Chickasaw Annual Meeting: A history of overcoming adversity by coming together

Release Date: 09.23.2020
By: Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

  • The first Chickasaw Annual Meeting took place in 1960 at Seeley Chapel. Chickasaws continued to meet at this location throughout the 60s. This photo was taken of the 1964 Annual Meeting at Seeley Chapel.

Overcoming modern obstacles with a bit of innovation, for the first time in history the 2020 Chickasaw Annual Meeting and Festival will be hosted virtually beginning Sept. 26.

“Due to the ongoing pandemic, and for the safety of our citizens and communities, we will be celebrating this year’s Chickasaw Annual Meeting and Festival virtually,” Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby announced. “For the first time, our Annual Meeting and Festival will be provided in a virtual format. This will provide an opportunity for more Chickasaws than ever to experience and enjoy the culture, heritage and progress from the safety of their home.”

Coming together in the face of adversity is nothing new for Chickasaw people. The Chickasaw Annual Meeting has exemplified this from its beginning.

Seeley Chapel

Since October 1960, when more than 100 Chickasaws gathered at Seeley Chapel, the Chickasaw Annual Meeting has been a time for Chickasaws to come together in fellowship.

Seeley Chapel is a First American Methodist church near Connerville, which served as a meeting place during this important period of self-determination for the Chickasaw Nation. Meetings at Seeley Chapel spawned renewed energy for positive change in federal policy.

The gathering at Seeley Chapel was a watershed event that planted the seeds of progress for the Chickasaw Nation, according to Governor Anoatubby.

Year after year, Chickasaws had continued to gather socially and in churches in the belief that community involvement and support would sustain them. The Chickasaw language was spoken, and traditional activities were practiced whenever and wherever possible. Soon a grassroots movement for Chickasaw people began to grow.

“At that time, our people came together with a vision for the future - a vision of self-governance and self-determination – a vision of a thriving culture and a united people,” Governor Anoatubby said while delivering his address during the 56th Chickasaw Annual Meeting. “And with that vision in mind, they took those first bold steps toward reasserting our sovereignty and ensuring our future progress.”

Every year since, Chickasaws have met to participate in the business of the Chickasaw Nation.

The location has shifted over time, moving between Connerville, Byng and Tishomingo. Sites have included Seeley Chapel, Byng School Auditorium, under a tent on Chickasaw National Capitol Grounds and more recently in Fletcher Auditorium at Murray State College.

Other events and activities were planned around the Annual Meeting, including the Princess Pageant, the Southeastern Art Show and Market and various sports activities. The Chickasaw Festival was merged with the Annual Meeting in 1992, offering a weeklong celebration now known as the Chickasaw Annual Meeting and Festival, which culminates with the State of the Nation.

But through it all, Chickasaw Annual Meeting has been a time for Chickasaw Citizens to share news and to hear reports from the Governor and tribal officials on the state of the Chickasaw Nation.

“The awakening at Seeley Chapel is our touchstone to keep moving forward. The Seeley Chapel movement set the groundwork for who we are today - a powerful and dynamic tribe dedicated to serving Chickasaw people everywhere,” Governor Anoatubby said.

Coming together now

During this time of responsible distancing, the Chickasaw Nation is making use of technology to continue this important tradition of gathering together.

“It is important for us to all come together annually, review our progress and recognize the beginnings of our modern Chickasaw Nation,” Governor Anoatubby said.

Chickasaws and community members the world over are welcome to virtually attend the weeklong series of events, cultural demonstrations and more. Experience and celebrate Chickasaw culture, heritage and progress on your computer, tablet, smartphone or any other streaming device.

For information regarding the virtual Chickasaw Annual Meeting and Festival, visit AnnualMeeting.Chickasaw.net. Additional information is also available on Chickasaw Nation social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.