Many tribes honor those who have contributed heart and soul to their people, and the Chickasaw Nation is no exception. This year, the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame inducted five new members May 7 at the Riverwind Showplace Theater in Norman, Oklahoma.
Recipients include Betty Ruth Kemp of Norman; Colbert Latimer “Bud” Baker of Marco Island, Florida; Gene “Nashoba” Thompson of Austin, Texas; and two posthumous inductions, Thomas Benjamin Thompson Sr. and Benson Pikey.
“It is our privilege to honor these individuals who have made significant contributions to the Chickasaw Nation and the larger community,” Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said in a press release. “Their commitment to protecting tribal history, promoting education, and serving others epitomizes the spirit and dedication of the Chickasaw people.”
The Thompson inductees—Thomas Benjamin Thompson and Gene Thompson—are grandfather and grandson, respectively. The elder Thompson was a long-standing public servant to his nation, serving as a clerk to the Chickasaw Supreme Court and eventually as the last elected treasurer of the Chickasaw Nation before allotment.
“He is the one who set the values upon which everyone in the family has tried to live by,” Gene said. “That is, his Creator first, family second, the community third and himself last.”
Gene’s service is also commendable, and includes serving as a colonel in the Oklahoma National Guard; executive director of the Armed Forces Pest Management Board; and conducting federally funded HIV/AIDS surveys for the Texas Department of Health. His current activities include serving as a Chickasaw Nation cultural ambassador.
“It’s trying to tell our story to people,” he said about his work as an ambassador. “What I think happens most often is that Indians and non-Indians alike will ask ‘Why are you Chickasaws doing so much better than most tribes?’ My answer is always the same. It’s because we’ve had great fortune to have leaders that are both good cultural leaders and good businessmen. That’s a rare thing to find nowadays.”
The two Thompsons will be the fourth and fifth members of the family to be Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame members. Other family members include storyteller Te Ata Fisher; Oklahoma state Senator Helen Cole; and U.S. Representative Tom Cole.
“I am proud to see two of my relatives inducted into the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame,” said Rep. Cole. “The example set by my great-grandfather, Thomas Benjamin Thompson, still lives on in the Chickasaw tribe and in the hearts of our family. He made a lasting impact on his children, grandchildren, community and tribe, instilling in us the great pride that comes with being Chickasaw and the importance of preserving our heritage for generations to come.
“My warm congratulations go out to my cousin, Col. Gene ‘Nashoba’ Thompson, for this high honor,” Cole added. “His commitment to protecting our country, getting the most out of his education and serving as an advocate for the Chickasaw people makes us all proud.”