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HARRIS, CYRUS (1817-1888)

Cyrus Harris

Five-term governor of the Chickasaw Nation, Cyrus Harris was born near Pontotoc, Mississippi, on August 22, 1817. He began his formal education in 1827 at the Monroe Missionary Station in Mississippi. From 1828 to 1830 he attended a school for Indians in Tennessee. Harris and his mother, Elizabeth Oxbury, a Chickasaw and Cherokee mixed-blood (Harris's father's identity is uncertain), left for Indian Territory in 1837 and arrived at Blue River in present Johnston County, Oklahoma, in 1838. Harris moved three more times before settling at Mill Creek, where he resided until his death.

Harris began his political career in 1850. He was elected the first governor of the Chickasaw Nation (created in 1855) in 1856, and was reelected in 1860, 1866, 1868, and 1872. The Chickasaw Nation aligned with the Confederacy during his second term. His 1872 acceptance speech dealt with several important issues facing the Chickasaws, including post-Civil War reconstruction, education, and lawlessness.

Supporters of Harris submitted his name for governor in 1878, but in a contested election Benjamin C. Burney won by five votes. To maintain order, Harris withdrew and retired from politics. Harris was married three times and had eleven children. He died at his home in Mill Creek on January 6, 1888, and was buried nearby. In 1961 his remains were reinterred at Drake in Murray County, Oklahoma.

SEE ALSO: AMERICAN INDIANS, CHICKASAW, CIVIL WAR, INDIAN REMOVAL.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Biography of Cyrus Harris, Esq.," Indian Champion (Atoka, Indian Territory), 2 May 1885. Arrell M. Gibson, The Chickasaws (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971). "Cyrus Harris," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. John Bartlett Meserve, "Governor Cyrus Harris," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 15 (December 1937).

Corie Delashaw

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