Ofi' Tohbi', the legendary white dog who protected the Chickasaw people while they searched for a homeland centuries ago, is back on the job with new orders to follow.
This time, he’s breaking trail for children on an educational excursion through Chickasaw Country, and posing as the symbol for the Chickasaw Nation’s new creative literary venture.
Chickasaw Journeys, an activities book aimed at youngsters, is hot off White Dog Press, a new imprint under Chickasaw Press.
Children and even parents will learn a thing or two from the book, said Chickasaw Press Director Wiley Barnes.
With winter showing signs of exhaustion, Chickasaw Journeys offers a guide for spring and summer exploration at four cultural destinations special to Chickasaw people, and takes children of all ages on an educational adventure through Chickasaw Country.
The book includes questions, mazes, word games and more activities, all based on Chickasaw history, language and culture, for kids to complete during trips to Chickasaw the Chickasaw Council House, the Chickasaw Historic Capitol, the Chickasaw White House and the Chickasaw Cultural Center, Barnes said. Ofi' Tohbi' can also be found at the destinations.
Each reader who completes the puzzles and tasks during visits to the four destinations will receive a commemorative oksop (bead) and a stamp to fill in blanks in the book. Each participant who completes his or her book will become an official member of the Ofi' Tohbi' Club, earning a commemorative patch and a collector’s coin.
Chickasaw Journeys is available for purchase at several outlets in Oklahoma, including the Chickasaw Council House and Chickasaw Historic Capitol in Tishomingo, the Chickasaw White House in Milburn, Chickasaw Press itself as well as Chickasaw Arts and Humanities, both in Ada, and the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur.
Chickasaw Journeys is the second publication by White Dog Press, which debuted in 2013 as an outlet for Chickasaw fiction, poetry and other creative works.
Barnes said the Chickasaw Press was started in 2006 to produce scholarly and academic works based on Chickasaw history and culture, written from a Chickasaw perspective. It has published many such books and continues to do so.
Those books also won recognition and awards. Among them are the three-volume Chikasha Stories series, written by highly respected elder and traditional oral storyteller Glenda Galvan and illustrated by Jeannie Barbour; Ilimpa’chi’ (We’re Gonna Eat): A Chickasaw Cookbook, by JoAnn Ellis and Vicki Penner; a poetry book titled Picked Apart The Bones, by Rebecca Hatcher Travis; and two art books by renowned Chickasaw artist Mike Larsen and his wife, Martha: Proud to be Chickasaw and They Know Who They Are, featuring the stories of elders and early sketches and paintings of them by Larsen.
Still, Barnes and the staff of Chickasaw Press felt aware of the need for a distinct outlet for creative Chickasaw and Native literature. To address that, he and the staff proposed the creation of White Dog Press.
“That way, we didn’t have to change the Chickasaw Press’s vision. We could start a new imprint for fiction, poetry and other genres,” he said.
White Dog Press, Barnes said, “opens doors of opportunity for writers. We get a lot of submissions and proposals that we didn’t have an outlet for in the past because they weren’t a fit for Chickasaw Press.”
The first book to appear under the White Dog Press imprint was Footsteps Still Whispering in the Wind, a collection of poems written by Chickasaw elder Margie Testerman and illustrated by 18 young Chickasaw artists. The book debuted last year.
This year, besides Chickasaw Journeys, Barnes said, Chickasaw Press senior staff writer Phillip Carroll Morgan has produced a can’t-put-it-down, page-turner of a historical fiction novel set 140 years before the first documented encounter between Chickasaws and Europeans. Morgan’s novel is scheduled for release in the fall.
Other adventures await Chickasaw Press, such as a new website complete with an online store.
In the past, book buyers either wrote the Press and requested books, or picked up copies where available. One also could go to the Press’s website, but when it came time to buy a book, patrons were redirected to the University of Oklahoma Press’s e-commerce site.
The Press also looks forward to April and May, the awards season for books. Chickasaw Press has earned 16 awards for the 25 books it has published, and has entered titles in several competitions this year.