Tourism/Native American Heritage Month
By J.D. Colbert
Legend has it that a long time ago the Chickasaw Nation once owned a bank called “The Bank of the Chickasaws”. What isn’t so legendary is that an employee of the bank absconded with about $40,000 in cash that caused the bank to come to financial ruin in 1907.
There is no evidence that the Chickasaw Nation ever owned this bank. Nor is there any evidence to support that the bank was actually named “The Bank of the Chickasaws”. We do know that a “Tishomingo Bank” of Tishomingo, Indian Territory was organized in May, 1901.
Interestingly the president of Tishomingo Bank was R.H. Harris, a former governor of the Chickasaw Nation. The bank board included the then current governor of the Chickasaw Nation, the National Secretary and an individual then serving as Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Nation.
Tishomingo Bank was designated as the official depository of the Chickasaw Nation by an act of the tribal legislature on November 7, 1901. Given the cross-over of various Chickasaw Nation officials serving on the board of directors of the bank it is understandable that many would conclude that “Tishomingo Bank” was owned by Chickasaw Nation. However, the bank was privately owned, albeit by Chickasaw citizens many of whom served as elected officials of the Nation.
Despite that, apparently all went well until November, 1907. Recall that in these last dying days of Indian Territory, the Chickasaw Nation and the various tribes were in the process of being “dissolved” (or so it was thought!) to make way for Oklahoma statehood.
My guess is that the greedy cashier was astute enough to realize that if he were to steal the tribe’s deposits at the bank, the newly appointed law enforcement personnel of Oklahoma would only make token efforts at giving chase. Sadly the thief got away with the loot. Nobody was ever indicted or prosecuted.
Far from being “dissolved” the Chickasaw Nation is some 60,000 citizens strong and a powerhouse in business and government services. Unlike in 1907 Chickasaw Nation does today own a bank. Bank2 is prosperous and growing and has developed a widely respect niche with regard to making Native American home loans nationwide.
What a difference 110 years makes! Now if only the missing $40,000 would turn up with interest.
JD Colbert has a 40-year banking and finance career and was the first ever Native American federal bank examiner. He has served on the boards of five banks and served as president of two banks, including Native American Bank, where he was also CEO. He has been a financial advisor in the formation of a number of tribally owned banks. He is currently a candidate for Congress and president and CEO of Holisso Hakv Inc., www.holissohakv.com, a banking and mergers and acquisitions financial advisory firm. Colbert may be contacted at 469-359-7008 (office), 918-758-8050 (cell) or firstname.lastname@example.org.