Te Ata, movie star touch young girl's life

by Gene Lehmann, Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

Release Date: October 02, 2017


TULSA, Okla. – Cerrenah Chesbro waited a year to meet her hero, “Te Ata.”

The Coweta Southside Elementary School third-grader lightly stroked a homemade gift for Q’orianka Kilcher, the actress who brought “Te Ata” to life in the Chickasaw Nation feature film of the same name.

It was a Peruvian-designed bracelet of finely netted rope intertwined with native seeds cascading through it.

Cerrenah and her father, Clay, were the first in line at the Circle Cinema’s Red Carpet “Te Ata” premiere. While the soft-spoken 8-year-old was patient, her wait was agonizing.

The theatre soon overflowed with a sold-out crowd of movie lovers.

Patrons anxious for the opportunity to meet the stars of the movie and have photos snapped quickly packed the area leading to the red carpet.

Meeting Te Ata

The father and daughter first saw “Te Ata” more than a year ago at a special screening at Tulsa’s famed Gilcrease Museum.

“She immediately connected with Te Ata,” Mr. Chesbro said of Cerrenah. “She explored and studied her and her storytelling. She was infatuated with Q’orianka Kilcher.”

“She was very brave. She was very confident to show who she was and was loyal to her tribe,” Cerrenah said of Te Ata Thompson Fisher, born in 1895 in rural Indian Territory.

Te Ata acted on Broadway and toured the world performing for royalty, a U.S. President and people of all ages. She was one of the most important and influential Native American performers of her day.

“She was awesome,” Cerrenah said of Te Ata Thompson Fisher.

Cerrenah said she sees Kilcher as the full embodiment of Te Ata. She will only know the true Te Ata through historical accounts and the feature film. “Te Ata” is in select Oklahoma theatres now and will be opening nationwide soon.

Mr. Chesbro spoke of the positive impact “Te Ata” had on his daughter, who possesses Inca blood from her mother, Miriam.

“When we learned we could meet the cast (at the Circle Cinema showing Sept. 28), she was so excited. It is so difficult for her to find role models she looks up to,” Mr. Chesbro observed. “She tends to gravitate toward her people – Native people. Te Ata is a positive role model. We were not aware Te Ata was from Oklahoma until we saw the movie. That’s the thing, they don’t teach our children about Native Americans in school.”

Giving the Gift

After a long wait, Cerrenah caught sight of Kilcher. “There she is daddy.” Cerrenah’s eyes sparked and she began shuffling her feet rapidly in a kind of nervous energy tap-dance. Then the magic moment happened as the rope was released and the Chesbros stepped toward Kilcher.

“I have something for you,” Cerrenah whispered. She produced the bracelet and Kilcher knelt down to accept it with a wide smile.

“It’s beautiful. Thank you,” Kilcher told Cerrenah as the two securely tied the bracelet to the movie star’s right wrist. Kilcher embraced Cerrenah in a tight hug then posed for pictures with her.

After lingering on the red carpet to also greet stars MacKenzie Astin, who portrays Te Ata’s husband, Dr. Clyde Fisher, and Cindy Pickett, an Oklahoma native who stars as Te Ata’s drama teacher, Francis Davis, the father and daughter headed for the concession stand.

“That was nice,” Mr. Chesbro remarked to Cerrenah.

“It was awesome,” was Cerrenah’s reaction.

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