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Chickasaw Students Explore Ancestral Homelands In Park

Natchez Trace Parkway

National Park News

During the first week of August, students from the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma traveled over 600 miles from East Central University to Natchez Trace Parkway to explore the ancestral homelands of the Chickasaw people. 

During an intense week of focused activities and learning opportunities, the students gathered information and inspiration to be used as they develop educational resources based on their experiences in northern Mississippi. This project supports Call to Action goal #3: History Lesson. 

The students will develop lesson plans, articles, and videos focusing on the relationship of the Chickasaw people to the Natchez Trace Parkway. The parkway runs through the lands once occupied by ancestors of the students.  Like many American Indian tribes, the Chickasaw people were removed from their homes to Oklahoma during the early 1800s.

While the purpose of the travel was educational, their experience reached beyond academic. The students were able to dig into homeland history at various local archives. At one point, the students came face to face with a transfer of lands deed with the mark of Tishomingo, known as one of the great Chickasaw leaders during the time of the Great Removal.  One student said, “Words cannot describe how amazing it was to see his actual mark. It was an emotional experience...”

The students left Oklahoma on August 3rd to spend a week exploring the area. Their first day, on their way to the Natchez Trace Parkway, they visited Pinson Mounds in Tennessee. Along the parkway, they visited a hand-built stone wall commemorating Te-Lah-Nay. In the 1830s, this eighteen-year-old Yuchi woman was removed to Oklahoma but walked home alone to Alabama. The privately owned wall is adjacent to the parkway and is a pilgrimage destination for many American Indians.

The students also visited George Colbert’s ferry site, where the parkway crosses the Tennessee River. Colbert, also known as Tootemastubbe, was an important Chickasaw leader.  Colbert also served in the United States military, leading a Chickasaw auxiliary troop under Andrew Jackson in the Creek War of 1813-1814.

Making connections with their ancestral homeland, the students saw several mound sites along Natchez Trace Parkway and at Shiloh National Military Park, dug through old records at several community archives, talked to local historians, and visited known sites of Chickasaw home-groups and clans.

On their last day, the students traveled into former Choctaw territory, to French Camp. Louis Lefleur established a stand along the Old Natchez Trace at this location around 1810.

Digging into history uncovered many surprises for the students.  Just being in their ancestral homeland was meaningful. One student shared that he knew he would learn a lot but expressed that he was surprised by spiritual aspect of their return to their homeland.

This opportunity came to fruition through the hard work of Interpretive Ranger Jane Farmer, with assistance from West ASU (NATR MABO) contracting officers at Natchez Trace and Jean Lafitte.  An FY 2013 PMIS project funded through interpretation and education was used for this project and will be used for upcoming trips with students from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.  

Images from the trip can be viewed on the Natchez Trace Parkway’s Facebook page at


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