Mary Thompson Fisher was born Dec. 3, 1895, near Emet, Oklahoma. Mary later took the stage name and became well known as “Te Ata” which means “Bearer of the Morning.” A citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, Te Ata was an accomplished actor and teller of Native American stories.
During the prime of her more than 60-year career, she performed in England and Scandinavia, at the White House for President Franklin Roosevelt, for the King and Queen of Great Britain, and on stages across the United States.
Te Ata married Clyde Fisher, head of the Hayden Planetarium and former curator of the American Museum of Natural History, in 1933. Fisher was also an accomplished writer, having had many articles nationally published.
Although Te Ata worked as an actor and drama instructor, she is best known for her artistic interpretations of Indian stories, and for her children's book she co-authored on the subject.
Her world-renown talent won her several honors, including a 1924 feature in McCall’s magazine’s “Types of American Beauty” series and being named The Ladies’ Home Journal Woman of the Year in 1976. Te Ata was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1957, was named Oklahoma’s Official State Treasure in 1987, and was inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame in 1990. In addition, New York’s Bear Mountain was named in her honor.
She is also the subject of a video, God's Drum, the proceeds of which have supported the Te Ata Scholarship Fund for Indian students at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (formerly Oklahoma College for Women) in Chickasha, Oklahoma.
Te Ata died Oct. 26, 1995, in Oklahoma City, though her legacy and influence on the Native American storytelling traditions continues to this day.