Through struggles and removal, the Chickasaw have maintained a strong connection with Tupelo. And in the past few decades they have become one of the first examples of a removed Southeastern Indian Nation to actively invest resources and money in their historic Homeland.
In 2017, the Chickasaw Inkana Foundation, a local non-profit that works closely with the Chickasaw Nation, acquired 168 acres adjacent to the Natchez Trace Parkway for the future site of the Chickasaw Heritage Center. The center will provide an anchor for Indigenous cultural experiences in the region. In addition to space for exhibits, conferences, events, collections management, a theater, and a cafe, the center will also have space for outdoor events, celebrations, and traditional games like stickball. A reconstructed village will give guests the chance to step inside traditional houses and learn about life as told from the Chickasaw perspective.
Conservation is another major goal of the heritage center. For years Chickasaw volunteers and employees have restored the area and worked to conserve its unique ecosystem. Mitigating erosion and reintroducing native and traditional plants has aided wildlife to return and federally protected plant species to thrive. The trails within the preserve will ultimately connect to the National Parks Trail system within the Natchez Trace.
Outside of downtown Tupelo, Chisha’ Talla’a Preserve was once the site of a village where the Chickasaw flourished. Chisha’ Talla’a’ aka: Post Oak Grove was acquired by the Archaeological Conservancy through a grant from the Chickasaw Nation in 2005. Today it’s the site of a renaissance: for decades the preserve was protected by a local family who realized their property sat on a village site. For years, they worked to protect it from looting, erosion, and other threats. In 2012, management and preservation of the site was taken up by Chickasaw Nation employees. Today it serves as a destination for Chickasaw citizens looking to connect with their heritage and for tribal archaeologists to examine history.
Today, Tupelo’s Chickasaw origins are becoming more and more visible throughout our town. In addition to historical sites, a mural on Main and Broadway by local artists Lujan Perez and MJ Torrecampo pays tribute to Piominko and Tishominko, another respected Chickasaw leader. Dressed in his military jacket, a statue of Piominko proudly stands in front of City Hall. While the past has not been without its struggles, the connection the Chickasaw have maintained, and are actively building upon, inspires us all. We’re proud of their work that helps us all to build a more positive tomorrow.
To dive deeper into the history and culture of the Chickasaw Nation, we recommend starting your journey at the Chickasaw Village Site. If you’re at home, Chickasaw.tv is a great source for videos to expand your knowledge. Follow the Chickasaw Inkana Foundation for developments on the Chickasaw Heritage Center and information on how to learn more about connecting with Chickasaw history in the Homeland.