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HPPR Arts, Culture & History

The Anniversary of a Chickasaw Performance in FDR's White House

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The Ada News

This week marked the 83rd anniversary of the first White House performance by the Chickasaw storyteller Te Ata. Te Ata was a graduate of the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, reports The Ada News. She performed at the first state dinner of Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency in 1933.

The native storyteller was a close friend of Eleanor Roosevelt. Te Ata earned international fame presenting a one-woman show of American Indian heritage and culture to audiences across the United States, Canada and Europe. Not bad for a girl who was born in the tiny town of Emet in the Chickasaw Nation.

In fact, when Te Ata was born, Oklahoma wasn’t even a state. Her birth name was Mary Thompson, but an elderly aunt gave her the name Te Ata, which means “bearer of the morning.” After earning her drama degree at USAO, Te Ata eventually began acting in New York musical productions, where she befriended the future First Lady.