From the Pulpit to the Presses

The Enduring Spirit of the Chickasaw People

He was a pastor and activist. She was a pillar of the community in her own right, whose determination would help revitalize the Chickasaw language, and the mother of a man who would help lead the nation into a new era. Together, Jesse and Vinnie May (Sadie) Humes would effect lasting change from the pulpit to the presses. Reverend Jesse Humes was rooted in the community during the early 20th century, when the Chickasaw government was severely restricted and challenged. He saw first-hand the poverty, the problems that federal termination, relocation and assimilation policies had created. Witnessing the kind of struggles that can inspire a man’s life mission, he was determined to do what he could to make a lasting impact.

Associated with the grassroots Seeley Chapel movement, Reverend Humes' efforts were also an inspiration to Overton James, who would ultimately become governor of the Chickasaw Nation, a milestone and first step in the events leading up to the reestablishment of the sovereign government of the Chickasaw Nation. Although educated, James was not taught the Chickasaw language like so many in his generation and turned to his mother Vinnie May and Jesse to begin the process of preserving a language that had never been published. With an English dictionary as a guide, a kitchen table and iron resolve, the work began. Since its publication, A Chickasaw Dictionary has become a staple for fluent speakers and students, contributing to the preservation of the language for generations to come.