The first Chickasaw Princess
September 11, 2020
Chickasaw Princesses have a history going back generations within the Chickasaw Nation. They've traditionally represented their tribe at the Chickasaw Nation Annual Meeting and Festival and at various events in communities across the Chickasaw Nation and United States. The first was 1963's Ranell (James) Harry of Tulsa, Oklahoma. During her reign, she had many responsibilities and duties, including representing the Chickasaw Nation during U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson's inaugural parade.
Chickasaw Princesses have played a vital role representing the Chickasaw Nation. As the first princess and the only one serving multiple terms until this year, Ms. Harry maintained the title from 1963-1967, when it was decided Chickasaw Princesses would reign for one-year intervals.
Ms. Harry is the daughter of Overton and Evelyn James. At the time she was selected to be Chickasaw Princess, her father was the Chickasaw Nation Governor.
"You have to understand that there was no selection process in the beginning," Ms. Harry said. "My dad was appointed as Governor in 1963. That meant by default I became princess. Young people today do not understand that back then we did not have the programs and services we have today. I am proud of my dad, and what he and Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby have accomplished over the years."
According to Ms. Harry, it is something special to have been named the first Chickasaw princess. She humbly describes what it was like in those early years.
"It was a great honor to be princess," she said.
Upon completing her duties as Chickasaw princess, Ms. Harry attended college at Drake University in Iowa. Like her father, Ms. Harry is committed to the betterment of all First Americans. She returned home to teach school in Oklahoma, until she ultimately settled on a career with the Oklahoma City Area Indian Health Service. Working for the Indian Health Service for 29 years, she finished her civil service as director of planning and partnership development.
Ms. Harry has a daughter, Dedra Phillips, and is the proud grandmother to Katelyn, Christopher and Channing.
Today, young ladies seek the title of Chickasaw princess in a pageant where they display talent, poise and knowledge of Chickasaw culture. They serve as ambassadors of friendship and goodwill. Traveling to more than 40 events across several states, these ambassadors bring honor and pride to the Chickasaw Nation.
"I am sure princesses have a lot of duties now," Ms. Harry said. "They have many activities and opportunities for them to represent the tribe. I think that is wonderful."
Chickasaw Princesses are selected each year at the Chickasaw Princess Pageant during Chickasaw Nation Annual Meeting and Festival. As Chickasaw Princesses their first events to attend are throughout the week including cultural evening, the parade and Governor's State of the Nation address.
The Chickasaw Nation Annual Meeting and Festival is a time of reunion, fellowship and cultural renewal. Due to COVID-19 precautions, last year's reigning Chickasaw princesses have been asked to serve another year. Current princesses include Chickasaw Princess Markita Rose McCarty, Chickasaw Junior Princess Brenlee Underwood and Little Miss Chickasaw Kensey Carter.
For a complete list of virtual events and activities, visit AnnualMeeting.Chickasaw.net.