On Monday, the Senate dedicated a portrait of Choctaw Statesman, Chief Allen Wright who is credited with suggesting the name "Oklahoma" for the new U.S. Territory created in 1890. The painting, by Oklahoma artist Mike Larsen, was sponsored by the Chief’s great-great-grandson Allen Wright and his wife Jacque, along with their family.
“The Wright family is honored by the Oklahoma State Senate’s recognition of Chief Allen Wright and his contributions to the progress of the Choctaw people and early Oklahoma,” said Wright. “For his portrait to join those of other distinguished Oklahomans and historic figures in our State Capitol, is a very humbling and important tribute to our forefather.”
Born in Mississippi in 1826, Wright moved with his family to the Choctaw Nation in Indian Territory in 1833-34. The family moved prior to the Trail of Tears to present day McCurtain County.
Wright was named Kiliahote at birth. Once enrolled in school in 1834, he was given the name Allen Wright in honor of Rev. Alfred Wright, a noted Presbyterian missionary among the Choctaw.
In 1856, Wright, now an ordained Presbyterian minister, was elected to the Choctaw General Council. He twice served in the Choctaw House of Representatives and was chosen to serve as national treasurer on three occasions. He was elected Principal Chief in 1866 and was re-elected in 1868.
He represented the Choctaw at Washington, D.C., and at the Fort Smith Council and signed the Reconstruction Treaty of 1866. When U.S. commissioners proposed the consolidation of the Indian Territory’s tribes under an intertribal council, Wright suggested that the region be designated the "Territory of Oklahoma". Oklahoma comes from the Choctaw language, okla meaning people and homa meaning red, thus the Territory of Red People.
Born of Chickasaw heritage, artist Larsen has been represented by galleries throughout the U.S. He was commissioned in 1991 by the State of Oklahoma to paint the 26 foot long mural Flight of Spirit for the Oklahoma State Capitol Rotunda. The painting is a tribute to five world-renowned Native American ballet dancers, all born in the state.
“I was very fortunate to have been chosen to do this painting of Allen Wright. He was a great man who worked tirelessly for the Choctaw people all of his life. His legacy is part of the wonderful history of this great state,” said Larsen. “It has been my honor to do this work.”
The portrait is the 114th piece of art commissioned by the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund.
“Works commissioned by the art fund portray the people and events that shaped our history. By naming our state “Oklahoma,” Chief Wright is extremely important to our heritage,” said former Sen. Charles Ford, President of the Fund. “Chief Allen Wright played a significant role in the transition of the Choctaw people from the post removal and civil war period to the advent of Oklahoma statehood. He was a religious leader, statesman, diplomat, scholar and businessman, and we are so proud to honor his memory with this beautiful portrait.”
The portrait of Wright, along with other works of art commissioned by the Preservation Fund, can be found on the Internet at www.oksenate.gov.