Monday, May 21, 2018

Girl Scout Finds Inspiration in Legendary Entertainer Te Ata

When 16-year-old Lydia, a member of Troop 3472 from Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma, visited the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma, she couldn’t have predicted the moving experience she was about to have. A Chickasaw citizen herself, Lydia watched the documentary Bearer of the Morning at the center, the life story of a famous Chickasaw actor and storyteller, Te Ata. 

After the film, Lydia was in awe. “[Bearer of the Morning] is an amazing documentary, and [Te Ata] is an inspiration to Native Americans everywhere fighting hard to abolish stereotypes and fighting for Native American rights,” said Lydia. “I really enjoyed watching her life story.”

Mary Thompson Fisher, later known as Te Ata, was born in small-town Oklahoma. As a talented go-getter determined to pursue her passion as a performer, she entertained and enlightened audiences across the world, including royalty and statesmen, through storytelling and dance. Throughout her travels and performances, Te Ata kept her heritage close to her heart, making sure to share the unique story and spirit of the Chickasaw people. By studying and performing traditional Native American stories, she fought ignorance, overturned negative stereotypes, and advocated for the preservation of Indigenous American cultures.

“I hadn’t heard about Te Ata, but with one look into her life, you could see the huge impact she had,” Lydia said. “I learned interesting things about her, like that she has a lake named after her where many Girl Scouts camped.”

Lake Te Ata, located in the Bear Mountain area in Oklahoma, was named for her in 1932, a year before she performed for U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House. And her close relationship with Girl Scouts earned her the recognition in the form of Camp Te Ata in Harriman, New York, where thousands of Girl Scouts once spent their summers. In 1976, she was also featured in a Girl Scout calendar.

But the connection to Girl Scouts wasn’t the only thing Lydia discovered she shares with Te Ata: “I was surprised to find out that I was born on the same day as her,” Lydia revealed. “I loved learning about Te Ata. She is now my inspiration.”