The The Chickasaw Nation opened the Bloomfield Academy for girls in 1852, near today’s town of Achille in Oklahoma’s Bryan County. It was among five boarding schools the Chickasaw Nation opened after first writing into law the foundation of a tribal academy called the Chickasaw Manual Labor Academy in 1844. Those other schools included the Collins Institute for boys as well as the Wapanucka and Burney Institutes for girls .
Bloomfield Academy was established within Indian Territory for the benefit of Chickasaw children. Upon opening, it served 25 pupils .
The tribe supplied most of the funds while Protestant missionaries controlled the schools’ operations, hiring teachers from New England colleges and academies .
Types of training
Students at Bloomfield Academy pursued training in the English language and alphabet, spelling, reading, writing and arithmetic. Topics such as natural philosophy, grammar and botany were introduced as students advanced .
The curriculum at Bloomfield Academy extended past academic endeavors and involved social, domestic and religious components. Students received a basic education as well as instruction in drawing, painting, vocal music, sewing, cooking and housework. Missionaries emphasized the religious curriculum, which involved scripture memorization. .
As part of attending such boarding schools while managed by missionaries, First American students were disallowed to exhibit many aspects of their culture. For example, they were not allowed to speak the Chickasaw language at school. The faculty aimed to enact an “acculturation” or “civilization” process. Such practices continued until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, which brought about the closure of boarding schools .
Chickasaws assume operation
In 1876, after the war, the Chickasaws reopened their boarding schools and fully controlled their operation. Chickasaw leaders shaped the institutions’ curricula. Bloomfield’s academic curriculum became known as an equivalent to junior college. Domestic education, previously used to “civilize” the First American students, was absent during this time. Students learned about art, speech, music, theater and dancing .
Photo courtesy of the Chickasaw Council House Museum
Amanda Cobb in the Oklahoma Historical Society archives writes:
“Bloomfield enjoyed such a good reputation that the school was termed ‘the Bryn Mawr of the West.’ Bloomfield graduates were known as ‘the Bloomfield Blossoms.’ The course of study was designed to educate students to become leaders, to participate in both Indian and white communities, and to help Chickasaws transcend significant social and economic boundaries” .
Chickasaw Governor Douglas Henry Johnston was a student of the academy and served as the school superintendent from 1884 to 1897 .
While Governor Johnston was superintendent, he strived to popularize education among the Chickasaw people. As a result, the Chickasaw Legislature created a grant of per month for the maintenance of each pupil, drawing in families of students who settled in the immediate vicinity of Bloomfield .
State educational system
This “golden age” of Chickasaw boarding schools lasted until Oklahoma statehood in 1907. At that point, the U.S. government took control of the schools with the Curtis Act of 1898. By 1907, the government developed a state educational system by using the schools of the Chickasaws, Choctaws, Cherokee, Muscogee and Seminole as models .
Bloomfield Academy, the pride of the Chickasaws, was the last remaining Chickasaw boarding school. It maintained operation until 1949, though not under Chickasaw control .
Mary Frances “Te Ata” Thompson Fisher at Bloomfield
Mary Frances Thompson Fisher, known as “Te Ata” (pronounced TAY’ AH-TAH), was a woman who traversed cultural barriers to become one of the greatest First American performers of all time .
Born in Indian Territory and raised 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 .
Te Ata first learned of the beauty and wisdom of First American culture from her father, Thomas, who told her a variety of First American her mother, Bertie, who taught her about useful and medicinal plants .
She attended Bloomfield Academy as a young girl and graduated from Tishomingo High School. While it was unusual at that time for a woman to attend college, Te Ata gained reluctant support from her father to attend the Oklahoma College for Women (OCW) in Chickasha .
With a career as an entertainer and storyteller that spanned six decades, Te Ata earned international fame presenting a unique one-woman show of First American heritage and culture .
The Chickasaw Nation Productions’ film “Te Ata” shares her story of breaking cultural barriers and changing public perception during a storied career that spanned from the 1920s through the 1980s .
Q'orianka Kilcher portrays Te Ata, and Gil Birmingham is cast as Te Ata’s father, Thomas Benjamin (T.B.) Thompson. Oscar-nominee Graham Greene plays Chickasaw Nation Governor Douglas H. Johnston .
Directed by Nathan Frankowski and produced by Paul Sirmons, several award-winning First American actors helped bring the story based on Te Ata’s life to the silver screen .
 Cobb, Amanda, "Oklahoma Historical Society," [Online]. Available: https://bit.ly/3GNZyi9. [Accessed 8 10 2021].
 OKgenweb, "OKgenweb," [Online]. Available: https://bit.ly/3nVZeFj. [Accessed 8 10 2021].
 Moore, George W, "Oklahoma Historical Society," [Online]. Available: https://bit.ly/2ZZAvYK. [Accessed 8 10 2021].
 Te Ata Movie.com. [Film]. Chickasaw Nation Productions, 2014.
 M. Relations, "Chickasaw Nation Celebrates Womens History Month," Chickasaw Nation, 3 3 2021. [Online]. Available: https://bit.ly/3bMJQVS. [Accessed 8 10 2021].
 Relations, Media, "Chickasaw Nation," 27 9 2017. [Online]. Available: ”https://bit.ly/3wfpEpn. [Accessed 8 10 2021].