Vol. LIV No. 6
June 2019

Cultural identity, adaptability are values that guide our work

Chickasaw employees look to cultural identity as a core value that guides our work every day. We strive to preserve our cultural history and incorporate it into everything we do. We obviously place great value on our cultural identity.

Our cultural identity goes well beyond our language, food and arts to include our unique way of looking at the world.

Chickasaw people have a long tradition of honoring and respecting our elders. Our culture also places a high value on young people. We treasure our elders and our children.

These two aspects of our culture help explain the ability of Chickasaw people to adapt to constantly changing situations while still holding fast to our core beliefs.

Elders have the knowledge and experience necessary to develop wisdom and good judgment. Those with such wisdom understand and recognize that some methods and approaches to life stand the test of time as true and reliable.

Children look at the world with new eyes open to endless possibilities. Because of this, they may discover entirely new, and very effective, methods of doing things.

To a large degree, success in life involves a balance between applying the lessons learned through history and experience, while still remaining open to new possibilities.

How our ancestors dealt with the challenges they faced when they were forced to move away from their beloved Homeland in the 1830s is instructive.

Understanding that things would be quite different in their new home, the Chickasaw people adapted quickly to new surroundings after they were removed to Indian Territory.

Chickasaw people had long believed in the importance of educating our young people to prepare them to succeed as future leaders. While that value remained, they understood the method of educating our young people would need to be revised.

Seeing the great changes around them, our elders recognized that our young people would need a broad education and a diverse set of skills to succeed in a rapidly changing world. To meet those needs, our ancestors built schools which were the best in Indian Territory at the time.

In spite of the drastically different circumstances, or perhaps because of them, they also held fast to significant aspects of their culture and heritage, such as their sense of community and indomitable spirit.

Chickasaw people continued to succeed because they stayed true to their own values and culture while learning from, and adapting to, the changes around them. They farmed the land, established new businesses, and continued to thrive as a nation of people committed to supporting one another and helping their neighbors.

Our ability to adapt to changing circumstances continues to serve the Chickasaw people well to this day. As we go about our work, we examine the social, technological and political landscape to anticipate new developments which could impact the environment in which we operate.

Based on that information, we continually review our policies and procedures and make any necessary changes to ensure those policies and procedures are working effectively.

While there is no substitute for hard work, perseverance and cooperation, there may be new and innovative methods of implementing those values in our approach to any particular challenge or opportunity.

Those new and innovative methods may come from young people looking at the world with new eyes, or they may come from elders with a wide range of different experiences.

While a strong sense of community has always been an important part of Chickasaw culture, Chickasaw people have long held a very broad and inclusive definition of community.

Throughout our history, Chickasaws have demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit which led to far reaching trade with other tribes. As a result, we encountered many new ideas and methods of approaching life’s challenges and opportunities.

Historically, the Chickasaw people have shown a willingness to share our knowledge and culture broadly and incorporate the beneficial ideas of other cultures into the Chickasaw way of life.

This approach is as valid today as it was hundreds of years ago. Achievement is never a singular endeavor. It is always the result of the efforts of many, including those of all ages and experience levels.

As Chickasaws, we understand that our elders and our young people play an equally important role in honoring our past and moving our people forward.

If we continue to balance the wisdom and knowledge of our elders with the hope and exuberance of youthful eyes open to new possibilities, we can look forward to great success for many generations to come!