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Wright, Muriel Hazel (1889–1975) - Local History

oklahoma choctaw historical indian

Muriel Hazel Wright was born on March 31, 1889, to Eliphalet Nott and Ida Belle (Richards) Wright near Lehigh, Choctaw Nation (later Coal County, Oklahoma). Her father was half Choctaw Indian (his father having been chief of the Choctaw Nation from 1866 to 1870 and responsible for suggesting the name Oklahoma for the Indian Territory) and was company physician for the Missouri-Pacific Coal Mines. Her mother was a Presbyterian missionary and a graduate of Lindenwood College in St. Charles, Missouri. In 1895 the family moved to Atoka so that Muriel could attend Presbyterian and Baptist elementary schools. In 1902, when the family returned to their home, Ida Wright tutored her two girls at home. In 1906 Muriel entered Wheaton Seminary (later Wheaton College) in Norton, Massachusetts. Her family moved to Washington, D.C., in 1908, when her father became a resident delegate of the Choctaw Nation to the United States government. Muriel studied at home until 1911, when she entered East Central State Normal School in Ada, Oklahoma. She graduated the next year and began teaching in Wapanucka, Oklahoma, then in Tishomingo. She returned to Wapanucka in 1914 as the school principal.

In 1916 Muriel Wright began her master’s degree in history and English at Columbia in New York; her studies were interrupted by World War I, and she returned to education. From 1922 to 1928 she was secretary of the Choctaw Committee, that oversaw the many economic and business affairs of the tribe, and she also helped organize the Choctaw Advisory Council and was secretary from 1934 to 1944. With George Shirk, she worked to initiate a statewide historical marker program and blocked an attempt to remove the Choctaw Council House from Tuskahoma. She was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1940.

From 1924 to 1942, when Muriel Wright returned briefly to teaching, she researched and wrote about the history of Oklahoma Indians. In 1929 she published a four-volume work with Joseph B. Thorburn, Oklahoma: A History of the State and Its People; that same year she published a school textbook, The Story of Oklahoma . From 1929 to 1931 the Oklahoma Historical Society employed her to research the history of the Five Civilized Tribes. She edited The Chronicles of Oklahoma , a quarterly journal of the Oklahoma Historical Society to which she had often contributed articles, holding the position of associate editor from 1943 to 1955 and that of editor from 1955 to 1973. She published articles in other periodicals as well, and she received a Rockefeller Foundation grant which resulted in A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma in 1951. The book won praise from the American Association for State and Local History. She received a Distinguished Service Citation from the University of Oklahoma in 1949 for her historical writing and work on behalf of the state and her tribe, and in 1964 she was awarded an honorary doctor of humanities degree by Oklahoma City University. She was a member of the Mayflower Descendants, Daughters of the American Revolution, Colonial Dames of XVII Century, United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the National League of American Penwomen.

In 1971 Wright was recognized as the outstanding Indian woman of the twentieth century by the North American Indian Women’s Association. Toward the end of her life, she maintained an office at the Oklahoma Historical Society to continue her writing. Muriel Wright died of a stroke in 1975 in Oklahoma City.

Wright, Orville Wright, Wilbur - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Chronology: Orville Wright Wilbur Wright, Social and Economic Impact [next] [back] Wright, Mary Clabaugh (1917–1970) - Chinese History

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