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Press Release

Release Date: August 12, 2020

by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

  • Ashley Creek demonstrates various Chickasaw art forms to relate the story of First Americans to the general public. Chickasaw elder Robert Perry joined her at The Gathering in 2017, a two-day event featuring First Americans, while in Virginia.

Learning a new language is difficult, especially if you live 1,200 miles away from the nearest fluent speaker. Ashley Creek has not only overcome the obstacles of learning the Chickasaw language, but continues to influence others by sharing the stories and experiences of First Americans.

Growing up in West Virginia, Creek was physically away from the tribe she considers “more than family.” With many of her ancestors hailing from Milburn, Oklahoma, Creek felt spiritually disconnected from her Chickasaw community.

“My Chickasaw heritage comes from my father’s side of the family,” Creek said. “I am descended from the Mosley and Culberson family. My great-grandmother grew up in the Milburn area before moving elsewhere.”

With the help of technology, Creek is able to close the distance between herself and those she longs to be near. Using tools provided by the Chickasaw Nation on the internet, social media, smartphone apps and video conferencing, Creek feels she has shortened the distance between herself and the Chickasaw Nation.

In 2015, Creek became involved in the Chickasaw Nation’s Language Revitalization Program. Currently twice a week, she attends video classes with others to learn new words and phrases. Talking with master linguists and fellow students, she is able to ask and hear how to pronounce Chickasaw words correctly.

“I am a volunteer at the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum,” Creek said. “There was a First American event coming up about the time I started language classes. My supervisor knew of my First American heritage and asked if I could run a table. I suggested we do one better: That we try storytelling and create games utilizing the Chickasaw language to be played at the table. It was exciting.”

On a daily basis, Creek uses the Anompa Chickasaw Language Basic app, as well as Rosetta Stone Chickasaw. Both apps are available at no charge to Chickasaw citizens; she finds them an easy resource to help on her quest of becoming a fluent, conversational speaker. Learning the stories within the AYA Your Fitness Journey app has motivated her to move more.

“Instead of learning from traditional textbooks, we have transitioned into comprehension classes taught through video conferencing,” Creek said. “Our goal is to create conversational speakers. I really enjoy the special grammar classes I attend on Wednesday. Joshua Hinson is available for us to ask questions, and as a group we try to work out any problems we have.”

Creek believes learning her language, culture and heritage, and educating others is an altruistic act. She trusts the time she is able to devote to learning and teaching others is her way of giving back to society.

“Learning the language is an everyday job for me,” Creek said. “From the time I get up until the time I go to sleep I am studying. My great-great-grandmother was the last fluent speaker in my family. She died when I was 12. Because of racial issues of the 20th century, she was not able to pass her knowledge on. My great-grandmother taught me what little she knew and heavily encouraged me to reclaim our language. She gave me the name ‘Holisso Pisa,’ which means ‘the student.’”

Leveraging her knowledge for education

Creek enjoys the time she spends volunteering. She feels it is important people understand the many different cultures of First Americans, with their unique experiences and contributions made to the country.

Creek spends countless hours organizing events to take place throughout the year at the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum. On average, Creek is involved with more than a dozen speaking engagements a year.

These include engagements at other museums, public schools and cultural festivals, among others.

“I spend the majority of my time in the Eastern Woodlands longhouse in the Shenandoah Museum,” Creek said. “Wearing Chickasaw regalia, I am asked a lot of questions. I am happy to share our story. I also demonstrate weaving and tell traditional Chickasaw stories.”

It is important to Creek to wear traditional regalia while talking to others. While not a tailor, herself, she makes sure she represents the Chickasaw Nation in a respectable manner at all events.

“I am not much of a seamstress,” Creek said. “I have issues with dexterity, but I was able to get instructions online, and a trusted friend of mine helped me put my first dress together. Since then, I have purchased another.”

Creek says the stories she tells have come from books, people and Chickasaw.TV.

“I tell Chickasaw stories,” Creek said. “I have talked to several elders who have passed them on to me, as well as having read various books. I have memorized a few from Chickasaw.TV, as well.”

Local support of Creek’s endeavors has been outstanding. She relies on others to transport her to and from the museum, as well as taking her to other speaking engagements.

“It makes me very happy to share our stories with others,” Creek said. “I have a strong network of people that I can ask for rides. The community is very supportive of my endeavors.”