1817 - 1888
Cyrus Harris was born August 22, 1817, to Elizabeth Oxberry and James Harris near Pontotoc, Mississippi, on the estate of his grandmother Molly Colbert Gunn. His grandfather was General William Colbert, a renowned leader of the Chickasaws. In 1827, he was sent to Monroe Mission School and later an Indian school in Giles County, Tennessee. In 1830, he returned to Mississippi to live with his grandmother, mother and later his uncle Martin Colbert.
Mr. Harris was fluent in both Chickasaw and English and became an interpreter at the numerous councils held to arrange details of the Chickasaw’s removal to the West. After moving to Indian Territory in 1837, he eventually settled on the Blue River in present-day Johnston County, Oklahoma, and opened a successful mercantile business.
After becoming interested in political affairs, Mr. Harris accompanied Edmund Pickens as a delegate to Washington in 1850 and was again dispatched in 1854. Mr. Harris was the first elected governor of the Chickasaw Nation after the Chickasaw people formally adopted their own constitution in 1856.
Mr. Harris’ executive abilities were recognized by his people and he was subsequently elected governor for five different two-year terms. He served from 1856-58, 1860-62, 1866-68, 1868-70 and 1872-74.
During his time as governor, Mr. Harris approved resolutions of Chickasaw secession from the Union on May 25, 1861. He continued to express the concerns over the infiltration of non-Indian people on Chickasaw lands, the railroad and policies of the federal government advocating for allotment of Chickasaw lands held in common.
He was a strong advocate for education and signed numerous legislation leading to the establishment and maintenance of boarding schools on tribal land.
Cyrus Harris died January 6, 1888, at the age of 70 in Mill Creek, Indian Territory.