MC Welcomes 2008 Choctaw Indian Princess
September 8, 2008Choctaw Indian Princess Tia Faye Anderson feels blessed to be a member of a new family, the Mississippi College Choctaws.
As an MC freshman this fall, Anderson, 18, is proud of her Choctaw heritage and enjoys telling her classmates and professors about the strengths of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Based near Philadelphia, the tribe has about 10,000 members in Mississippi and around the United States.
"We are the only federally recognized tribe in Mississippi," Anderson says. An ambassador for the Choctaw tribe since her crowning at the annual Choctaw Indian Fair in July, she tells of a Choctaw nation that employs about 8,000 people at resort hotels, golf courses, a nursing home, water park and other businesses in East Mississippi.
Much has changed over the past few decades with the revitalization of jobs, educational opportunities, housing, healthcare and a tremendous boost for the tribe's overall standard of living, said Tribal Miko Bealsey Denson. "There was a time in the not-too-distant past when the Choctaw people faced severe economic hardship, dire health challenges, dependence upon the federal government for even their basic needs, and little hope for their future," he said on the tribe's Web site. Today, the Choctaw Indian Reservation contains about 35,000 acres of land situated in ten Mississippi counties. The tribe is spread among eight recognized Choctaw Indian communities, says the tribe's Web site.
Part of Tia Anderson's job for a year at the 2008 Choctaw Indian Princess will be to travel with Denson and spread the message of the tribe's accomplishments and culture to Mississippi and other states. She also will be preaching the benefits of a college education to friends and family at the reservation in the Magnolia State. She will take her message to Mississippi College that is nicknamed for the Choctaws to celebrate the tribe's history, culture and contributions.
"I'm part of something they know a little bit about and I tell them more about our Choctaw nation," she said. Anderson said she loves being part of a rich legacy and serving as a role model to a younger generation.
A future lawyer, Anderson says, "I want to get my education so that I can work for and with my Tribe. I want to motivate children to get their education and be successful in life."
Members of the tribe have been attending such colleges as Mississippi State University, East Central Community College, MC, Meridian Community College and others over the years. Scholarships from the tribe make it possible for them to get a college education. Today, about 85 percent of the Tribal members speak Choctaw as their first language and English as a second language.
The daughter of Ricky Anderson Sr. from the Red Water Community and Trina Faye (Bell) Anderson from the Pearl River Community, Tia says college is definitely harder than high school, but she's making the adjustment. Tia is a 2008 honors graduate of Choctaw Central High where she was Ms. CCHS, Homecoming Queen, Beta president, vice president of her senior class, a Mississippi Scholar and much more. She served as a page at the Mississippi House during the 2008 session, and received the Youth of the Year Award from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians' Boys and Girls Club.
At MC, Tia is already immersed in the spirit of volunteerism and civic duty. On Thursday, she joined in a Mississippi Blood Services drive on the MC campus. In her spare time, she enjoys beading traditional Choctaw regalia, dancing, and meeting new people.
Deciding to attend MC really wasn't a tough decision. She considered other college options in the state, but found MC a good fit. "MC is a Christian university. It's not too big and not too small."
One MC graduate, Syrus Ben, now serves on the Choctaws' Tribal Council. It was the influence of Ben and other MC students with ties to the tribe that also encouraged her to become an MC Choctaw in late August. MC officials are delighted with her choice.
"We are pleased to have students from the Choctaw nation enrolled at MC," said Jim Turcotte, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management. "It is our hope we can enroll more in the future."
Tia Anderson will have a busy fall, with appearances taking her to the Mississippi State Fair in Jackson in early October plus trips to visit Indian tribes in states like Oklahoma, Louisiana and Florida. But she won't need to go far to converse with friends from the reservation. Her MC roommate, Jacobi Berg, is also a member of the Choctaw tribe.
Tia Anderson is not only making new friends at MC. She's getting better acquainted with family members at the same time. Her second cousin, Angelina Martin, 29, is a sophomore enrolled in paralegal studies at MC. The Choctaw, Miss. resident and tribe member speaks highly of Tia. "She's very smart and outgoing. She will make a good lawyer," Martin said.
Martin, like Anderson, found MC appealing as a Christian university. "I'm from a Christian family," said the transfer from East Central Community College. She wants to learn more about the Bible and that attracted her to MC. "I love it so far."
She hopes more members of the tribe take classes at Mississippi College.
Ties between 183-year-old MC and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians run deep.
Baptist-affiliated MC has utilized the Choctaws' name since the 1920s. MC athletic teams before that time called themselves the Mississippi Collegians or the Gold and Blue. A contest to change the name left school supporters with four top choices. The "Dutchies" for Dr. Dutchy Provine, the Warriors, Yellow Jackets and the Choctaws, name of the state's largest Indian tribe. The Clinton campus is located in what was Choctaw territory. The old Indian trail that passed through campus became the Natchez Trace.
President Lee Royce is glad to see the partnership between MC and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. "We are very appreciative of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians' support of our use of the Choctaw name, and look forward to continuing our mutual relationship of respect and cooperation," Royce said. The MC president made those remarks in 2006 at a time when some around the nation raised questions about the use of Indian nicknames at colleges and universities nationwide. "Mississippi College is honored to continue to be known as the Choctaws," Royce said.
The friendship continues on. MC's Homecoming Oct. 24-25 celebrates Mississippi College's ties to the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
As the winner of the tribe's 53rd annual pageant, Tia Anderson relishes the role of promoting awareness of the tribe wherever she goes. Wearing the crown of princess is a dream for many young girls growing up on the reservation. Competing to be Choctaw Princess for the first time, Tia competed in formal evening gowns, traditional dresses, and interviews. The Choctaw, Mississippi resident spoke to the audience about the heritage of her tribe's culture before her selection at the Choctaw Indian Fair.
PHOTO: Choctaw Indian Princess Tia Faye Anderson