river, today known as the Mississippi, and the sacred pole indicated their home was somewhere on the other side. Soon after crossing, the two leaders had different opinions about the leaning pole. Chahta believed it stood straight. Chiksa’, believing the pole to lean, pulled the sacred pole from the ground and commanded all those who believed their Homeland lay farther to the east pick up their packs and follow him. This was the beginning of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. Once the sacred pole stood straight as an arrow, the Chickasaw people knew they had found their Homeland and their long journey was at an end. In this panel, Chiksa’ and Chahta discuss the leaning pole in front of a river with their people watching and the white dog resting nearby.


The second panel depicts life in the Chickasaw Homeland, scattered across the forests, mountains and prairies that later became parts of southwestern Kentucky, western Tennessee, northern Mississippi and northwestern Alabama. Major waterways were fed by freshwater springs and supplied Chickasaw ancestors with water for centuries. They offered not only a source of nourishment, but provided opportunities for trade and transportation in the region as well. Numerous traces or pathways crossed through the eastern continent, facilitating trade, transportation and hunting. Chickasaw ancestors arose from mound builder societies who built great earthen temples, large ceremonial complexes and agricultural fields that fed entire communities. The mural depicts traditional housing, agriculture and social activities typical of the time.


The third panel depicts Chickasaw Removal, the most traumatic chapter in Chickasaw history. As a result of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Chickasaw people were forced to remove from their Homeland to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). Chickasaw families were met with hardship and death along the Removal, traveling hundreds of miles in extreme cold and heat. Most Chickasaws removed to Indian Territory from 1837-1851. Other southeastern tribes removed to Indian Territory were the Cherokee, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole. The Chickasaws were one of the last to remove. The mural gives a first person view into a group of Chickasaw ancestors walking the path of removal, surrounded by family, friends and horse drawn wagons.

Indian Territory

The fourth panel depicts the Chickasaw as they worked to establish themselves in their new district in what would become modern-day, south-central Oklahoma. With the ratification of a new constitution in 1856, the Chickasaw Nation became a democratic republic with elected officials. Over time homes were rebuilt, farms recreated—communities and businesses were reestablished. Chickasaw infrastructure sprang up across the empty land, creating roads and connecting towns where churches and commissioned schools were erected. Chickasaw industry and commerce prospered. Featured in this panel is a Chickasaw citizen enjoying a day with his dogs. He is walking on the shores of historic Pennington Creek. Also depicted is the Chickasaw National Capitol, Bloomfield Academy, the Chickasaw White House, and original Council House.

Present day

The fifth panel represents the present-day Chickasaw Nation. Today’s Chickasaw Nation is economically strong, culturally vibrant and full of energetic people still dedicated to the preservation of family, community and heritage. Since the 1980s, the tribal government has focused most of its efforts on building an economically diverse base to generate funds that will support programs and services for First Americans. A row of Chickasaw tribal citizens stands side-by-side at the bottom of this panel. Also featured is the majestic Chickasaw warrior statue, a map of the current Chickasaw Nation boundaries and the Great Seal.