Step by step, Native Chickasaw dancers joined hands and danced rhythmically to the rattles of turtle shells strapped onto deerskin moccasins, stomping their feet in unison and chanting songs their ancestors sang long ago.

The official dance troupe of the Chickasaw Nation from Oklahoma returned to their cultural homelands for a night of dancing and celebration of the ties between DeSoto County and the Chickasaw Nation.

Approximately 80 individuals joined in the dancing and camaraderie at the DeSoto County Museum.

"This celebration has given our community a firsthand opportunity to learn about the Chickasaw culture," said DeSoto County Museum Board of Directors President Rebecca Thompson. "We hope that everyone who came out enjoyed the event."

Following an effort that began in 2010, the dance troupe and a delegation of Chickasaw have returned to DeSoto County every two years to dance in schools and at the DeSoto County Museum, site of Thursday's event.

Jacob Dawson, senior manager with the Chickasaw Inkana Foundation, based in Tupelo, said the Inkana Foundation was pleased with Thursday night's turnout.

"It was excellent," said Dawson. "DeSoto County has a real feel for Native American culture, especially the Chickasaw culture that is there. I know that the Chickasaw Nation enjoys being able to come out and show that culture. Inkana means friend in Chickasaw. We want to make those relationships with people and build upon those relationships."

The Chickasaw Nation, based now in Oklahoma, once had more than 25,000 people living in the region that now includes DeSoto County.

The Chickasaw Heritage Center in Tupelo, which will help tell the Chickasaw story, is still in the planning stages.

"We're still finalizing the design and floor plan of the facility and we'll begin raising funds for the center soon," Dawson said.

The Mississippi Hills Heritage Alliance hosted the group on Tuesday and Thursday's event at the DeSoto County Museum marks the only other stop for

The native Chickasaw called DeSoto County home for thousands of years before they were forced to leave their cultural homelands following the Indian Removal Act passed by Congress.

The last delegation of Chickasaw, numbering about 4,000, left from a flotilla departing from the Chickasaw Bluffs at Memphis on July 4, 1834.

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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