Gov. Winchester Colbert
1810 - 1880
Born in the Chickasaw homeland in 1810, Winchester Colbert was the youngest member of the Levi Colbert family that included 12 brothers and 8 sisters. Winchester was fluent in Chickasaw, Choctaw and English. Since he could read and write these languages, he was a great candidate for diplomacy.
At the young age of 16, Winchester served in Washington, D.C. with Thomas L. McKenney. He was an Indian Commissioner and historian during John Q. Adam’s presidency, as well as a mentor to Winchester. The skills and lessons learned during his year in Washington, D.C. would later prove valuable to his fellow Chickasaws after they moved into Indian Territory.
Winchester went reluctantly with one of the first caravans from the homelands to Indian Territory in 1837. He was determined to see the Chickasaw Nation restored and separated from the Choctaw Nation, into which the Chickasaws had been temporarily incorporated. He began to speak, write and negotiate diplomatically for the Chickasaw people’s sovereignty as he and others developed a strategy to see this goal achieved.
In 1851, Winchester wrote a passionate letter to the U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs. He stated, “The Chickasaws are dissatisfied with their present political condition. Nothing but a separation from the Choctaws will ever satisfy them.” Eighteen years after the Treaty of Doaksville in 1837, Winchester got his response. The June 2, 1855 Treaty re-established the Chickasaw Nation with its own political status and wrote provisions for a new border. Winchester Colbert had been a guiding force in framing the Treaty of 1855.
In August 1856, Winchester served as a member of the first Chickasaw Legislature. Two years later he was elected as the second Governor of the Chickasaw Nation. He served as governor during three terms from 1858-1860, 1862-1864 and 1864-1866. Governor Winchester Colbert was also responsible for drafting and executing the Chickasaw Nation freedman emancipation document on October 11, 1866.
As governor, he remained in Washington, D.C. until the fall of 1866 to attend to Chickasaw Nation treaty issues. The bi-participant treaty with the U.S. Federal Government was signed on April 28, 1866.
Winchester Colbert distinguished himself during times of extreme economic and social change as a Chickasaw Nation diplomatic leader and statesman. His difficult, hard-won legislative accomplishments have survived and underwrite today’s Chickasaw government.
He died in 1880 at the age of 70.