ADA – East Central University professor Scott Ketchum contributed to and narrated an award-winning film about the last Choctaw removal to Oklahoma in 1902-1903. Ketchum is a descendant of a Choctaw citizen that was removed to Ardmore in 1903 and shares the story of his great-grandfather’s journey to Oklahoma from Mississippi.
Ketchum is the director of the Native American Studies program at ECU. He is also a research scientist, cultural anthropologist, and an environmental anthropologist.
The film, Ikhaiyana La Chi (I Will Remember) tells previously unknown stories of the removal to Atoka and Ardmore by cattle train and the cultural impact it had on the Choctaw people. The people survived that brutal winter in a dilapidated warehouse called the Love Building. The building is now in ruins. The door to the building, called the Love Door, is on display at the Choctaw Cultural Center.
The Ardmore story is a part of the Trail of Tears journeys, explained Deanna Byrd, NAGPRA Liaison for Historic Preservation Office, and Misty Madbull, Director of the Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department. Byrd said, "For Choctaw people, we see a full 70-year plus span for the Trail of Tears. A lot of people think it was just in the 1830s and it was not. We had many Choctaw people removed from Mississippi in the 1840s, 1850s, 1860s, all the way up to the last removal of 1903. When we think of the Trail of Tears, we need to remember all of the Trails or Removals. In this way, we honor all the ancestors who came."
Mark Williams, a Mississippi and Oklahoma Choctaw, from Bennington, Oklahoma, is the filmmaker responsible for "Ikhaiyana La Chi." Williams went to Choctaw elders to get stories from families that have been passed down through the generations. The Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department and Williams were able to emphasize the resilience of the Choctaw people.
The 36-minute short film has been receiving astounding recognition since its premiere. It has received the award for Achievement in Native Film Making at the 2021 NatiVisions Film Festival in Parker, Arizona and received recognition from the Bare Bones Film Festival as well.
It received the Achievement in Short Filmmaking award at the L.A. Skins Festival in Los Angeles. "Ikhaiyana La Chi" also recently won the award for Best American Indian/First Nation/Indigenous Feature at the Will Rogers Motion Picture Festival in Claremore, Oklahoma.
Screenings have taken place in Wichita, Kansas at the alterNative Film Festival as the featured film and at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco. It has also been screened at the Fort Smith International Film Festival and the Holba Pisachi Native Film Festival. The deadCenter Film Festival virtually screened the film on their website and it replayed during the month of November for Native American Month.
The film is shown at the Choctaw Cultural Center in Durant, Oklahoma. Call ahead at (833) 708-9582 for a schedule, to reserve for a group showing or visit the website at choctawculturalcenter.com/. It can also be viewed online at choctawnation.com/tribal-services/cultural-services/historic-preservation.