DURANT, OK – An August signing ceremony between a Bureau of Indian Affairs representative and Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby formalized Fort Washita being placed in trust with the U.S. government. The Chickasaw Nation owned site, located in Bryan County, OK, is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has earned the distinction of being designated a National Historic Landmark.
Governor Anoatubby said Fort Washita and the Chickasaw people have a shared history that is traced back to the earliest stages, when the fort was constructed not long after tribal citizens arrived in Indian Territory.
“This is a historic occasion for the Chickasaw Nation to take this historic property in trust,” said Governor Anoatubby. “Its history and our history are intertwined. It was a time when there was substantial change for the Chickasaw people and the Chickasaw Nation. Its history dates back to the beginnings of the Chickasaw Nation in Indian Territory. It was built in 1842. It was the country’s southwestern-most military post. There were several outside threats and the fort needed to be in place. We were brand-new in Indian Territory and it was important that we have peace and we, as a nation, began to establish ourselves in Indian Territory.”
Governor Anoatubby said Fort Washita served its purposes as a United States military post until the start of the Civil War when, in 1861, it was occupied by Confederate forces for the duration of the war. “In 1865, the Confederates, when they were leaving the area, set fire to the fort as they fled at the end of the war and the fort was nearly entirely destroyed,” said Governor Anoatubby.
After the war, Fort Washita was granted to the Chickasaw Nation until Oklahoma statehood in 1907 when the Dawes Commission allotted it and its surrounding land to Charles and Abbie Davis Colbert and their family. In 1962, the property was acquired by the Oklahoma Historical Society that began restoration of the fort as a historic site and museum. Unfortunately, a restored barracks was later destroyed by vandals.
“In 2017, the Chickasaw Nation was fortunate enough to acquire the fort from the Oklahoma Historical Society and we’re going to continue the restoration efforts,” said Governor Anoatubby. “We are very fortunate to have this property and we welcome thousands of visitors for tours, reenactments and events. Placing this land in trust is important for us. It will ensure that it is preserved for our children and grandchildren. We appreciate the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and all involved in the process. We appreciate those who have overseen and protected it.”
Diane Jobe, Chickasaw Agency Superintendent of Eastern Oklahoma Region Bureau of Indian Affairs, was present for the signing. “On behalf of the Eastern Oklahoma Region and the Chickasaw Agency, we want to congratulate the Chickasaw Nation on this historic acquisition,” said Superintendent Jobe.
The land was formerly in fee status and therefore under state jurisdiction. Governor Anoatubby said the numerous arduous steps of placing it in trust now gives the Chickasaw Nation jurisdiction. Putting property in trust means it is actually in the name of the United States of America, held in trust for the Chickasaw Nation. That transitions it to federal property in much the same way Tinker Air Force Base, Fort Sill or the Chickasaw National Recreation Area are.
In the case of Fort Washita, the United States government leaves it in the hands of the Chickasaw Nation to manage. Fort Washita is located within the Chickasaw Nation, 13 miles east of Madill or 16 miles west of Durant, OK, at 3348 State Road 199.