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Press Release

Release Date: October 06, 2006
by Tony Choate

TISHOMNIGO, Okla. -- Chickasaw playwright JudyLee Oliva was named Dynamic Chickasaw Woman of the Year, while author James R. Atkinson won the Heritage Preservation Award for best book at the Chickasaw Arts and Culture Awards.

Five other authors, four artists and a Chickasaw elder who has worked to preserve the language were also recognized at the ceremony Thursday evening at Fletcher Auditorium on the Murray State College campus.

“These men and women we honor tonight follow in the footsteps of great Chickasaw authors, artists, educators and storytellers, and they will certainly serve as an inspiration to others,” said Bill Anoatubby, governor of the Chickasaw Nation. “This awards ceremony is a small part of our effort to create an environment which will foster excellence in arts, education and scholarly research.”

Oliva, who said she was “deeply honored” by the award, has authored two books and numerous articles about theatre and has debuted more than a dozen original plays in the last 10 years.

She is author of a play about renowned Chickasaw storyteller Te Ata, which made its world-premiere earlier this year at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha.

“Over 4,000 people came to see the play. Many of those people had never seen a play before,” said Ms. Oliva. “Many of those people were Native people. I just can’t tell you how important that is.

“We have stories to tell and I want to tell them.”

Atkinson was honored for “Splendid Land, Splendid People: The Chickasaw Indians to Removal.”

Now retired from a career as a ranger in the National Park Service, he has master’s degrees in history and archaeology/anthropology.

Dr. John P. Dyson was honored with a Heritage Preservation Award for his article titled “Chickasaw Village Names from Contact to Removal”, published in “Mississippi Archaeology” in 2004.

Dyson taught the Spanish and Portuguese languages at Indiana University in Bloomington.

“I wish I had a whole second lifetime to devote to the Chickasaw language and culture that I have come to love and respect over the past decade or so,” said Dr. Dyson, with obvious emotion in his voice. “Whatever time I do have, I will spend it pursuing as much of the rich and often elusive Chickasaw past as I’m able to uncover, understand and pass on to others.”

Brad Lieb won a Heritage Preservation Award for his master’s thesis in Archaeology, titled “The Grand Village is Silent.”

Chickasaw Historical Society Awards were presented to Dr. Matt DeSpain, Richard Kevin O’Brien and Thomas Roy.

Dr. DeSpain, who is editor of the Journal of Chickasaw History and Culture, said “it’s wonderful to see the tribe take the lead” among tribes in cultural preservation and history.

“We have set the bar very high for other tribes, and hopefully they will follow,” added Dr. Despain.

Rose (Shields) Jefferson was honored with the Silver feather Award for her efforts to preserve the Chickasaw language, traditions and culture.

Charles Kemp was awarded “Best in Show” among artists entered in the Southeastern Art Show and market.
Mary Howard won first place in the two-dimensional division.

JoAnna Underwood won first place in the three-dimensional division, while Scott Roberts won first in the cultural division.