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"Bearer of the Morning" documentary to debut at Treaty Day Film Festival

by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office, Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

Release Date: January 17, 2018


BELLINGHAM, Washington -- Chickasaw Nation Productions’ new documentary “Bearer of the Morning – The Life of Te Ata Thompson Fisher,” will have its first public screening Saturday, Jan. 20, during the Treaty Day Film Festival, at the Pickford Film Center, 1318 Bay Street, Bellingham, Washington.

Born in Indian Territory in 1895, Mary Thompson Fisher was known as “Te Ata” (Bearing of the Morning), during her long and distinguished career entertaining audiences across the globe.

Throughout her travels and performances, Te Ata kept her Chickasaw heritage close to her heart and shared the unique story and spirit of the Chickasaw people.

By studying and performing traditional Native American stories, she challenged negative stereotypes and advocated the preservation of Indigenous American cultures.

Set to be released in March to coincide with Women’s History Month, “Bearer of the Morning,” traces Te Ata’s footsteps from her Chickasaw roots in Indian Territory to the New York social scene and White House performances. It also offers details about her international travels in her later years.

Using archival footage, family interviews and Te Ata’s own words, the documentary offers a rare glimpse into Te Ata’s personal life and her personal mission of sharing and promoting Native American culture worldwide.

Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said the documentary is designed to help continue Te Ata’s legacy as one of the greatest Native American Storytellers of all time.

“Te Ata was a great ambassador for Chickasaw people, Oklahomans and for all Native Americans. She stands as a shining example of how artistic expression can change hearts and minds in a way that helps bring people together,” he said.

Narrated by Peter Coyote, the approximately 60-minute documentary, was produced and filmed entirely by Chickasaw Nation Productions.

While researching the project, filmmakers scoured the archives of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., as well as the American Museum of Natural History, Bear Mountain State Park, and Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in New York, the Western Heritage Collection at the University of Oklahoma, the Chickasaw Council House Museum in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, and the Thompson Family Collection. 

The film includes never-before-released footage of one of Te Ata’s performances, discovered at Te Ata’s alma mater, the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, Chickasha. It also includes rare video footage of Te Ata’s performance at Hyde Park, New York, for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

In addition, several members of the Thompson family, including Te Ata’s great-nephew U.S. Congressman Tom Cole, share intimate stories of the famed Chickasaw storyteller in the documentary. History scholars and longtime acquaintances of Te Ata also provide unique insight into Te Ata’s 60-plus year career.

Her dedication to educating children and quest to serve as a Native American ambassador is also detailed through personal stories, photographs and rare video footage.

“Bearer of the Morning – The Life of Te Ata Thompson Fisher” will be available in March on DVD and Blu-ray.

Chickasaw Heritage Series

“Bearer of the Morning – The Life of Te Ata Thompson Fisher” is the second film released as a Chickasaw Heritage Series project. The first film, “First Encounter” chronicles the Chickasaw Nation’s initial contact with Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in the winter of 1540 and the battle that crippled the conquistador’s mission in spring 1541.

The Chickasaw Heritage Series is a video project initiative designed to inform, educate and entertain audiences about the resilient and persevering spirit of the Chickasaw Nation.

For more information, please visit chickasawfilms.com.

About the Treaty Day Film Festival

The Treaty Day Film Festival celebrates Native American-themed movies while commemorating the anniversary of Treaty signing between the Lummi Nation and the United States of America.

The festival is co-sponsored by the Pickford Theater and Children of the Setting Sun Productions.

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit https://www.pickfordfilmcenter.org/programs/pickford/2018-treaty-day-festival/.

About the Chickasaw Nation