Juanita J. Keel Tate
1910 - 2012
Born in Ardmore, Oklahoma, on September 10, 1910, to Guy Keel, Chickasaw Roll No. 1866, and Lula Potts Keel, Chickasaw Roll No. 1867, Juanita was the 10th of 12 children. At birth, her father gave her the Chickasaw name of “Foshi,” which she always cherished. She was a great-great grandchild of Cyrus Harris, the first Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, and a great-grandchild of Edmund Pickens, first elected Chief of the Chickasaw Nation.
Ms. Tate started school in Hugo, Oklahoma. After her family returned to Ardmore, she attended Bloomfield Seminary before enrolling at Lincoln School. At the age of 12, she began her tenure at Chilocco Indian School, graduating in 1928. She attended and graduated from the Ardmore Business College in 1929, where she was a demonstrator of the Stenotype and a court reporter. She later attended Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and East Central College in Ada, Oklahoma.
In 1934, she was married to Ernest W. Tate, who passed away in 1981. Juanita had four children, 13 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.
Juanita was active in Chickasaw tribal affairs. She held offices in the Chickasaw-Choctaw Confederation and the Atoka Treaty Rights Association, the Tifahaya Inter-tribal Club and the Ohoyohoma Club. She was also a long-time member of the Chilocco National Alumni Association and was inducted into the Chilocco Indian School Hall of Fame in 1987. In addition, she was active as a member of the Bloomfield-Carter Seminary Alumni Association.
One matter of particular pride to her was the development of the Keel Cemetery Association in 1956, which she founded, along with her cousins, Ida “Dinah” Cobb and Sadie Keel Homer, to preserve the family cemetery north of Lebanon, Oklahoma. The cemetery was established on the allotment of Juanita’s grandmother, Winey Pickens Keel, who was the daughter of Edmund Pickens.
Always full of pride for her heritage, she turned her energies toward genealogy in 1961. She devoted herself to the study of her ancestry and encouraged family and friends to study their genealogy and preserve as much of their history as possible. She was passionate about the preservation of Chickasaw history and culture and encouraged Chickasaws to be prideful of their past.
An accomplished painter, Juanita painted portraits of Chickasaws and Choctaws as well as a number of historical Chickasaw and Choctaw buildings around southern Oklahoma. At the age of 97, she completed a book, a biography of Edmund Pickens, which was published by the Chickasaw Press. In 2011, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Historians Hall of Fame by the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Ms. Tate passed away on February 8, 2012 at the age of 101 years.