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Te Ata Fisher

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Te Ata Fisher

Te Ata
Born Mary Frances Thompson
(1895-12-03)December 3, 1895
Emet, Oklahoma, U.S.
Died October 25, 1995(1995-10-25) (aged 99)
Other names Te Ata "bearer of the dawn"
Occupation Actress, Storyteller
Spouse(s) Dr. George Clyde Fisher
Parents T.B. Thompson and Bertie (Freund) Thompson

Douglas H. Johnston, Te Ata's uncle and last governor of Chickasaw Nation,[1] Former Congresswoman Helen TeAta Cole,

Oklahoma State Senator Tom Cole.
link title

Mary Frances Thompson (December 3, 1895 - October 25, 1995), best known as Te Ata, was an actress and citizen of the Chickasaw Nation known for telling Native American stories. She performed as a representative of Native Americans at state dinners before President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. She was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1957, and named Oklahoma's first State Treasure in 1987.1

Early life

Te Ata was born in Emet, Chickasaw Nation, to Thomas Benjamin Thompson, a Chickasaw, and Bertie (Freund) Thompson, also a Chickasaw.2 Te Ata began her early education in a one room tribal school, but after two years she was sent to Bloomfield Academy (Oklahoma), a Chickasaw boarding school for girls. There she met Muriel Wright, a teacher who became her role model. Te Ata graduated high school from Tishomingo, Oklahoma where she was salutatorian.[1]

In the fall of 1915, Te Ata began college at the Oklahoma College for Women (presently the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma) in Chickasha, Oklahoma, and graduated in 1919. During her time at Oklahoma College for Women, she worked as an assistant in the theatre department for theatre instructor Frances Densmore Davis. It was during this time that Te Ata was first introduced to the stage.

Personal life

On September 28, 1933, Te Ata married Dr. George Clyde Fisher in Muskogee, Oklahoma, at the Bacone College Ataloa Lodge,named for Chickasaw vocalist and friend Ataloa. 2 Te Ata had many notable friends including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Jim Thorpe and Woody Crumbo. Through Dr. Fisher, she was introduced to Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, John Burroughs, Thomas Edison, E.W. Deming, Clark Wissler and Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance. She was also the niece of Douglas H. Johnston, the last governor of the Chickasaw Nation.[1]

Te Ata died in Oklahoma City on October 26, 1995. Her legacy is continued through her family which includes former Congresswoman Helen TeAta Cole and Helen's son, U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, Tom Cole.

Performance career

Te Ata took the stage for her debut as an artist during her senior year of college. The debut was well received, and she was asked to perform at the University of Oklahoma and various other institutions.

Upon graduation, Te Ata was offered a part in a traveling Chautauqua circuit. The tour gave Te Ata an opportunity to travel across the United States and fostered her talents as a performer. Te Ata’s career spanned over 60 years, and she collected hundreds of stories from different tribes. During her performances she told numerous stories, such as “There Are Birds of Many Colors” by Hiamove, “The Creation of Mankind” told to her by her father, “How Death Came into the World,” “Pasikola (Rabbit) was Disconnected,” “Anybody Want a Wife?”, “The Corn Ceremony” and “The Blue Duck.”

Te Ata performed at the White House for Queen Elizabeth of England as well as on stages across the United States. 1 In addition to traveling across the United States, Te Ata visited Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, England, Peru, Guatemala, Canada, the Yucatán and Mexico.

Te Ata’s life and likeliness have been featured in many books, plays and magazines. In the summer of 1924, Te Ata was featured in McCall’s U.S. women's magazine during its “Types of American Beauty” series.3


  • Gallagher, Brian (1987). Anything Goes: The Jazz Age Adventures of Neysa McMein and Her Extravagant Circle of Friends. New York: Reed Business Information, Inc.
  • Green, Richard (2002). Te Ata Chickasaw Storyteller, American Treasure. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Honors and Awards


  1. ^ a b c d .Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture"Te Ata." Harris, Rodger.
  2. ^ a b .They Made Their Mark: An Illustrated History of the Society of Woman GeographersEppings, Jane. Available on Google Books. p. 118.
  3. ^ "Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame".
  • Gallagher, Brian (1987). Anything Goes: The Jazz Age Adventures of Neysa McMein and Her Extravagant Circle of Friends. New York: Reed Business Information, Inc.
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