3/26/22 – Te Ata: I watched this movie about a month ago. Then a second time a week later, and now it’s on my list to watch again. It wasn’t just a good movie. It let me peek into Te Ata’s world and understand her point of view.
Two scenes stayed with me. The first – a young Te Ata sees an argument between an Indian and a white settler. I knew something bad was coming, but when she returns, the Indian was dead. The settler gone. I can’t imagine seeing that as an adult, let alone as a teen.
The second – Te Ata is at the theatre watching a cartoon with a funny Indian chief. At least the audience thinks so, but Te Ata has tears in her eyes, and she runs out of the theater. I realized that two worlds and two points of view collided in that moment, and I had tears in my eyes too.
I’m grateful for those insights, but I think the theme of the movie is more important. It’s about being true to yourself and finding the people who support you in your journey, whatever their race happens to be. Te Ata and her relationships gave me hope that people from different worlds could care about each other, could work together.
Te Ata (TAY' AH-TAH) is based on the inspiring true story of Mary Thompson Fisher, a woman who traversed cultural barriers to become one of the greatest Native American performers of all time. Born in Indian Territory, and raise on the songs and stories of her Chickasaw culture, Te Ata's journey to find her true calling led her through isolation, discovery, love and a stage career that culminated in performances for a United States president, European royalty and audiences across the world. Yet of all the stories she shared, none are more inspiring than her own.
The Real Te Ata: The only place I could find the real Te Ata without violating copyright – on two book covers. The first – Te Ata: Chickasaw Storyteller – American Treasure: Collector’s Edition by Richard Green. It’s online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
The second, Te Ata: Oklahoma Cultural Treasure by Pati Hailey, is no longer available on Amazon, but I wish it was. The cover makes me want to open it up and learn more about her. A few reviewers commented about the photos inside, but it’s a children’s book, and they’re known for their illustrations.
A Story from Te Ata: I reviewed Baby Rattlesnake for My Reads back in June of 2018. I picked it because of the illustrator. Mira was one of my teachers back then. I also noticed the attribution – told by Te Ata and adapted by Lynn Moroney. I wondered why it was done that way.
Now I think I understand, after learning who Te Ata was. She told her stories outloud, the way folktales have been told for centuries. My guess is that Lynn heard that folktale and wanted to write it down. Telling a story is different than writing it. I wish I had Te Ata’s original story, but I’m glad that Lynn adapted it so it won’t be lost.
Here’s the link to my review of Baby Rattlesnake: Rinda Beach - Beach Reads - Rinda Beach
To learn more about this American treasure, check out these sources:
- Te Ata: An Oklahoma Treasure | Chickasaw.tv
- Te Ata | The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture (okhistory.org)
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!