Mary “Te Ata” Thompson Fisher is a cultural icon for many Native Americans. Te Ata, an enrolled citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, was a master storyteller and entertainer who took her talent across the globe, singing and dancing for presidents and kings.
One of those instances will be a key moment in a new Bill Murray movie, Hyde Park on Hudson, which was released Dec. 7. The film centers on the historic 1939 meeting between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, King George and Queen Elizabeth of England at FDR’s home in New York. It was during that meeting Te Ata performed for the dignitaries and also represented Native American culture to the world leaders.
Playing Te Ata is an actress with Choctaw and Japanese heritage, Kumiko Konishi.
Before getting the part, Konishi said she wasn’t familiar with Te Ata. However, she soon began to research her and learned she was an important figure not only in Native American culture but to Americans and to women in general.
“What was kind of crazy in not knowing about her was how rounded she was in her accomplishments and as a person,” Konishi said. “In that time, to have such an education and such a worldliness to be able to travel on her own, on her own accord to spread the word and educate people on our culture. I felt there was a beauty inside of her and a regalness. She had an energy that apparently emanated from wherever she went.”
Konishi said from what she later learned about Te Ata, she was a humble person but one who attracted attention to who she was and what she was performing.
“She was one of those people that when she walked into a room, people would turn their heads,” the actress said of Te Ata. “And it’s not just the fact that she was a beautiful woman. She had a presence about her. It was her strength, her poise, her education and her experience in life that emanated from her but in a very humble way, which I thought was really nice to bring to the role.”