Saturday, August 13, 2022

Unconquered and Unconquerable: Telling Their Story

 In the movie First Encounter, a Chickasaw warrior takes dead aim at DeSoto's men. Photo Courtesy of Chickasaw Nation.

In the movie First Encounter, a Chickasaw warrior takes dead aim at DeSoto’s men. Photo Courtesy of Chickasaw Nation.

The Chickasaw have produced an award-winning movie that tells how they crippled DeSoto’s legendary expedition.

The Chickasaw have gone into the movie business.

To better tell their story, the tribe has begun producing the Chickasaw Heritage Series, a group of movies highlighting events and people from the annals of tribal history.

The first one, “First Encounter,” gives the tribe’s version of their fiery battle with Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto in 1540. It appeared on Mississippi Public Broadcasting earlier
this year. The award-winning movie, available on DVD, was aired for Tupelo business and government leaders last December when Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby updated them on the tribe’s plans to build a heritage center in the city.

The movie has been chosen to air at the California Film Festival later this year and won top honors as Best Short Documentary at Oklahoma’s Trail Dance Film Festival in January.

The historic Chickasaw clash with DeSoto in north Mississippi disrupted his grandiose plans and was the catalyst for the ultimate failure of his quest for gold and riches. It also helped establish the tribe’s reputation as “unconquered and unconquerable,” a cherished Chickasaw slogan to this day.

Weary of DeSoto’s bullying and his unreasonable demands for concubines to service his men and for warriors to carry baggage, the Chickasaw ambushed the Spanish camp in a night-time raid, scattering horses and swine, burning huts, destroying supplies and wounding many of DeSoto’s men before disappearing into the darkness. Beaten and bloodied, the Spanish soon departed and DeSoto later died near the Mississippi River, his body tossed into the waters by his men for burial.

“While our first encounter with De Soto has been told from other points of view, we believe our perspective adds significant context to the historical narrative,” Anoatubby said.

“We believe our tribe’s first encounter with Europeans is a great place to begin this series,” he said in a tribe press release. “In coming years, we plan to produce additional documentaries which will offer additional insight into the role the Chickasaw people have played in American history.”

The DVD can be purchased at: https://www.chickasawoutpost.com/p-282-first-encounter-dvd-format.aspx.

The tribe’s first effort at film-making was in 2010 with release of the 107-minute, critically-acclaimed motion picture “Pearl,” celebrating the early life of Chickasaw Pearl Carter Scott, who became the youngest pilot in the United States to fly solo Sept. 12, 1929. She was 13 and trained under famed aviator Wiley Post. The movie can be purchased at Amazon and other major outlets.

In October 2014 the tribe finished filming “Te Ata,” the story of Te Ata Thompson Fisher, a Chickasaw entertainer and storyteller who performed for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the king and queen of England.


LEFT TO RIGHT: Ariel Cobbert, Mrudvi Bakshi, Taylor Bennett, Lana Ferguson, SECOND ROW: Tori Olker, Josie Slaughter, Kate Harris, Zoe McDonald, Anna McCollum, THIRD ROW: Bill Rose, Chi Kalu, Slade Rand, Mitchell Dowden, Will Crockett. Not pictured: Tori Hosey PHOTO BY THOMAS GRANING
LEFT TO RIGHT: Ariel Cobbert, Mrudvi Bakshi, Taylor Bennett, Lana Ferguson, SECOND ROW: Tori Olker, Josie Slaughter, Kate Harris, Zoe McDonald, Anna McCollum,
THIRD ROW: Bill Rose, Chi Kalu, Slade Rand, Mitchell Dowden, Will Crockett. Not pictured: Tori Hosey PHOTO BY THOMAS GRANING

The Meek School faculty and students published “Unconquered and Unconquerable” online on August 19, 2016, to tell stories of the people and culture of the Chickasaw. The publication is the result of Bill Rose’s depth reporting class taught in the spring. Emily Bowen-Moore, Instructor of Media Design, designed the magazine.

“The reason we did this was because we discovered that many of them had no clue about the rich Indian history of Mississippi,” said Rose. “It was an eye-opening experience for the students. They found out a lot of stuff that Mississippians will be surprised about.”

Print copies will be available October 2016.


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