Chickasaw Nation Ambassador to the United States, Charles W. Blackwell walked on January 2 in Washington, D.C. He was 70.
Referred to as a “man of vision” by Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby, according to KXII News 12, Blackwell was appointed by Anoatubby to serve as a delegate to the U.S. in 1990. He was then named as ambassador in 1995, the first American Indian ambassador at the time. Blackwell was Chickasaw and Choctaw and was an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation.
“Charles Blackwell embodied all the best qualities of a diplomat and statesman as the Chickasaw Nation Ambassador to the United States. He brought a tremendous level of wisdom, integrity, knowledge and passion to his duties as our emissary in Washington,” Anoatubby told KXII. “As one who was fortunate enough to call Charles my friend, it is with great sadness that my condolences go out to his family and other close friends. This is a sad day for the entire Chickasaw Nation, as we have lost an irreplaceable friend and unrivaled advocate.”
Blackwell was also an advocate of tribal economic development and Native education. He was the founder and executive director of First American Business Center in Washington, D.C. and was moderately fluent in Lakota, Choctaw, Omaha and Chickasaw.
He was born in El Reno, Oklahoma in 1942. In 1964, he graduated from East Central State College in Ada, Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in education. He taught secondary English at Window Rock High School in Ft. Defiance, Arizona until 1968 when he started law school at the University of New Mexico. After graduating from law school in 1972, he worked at the American Indian Law Center until 1974 and was associate director of the Special Scholarship Program in Law for American Indians until 1977. According to Sam Deloria, the president of the board of directors of the American Indian Law Center, Blackwell placed an estimated 50 Indian students in law school.
Blackwell will certainly be missed. Fellow Chickasaw Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn issued the following statement on his passing: “Indian Country lost a distinguished leader whose eloquence and diplomacy in promoting self-determination for the Chickasaw Nation and all tribes was legendary. As the Chickasaw Nation’s ambassador to the United States, Charles Blackwell personified the nation-to-nation relationship, giving his people a voice at the highest levels of government. Ambassador Blackwell was an accomplished advocate for the Chickasaw people. His forceful personality, generous spirit and guidance on the workings of federal government will be sorely missed by all who had the good fortune to know him. Our prayers go out to his family, the Chickasaw Nation leadership, and the Chickasaw people.”