Piomingo Day Tupelo will remember Chickasaw chief each year

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal


TUPELO – Cold wind sliced through the morning sunshine Monday outside City Hall where some two dozen people surrounded Chief Piomingo’s statue to mark a new tradition.
Starting this year, the second Monday of October will be known in Tupelo as “Piomingo Day,” according to a proclamation read by Mayor Jack Reed Jr.
Reed was among those present at the brief ceremony. Others included members of the Rotary Club, which in 2005 had commissioned and erected the bronze statue of the 18th century warrior, and a representative of the Chickasaw Nation.
Brad Lieb, cultural resources specialist for the Chickasaw Nation’s Department of Homeland Affairs, said the statue and the annual commemoration will strengthen the bond between the tribe and the people of Tupelo.
The Chickasaw Nation also celebrates Piomingo Day the second Monday of October, which coincides with Columbus Day.
“Columbus Day seems a poignant, pertinent time to read the proclamation and show Tupelo’s love of the ancestral homeland of the Chickasaw Nation,” Reed said.
The Chickasaw people once dominated the lands now home to Tupelo, Lee County and much of Northeast Mississippi, as well as portions of northwest Alabama and western Tennessee. They lived in sophisticated villages and had their own laws and religion, according to the Chickasaw Nation’s official website.
Piomingo was born around 1750 just a few miles northwest of City Hall in what was then known as Chokkilissa Old Town. Although no recorded history of the warrior exists, Lieb said, some details of his life are known.
He was raised in a modest family by a Chickasaw father and a Chakchiuma mother and had sought his status as a war leader – a natural pick during a time of great turmoil, Lieb said. Many nations in the late 1700s fought over the land occupied by the Chickasaw.
The Chickasaw sided with the British, then with the Americans after their colonies won their independence from the crown.
As a teenager, Piomingo spent about 10 years among Cherokees of Tennessee and earned the name “Mountain Leader,” Lieb said.
He returned to the Tupelo area at the end of the war with the French.
A few years later, under the new United States of America, Piomingo urged his tribe to become friends with Americans, and he presided at several official meetings between the two nations.
He was one of three Chickasaws to sign the 1786 Treaty of Hopewell, which defined the tribe’s boundaries and placed its people under the protection of the U.S.
Piomingo carried that map of the Chickasaw boundaries until the day he died, Lieb said.
The chief served under Gen. George Washington and, in 1792, he earned the Washington Peace Medal.
“In 1798, Piomingo died hoping that the red people and the white people could live together without the bloody conflicts that had shaped most of his life,” Lieb said.
The city’s recognition of Piomingo and his deeds honors the chief’s final wishes, said Brad Prewitt, a Tupelo resident who spoke on behalf of the Chickasaw Nation and presented gifts from the tribe to the city.
“This is a great and real testament to the kind of partnership Piomingo envisioned,” Prewitt said. “The connectivity of these two governments is very important.”
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com