Te Ata, also known as Mary Frances Thompson Fisher, was born in the Chickasaw Nation near Tishomingo in 1895 and achieved national and international acclaim as a storyteller, helping preserve tales from her own Chickasaw tribe as well as other Native stories. She was recognized by the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1958, and in 1987, Te Ata was named Oklahoma’s first Cultural Treasure by Gov. Henry Bellmon and the Oklahoma Arts Council. She died in 1995, just a few days before her 100th birthday.
In 1933 Te Ata performed for the first state dinner given by Pres. Franklin Roosevelt. Many of her performances in the 1930s were at summer camps throughout New England and New York state. In 1939 she performed again for the Roosevelts at their home in Hyde Park, New York, on the occasion of a state visit by the king and queen of Great Britain. Later, Te Ata toured Europe, giving performances for royal families and heads of state. The Fishers traveled in South America and extensively in the United States, often observing Native ceremonies and learning different traditions. Te Ata incorporated these experiences in performances later in her storytelling.
Below: "A portrait of Chickasaw storyteller Te Ata was revealed Monday at the state Capitol. The picture was dedicated in memory of the late State Senator Helen Cole."
Looks like a pattern. But then there are these:
These images suggest that Te Ata was giving audiences what they expected. In her regular life, she probably looked and dressed like anyone else. But people wouldn't have sat still for a modern woman in an evening gown. They wanted a maiden wearing buckskins, feathers, and moccasins.
For more on the subject, see Native Plays and Other Stage Shows.