The Chickasaw Honor Garden was officially dedicated recently.
The Honor Garden, a special and unique element of the Chickasaw Cultural Center, features plaques commemorating all the members of the Chickasaw Hall of Fame.
Gov. Bill Anoatubby was joined by more than 400 people, including Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame Inductees and their families, tribal legislators, officials, citizens, employees and guests during the dedication ceremony.
The event coincided with the exclusive one-day opening of the Cultural Center. More than 3,000 Chickasaw citizens from across the country gathered to celebrate Chickasaw culture, history, traditions and heritage. The Cultural Center is scheduled to open to general public Saturday, July, 24, 2010.
A solemn and reflective environment, the Honor Garden commemorates the accomplishments and contributions of the inductees and features granite plaques with laser-cut photos.
“The Honor Garden is established to honor the Chickasaw people who have distinguished themselves and the Chickasaw Nation,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “As Chickasaws, it is important we honor our past and we honor the people who have made us successful.”
Describing the Honor Garden as “a monument to our people, history and traditions,” Gov. Anoatubby said the garden, in addition to the 54 inductees, will honor “many more Chickasaws in the years to come.”
The inductees and their families were welcome to take home the replica of their plaques. New inductees will be added to the honor garden as inductions occur.
As visitors walk around the peaceful garden, they see the various achievements of the inductees.
Cmdr. John B. Herrington, USN (ret.), a 2002 Hall of Fame Inductee and NASA astronaut, said he was hopeful a walk through the Honor Garden would inspire other Chickasaws.
Pauline Brown, a 2007 Hall of Fame Inductee, said she never thought that she “would ever be pictured like that.”
“It is a great honor,” Mrs. Brown said.
A fluent speaker of the Chickasaw language and a revered Chickasaw elder, Mrs. Brown also said the garden would inspire the Chickasaw generations to come.
“My granddaughter is so happy to see that picture and she knows the meaning of honor,” she said.
Little Miss Chickasaw Lauren John, who attended the ceremony with Mrs. Brown, said she was proud to see the granite likeness of her grandmother in the Honor Garden.
The Honor Garden, Lauren said, was her favorite part of the Chickasaw Cultural Center.
The Honor Garden architecture is an original design by the Chickasaw Nation graphic design team of Harley Lewis, Stacy Lane, Jeannie Barbour and David Ballard. The design is inspired by the four directions and incorporates spiral symbols indicative of traditional Chickasaw culture. It also features swirling walls and DMX lighting that can create 1,600 lighting combinations.
At the center of the garden is a granite fountain adorned with copper feathers and natural stone. Built as an official Oklahoma Centennial Project, the fountain sits in a pool of flowing water which is directed down a path through the garden and then seemingly disappears into the landscape.
Construction of the Honor Garden and the fountain, which began in 2007 and concluded in 2009, was overseen by the tribal Division of Housing and Tribal Development, which was also involved in the planning and development of the entire project.
1999 Hall of Fame Inductee Neal McCaleb said it was “inspirational” to him and his family to be in the Honor Garden with his great-grandfather Colbert Ashalatubbi Burris.
Mr. Burris, who played a key role in the Chickasaw history by serving as an interpreter for the Dawes Commission at the enrollment of the Chickasaws, was posthumously inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame in 1994. He died in 1907.
“The Honor Garden is going to give us a firm foundation of our history and that will point the way to the future,” Mr. McCaleb said.