A culture bearer, a pillar of the community, a dedicated educator, a devoted physician and a Native American diplomat comprise the 2014 class of the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame. ?Hall of Fame ceremonies will take place at 5:30 p.m. May 1 at Riverwind Showplace Theater in Norman, Oklahoma. Governor Bill Anoatubby will participate in the induction ceremonies.
The 2014 Chickasaw Hall of Fame inductees are Irene L. Digby, Davis, Oklahoma; Marvin E. Mitchell, Fitzhugh, Oklahoma; James Wilburn Hampton, M.D., Oklahoma City; Silas C. Wolf Jr. Norman; and Chickasaw Ambassador Charles Blackwell. Mr. Blackwell will be inducted posthumously.
“It is our privilege to honor these individuals who have made significant contributions to the Chickasaw Nation and the larger community,” Gov. Anoatubby said. “Their commitment to sharing tribal history, culture and heritage, protecting sovereignty, promoting educational opportunities, healing the sick and serving others epitomizes the spirit and perseverance of the Chickasaw people.”
Irene Lois Pettigrew Digby
A true diplomat of the Chickasaw Nation, 92-year-old Irene Lois Pettigrew Digby shares Chickasaw culture, heritage and tradition with her friends and neighbors in her hometown of Davis and beyond. A distinguished Chickasaw storyteller, Mrs. Digby can often be found sharing Indian tales and teaching Chickasaw ways to children at Davis Public Schools. Through teachable moments with younger generations, she strives to keep Chickasaw culture and heritage flourishing.?For her efforts, Mrs. Digby was inducted into the Davis Alumni Association in October 2013.
A fluent Chickasaw speaker, she teaches and shares her native language, along with beading and Chickasaw hymns to all generations. Mrs. Digby also passes on her well-known traditional Pashofa recipe to other cooks.?Parents in the community consult with Mrs. Digby to find Chickasaw names for their children, a tradition she established with her own children and grandchildren. The parents consider this act an honor.
A soft-spoken Chickasaw women, she proudly speaks of her heritage and has an immense love for the Chickasaw people.?Mrs. Digby has been featured in three publications from the Chickasaw Press, including “Proud to be Chickasaw, Elders of the Chickasaw Nation, Volume II” a collection of elder paintings and stories by Mike and Martha Larsen and Jeannie Barbour. The painting now hangs at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma. She also leant her talents in the documentary “Chickasaw Removal.”?She consistently serves in many capacities for the Chickasaw Nation, including as an elder representative at the annual Chickasaw Nation Princess Pageant.
Born November 12, 1921, in the Murray County, Oklahoma, community of Fairview to Joe and Serena Fulsom Pettigrew, Mrs. Digby was the fourth of daughter of the family. The family later moved to its allotment land in the Sunshine community of Murray County and lived in a tiny house they called the “White House.”?Church was the center of the Pettigrews’ lives. They attended Sandy Baptist Church faithfully, where they sang Choctaw hymns. Mrs. Digby shares those hymns at her current church in Davis.
Growing up in a farming family, her mother and father spoke primarily the Chickasaw language. It was there she learned to create traditional Chickasaw fare such as a Pashofa—in a big black pot—roasted corn, potato bread, blue bread and fry bread. Even in the grips of the Depression, the family had plenty to eat.
Mrs. Digby graduated Davis High School and later married B.F. “Dick” Digby, who served in World War II.?Given the Chickasaw name Ishki’ Chokma (Good Mother) by her mother, Mr. and Mrs. Digby had four children, Aaron Dean, Ronnie, Beverly and Rhonda, 11 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
In her spare time, Mrs. Digby loves to garden and tend to her roses and spend time with her family. She particularly loves sharing her Chickasaw stories with her family.
Marvin Mitchell is known as a rock, a leader, a mentor and a compassionate man that lives by a value system in his Pontotoc County, Oklahoma community.?Selected by Anoatubby to serve on the Chickasaw Nation Industries board of directors in 1998, Mr. Mitchell is the sole remaining original board member. Under his guidance, CNI has grown from the $50,000 initial investment to more than $250 million in annual revenue with 10 LLCs operating within the corporate structure.
Mr. Mitchell served 34 years in the Oklahoma Army National Guard, retiring as a Master Sergeant. He also served as the federal liaison to the Oklahoma Governor’s office for the U.S. Department of Labor and the Oklahoma Employment Agency.?Mr. Mitchell also served more than 30 years within the U.S. Department of Labor, as administration officer for a five state region, to a wage and hour investigator in the Ada field office.?He serves as a Fittstown Church of Christ elder and is a longtime servant to the community.
Mr. Mitchell holds the distinction of being the first Native American in Oklahoma to be awarded a college scholarship through a program initiated by former Chickasaw Gov. Overton James when he served at the state Indian Education Department.?After graduating McLish School in Fittstown, Oklahoma, Mr. Mitchell attended East Central Teacher’s College (now East Central University) in Ada, and was the first member of his family to graduate from college.?Born the middle child of Ed and Lucile (Keel) Mitchell in 1946, Marvin Mitchell lived in the Fittstown area. Mr. Mitchell and his brothers Sanders and Guy farmed alongside their parents. The Mitchell family was honored in 1957 as the “Farm Family of the Month” in Pontotoc County.
While attending McLish School, Mr. Mitchell participated in 4-H Club, basketball and baseball and was inducted into the 4-H Hall of Fame. As a high school senior in 1964, he was named “Outstanding Senior in Agriculture” in Pontotoc County and received the 4-H Key Club Award, an honor extended only to top 4-H members. He grew up listening to his family’s stories of shared experienced and ancestors, including his great-great-grandfather Edmund Pickens, who came to Indian Territory during the Removal. Mr. Mitchell’s portrait was featured in “Proud to be Chickasaw, Elders of the Chickasaw Nation, Volume II.”
Mr. Mitchell and his wife, Donna Kaye, had two sons, Mike and Jay Mitchell, both of whom served in the military, and both were recipients of the Bronze Star.
Dr. James W. Hampton
A dedicated healer, Chickasaw physician Dr. James W. Hampton, has committed a large portion of his life’s work to addressing the special health care needs of minority groups, including Native Americans. Presently a medical oncologist/hematologist at Mercy Clinic Oklahoma Communities, Inc., Oklahoma City, Dr. Hampton in 1999 was awarded the American Cancer Society Humanitarian award for his leadership role in addressing minority groups’ health care needs and for his passionate support of the underserved.
Because of his dedication to Native Americans, Dr. Hampton has led the way in conducting studies on the impact of cancer among Native Americans and Alaska Natives and is nationally recognized as the “Dean of American Indian cancer” studies.?Dr. Hampton has dedicated his time and talents to the establishment and maintenance of the Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP), of which he is a founding member and served as president on two occasions.
He was awarded Indian Physician of the Year by the Association of American Indian Physicians in 2000.?Dr. Hampton was responsible for the establishment of the specialty of hematology—a branch of medicine concerning the study of blood—at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, where he served as section head for several years.
Dr. Hampton was named to the American Medical Association’s Consortium on Minority Affairs Governing Committee.?He was the recipient of the Don Rhinehardt Award for Community Service from the Oklahoma County Medical Society, Oklahoma City, in 2013 and the Gordon H. Deckert, M.D. Award for Community Service, Oklahoma State Medical Association in 2012.?He was honored with Hampton Faculty Fellowships, Spirit of Eagles, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, in 2010 and with the “Leap of Faith” award, Intercultural Council, Washington, D.C. in 2006.
Born September 15, 1931, in Durant, Oklahoma, to Mr. and Mrs. Hollis Hampton, James Hampton earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1952 and a medical degree from the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine in 1956.?A National Institutes of Health research trainee, Dr. Hampton completed a five-year fellowship in Hematology/Medical Oncology at the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine. He was a NIH Career Development Award recipient and spent a year at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. He headed the Hematology/ Medical Oncology section at the University of Oklahoma and served as a member of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. Dr. Hampton is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and served as medical director for the Troy and Dollie Smith Cancer Center at Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City.?Dr. Hampton is also a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. He served as chair of a Cancer Control Network for the National Cancer Institute. Previously, he was a member of the Institute of Medicine’s investigative panel on Cancer in Minorities and the underserved.
Other distinguished positions held by Dr. Hampton include being named to the American Medical Association’s Consortium on Minority Affairs Governing Committee, serving twice as president and being named a member of the American Medical Association’s Minority Affairs Committee steering committee, serving from 1997 to 2000.?The University of Oklahoma Medical Alumni Association honored Dr. Hampton as the Physician of the Year in Private Practice in 1998 and he was a collaboration partner of the Dialogue on Cancer led by former President George and Mrs. Bush. He is past chair of the Intercultural Cancer Council.?He served on the Board of the Oklahoma County Medical Society and convened the meeting that founded the Hospice of Oklahoma County, a unique hospice sponsored by physicians.?Dr. Hampton is a collaborating partner of C-Change: Collaborating to Conquer Cancer led by former President George H.W. and Mrs. Barbara Bush. He is a past chair of The Intercultural Cancer Council (ICC), a national organization committed to serving minority communities and underserved people with cancer. His efforts to recruit and support Indian students to pursue health care careers have resulted in several Indian students achieving success.
Since 2010, Dr. Hampton has served as a hematologist/medical oncologist at Mercy Clinic Oklahoma Communities.?Dr. Hampton’s wife, Reverend Canon Carol Hampton, is an Episcopal priest at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City. The couple has four children and seven grandchildren.
Dr. Hampton is the great-great-grandson of Capt. James Wolf, a Chickasaw leader who signed the Treaty of Pontotoc Creek.
A devoted Chickasaw educator, Silas Wolf was honored as “Male Elder of the Year” by the National Indian Education Association in 2012. Mr. Wolf received the prestigious award for his work with Native students in his role as Indian Education tutor and mentor at Norman Public Schools.
An attorney for many years, Mr. Wolf closed his law practice in 2007 to follow his dream of working to better the education of young people.?Mr. Wolf saw the tutor position as a way to give back to his Chickasaw tribe, by helping to educate and motivate younger Native generations.?During his time at Norman Public Schools, he has introduced hundreds of Native Americans to higher education opportunities.
Mr. Wolf is a member of the Oklahoma Council for Indian Education, Native American Student Advocacy Institute and American Indian Science and Engineering Society. He is also the coach/sponsor on several academic bowl teams sponsored by Norman Public Schools Indian Education Program. Mr. Wolf has presented many lectures to Norman Public Schools Oklahoma history classes meant to educate both Native and non-Native students on the concepts of tribal sovereignty.
As an educator, Mr. Wolf was also following in the footsteps of his grandfather, the late Key Wolf, a Chickasaw from Davis, Oklahoma, who while still a student at OU, made an appeal to the Chickasaw legislature to appropriate money toward Indian education. Key Wolf’s career included returning to his boyhood home of Davis, where he was principal, athletic director and coach at Davis High School from 1926 to 1930. The Davis team is called the Wolves in his honor. Key Wolf later earned a master’s degree in education at the University of Oklahoma. His 1931 master’s thesis is entitled “Federal aid for the education of Indian children in the public Schools of Oklahoma.”
Silas Wolf was born January 5, 1949, in Los Angeles, moving to Oklahoma at the age of two. A Norman High School graduate, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of Oklahoma in 1971 and a Juris doctorate from the University of Oklahoma School of Law in 1975.?After graduation, Mr. Wolf entered into the partnership of Henson and Wolf in Shawnee, Oklahoma, a general law practice. He later formed the partnership of Wolf and Wolf with his father, Silas Wolf Sr. in Norman. This partnership lasted until his father died in 1996. During this time, Mr. Wolf handled several important product liability cases and practiced in several tribal courts in Oklahoma.
Today, Mr. Wolf carries on his grandfather’s tradition of educating Native American youth. Under his guidance Native American clubs at Norman and Norman North High School have participated in a wide variety of cultural activities.?Mr. Wolf is also a master instructor with the Ching Yi Kung Fu Association and holds black belts in other martial arts. He operates the Ching Yi Kung Fu Academy associated with Norman Parks and Recreation. He has also taught Martial Arts for the Chickasaw Nation. He is also an experienced cyclist having bicycled much of the U.S., Canada and Europe.
Mr. Wolf has been married to his wife Nancy for 41 years. They have a daughter, Sara. Mr. Wolf and his wife currently reside in Norman.
Ambassador Charles William Blackwell
Businessman, diplomat, professor, dean, attorney, school teacher, proud Chickasaw, ambassador are merely a few of the many monikers earned by Chickasaw Charles William Blackwell.?A man who labored his entire life to improve the overall quality of life for all Native American people, Ambassador Blackwell helped shape students in business, law, economics and Indian affairs through mentoring, teaching and encouragement. He also helped shape federal policy toward tribes and Native Americans through testimony before the U.S. Congress and using the art of delicate persuasion behind the scenes.
Ambassador Blackwell’s positive impact on a national level included appointed Chickasaw Nation Ambassador to the United States, the first ambassador of any Native American tribal government to be named to such a position. He served as ambassador from 1995 until his death in 2013.?It was in this position he rallied for tribal sovereignty, self-determination, education, health care, environmental stewardship, and other issues vitally important to American Indian tribes before Washington, D.C. lawmakers. He also strived to enforce the formal government-to-government relationship the Chickasaw Nation has with the U.S. federal government.
Ambassador Blackwell was born July 30, 1942, in El Reno, Oklahoma to Hubert and Kitty Blackwell. He was raised in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, near the Blue River, and other small towns throughout southeastern Oklahoma.?He spent the summers of his youth with his grandparents who were Bureau of Indian Affairs educators on the North Plains and in New Mexico. He was conversationally fluent in Chickasaw, Choctaw and Lakota, and had a strong affinity for New Mexico Pueblo communities and Oklahoma Indian Country Tribal customs and traditions.
Ambassador Blackwell received his bachelor’s degree in 1964 from East Central State College in Ada. He was the founding president of the Epsilon Omega chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and the editor of the campus newspaper. He was named Student of the Year in 1964 by his alma mater.?In 1972, Mr. Blackwell earned a law degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law. He served as a staff attorney for the American Indian Law Center from 1972 to 1974. He then served as the Associate Director of the Special Scholarship Program in-law for American Indians from 1974 to 1977.
Ambassador Blackwell was appointed assistant dean and adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law simultaneously. In these positions, he helped open doors and remove obstacles so more than 700 Native Americans and Alaska Natives gained entrance into law schools across the whole of America.
Ambassador Blackwell was among the first Native Americans to work on Wall Street, serving as special adviser to Chairman Tukuro Isoda of Daiwa Securities America in the World Trade Center, New York City, from 1991-95.
A fierce proponent of Native American education, health and economic issues, Ambassador Blackwell was founder of the First American Business Center promoting Native American economic development and entrepreneurship. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C.?He also established Pushmataha House as the official Chickasaw Nation embassy in Washington, D.C. It is located in the “shadow of Capitol Hill,” as Ambassador Blackwell himself observed. It was named in honor of the Choctaw Nation diplomat Pushmataha, who perished on a diplomatic excursion to Washington, D.C. in 1824. The Mohegan and Picuris Pueblo tribes maintain a diplomatic presence at the location.
Ambassador Blackwell also served within the Western Governors’ States Drought Coordination Council and was appointed by President Clinton to the presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS. In 2007, he was awarded the Legacy Award for Lifetime Achievement by the National Director of the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency.?Ambassador Blackwell died January 2, 2013, in Rockville, Maryland. He was 70.?Upon Ambassador Blackwell’s death, his professional career was praised by many powerful leaders from across the nation. Department of Interior Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn said Ambassador Blackwell’s “forceful personality, generous spirit and guidance on the workings of the federal government will be sorely missed by all those who had the good fortune to know him.”