Chickasaw Musician Finds Strength in Tribal Connection

Katilee Hindman — Chickasaw singer, songwriter and artists advocate — rests at one of her favorite, tucked-away corners of the University of Central Oklahoma’s campus in Edmond.

Published February 17, 2019

EDMOND, Okla. — “I grew up in Tuttle, Oklahoma. I wore pink cowboy boots every day. My dad is a rock and roller and my mother is a ballet dancer,” said Chickasaw citizen Katilee Hindman.

“My dad is still rocking,” Hindman said, describing how he spent his 60th birthday onstage giving it his all. “I watched my dad perform my whole life. Now I’m a performer, songwriter and music business student at the University of Central Oklahoma.”

Hindman — who performs at Oklahoma festivals and rodeos as simply “Katilee” — creates music, which conveys her inner struggles, personal identity, a sense of purity and a love for her roots.

She has been singing and writing songs since she was 12 years old, she said, while digging through her grandmother’s jewelry box and rifling through her expansive country record collection.

Today, Hindman draws inspiration from those early days, her family and more recently from the perseverance of the Chickasaw people. She has worked hard to realize her dream of becoming a successful songwriter.

Katilee Hindman and mentor Angie Romines at the University of Central Oklahoma. Their connection and a few encouraging words propelled Hindman into fully pursuing her educational and musical aspirations.

When I was born my mom said if they named me Katilee I’d be destined to be a country star,” Hindman said. “I guess it’s been a long road for me to come back to it. I had to learn a lot of lessons.”

Growing up as an artist in a family of artists, Hindman said, she always knew she was different. She struggled in high school, feeling lost in the shuffle, and dropped out her junior year to start a career.

“Looking back, I really feel like if I had more support, a mentor or a community of other artists then I would have been able to gain more confidence,” she said.

Recently returning to school has given her a perspective shift. As a student of the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) at the University of Central Oklahoma, she found the kind of support she longed for when struggling in a formal education setting.

“It has been incredible,” she said. “I have never been in an environment where contemporary musicians are treated and held with such high regard. It’s been life changing.”

Hindman also found affirmation through her Chickasaw connections. Angie Romines, a recruitment and retention coordinator with the Chickasaw Nation, helped along the way.

When Hindman confided in Romines at a low point, saying it would be easier not to pursue her dreams, Hindman said Romines told her, “But you are a Chickasaw.”

Hindman said those words changed her perspective on the strength and determination she possessed. Remembering who she is as a Chickasaw gave her a drive to persevere.

“I was able to say, ‘Whatever this path has in store, I can do it. I can navigate this road because I come from a strong group of people that have conquered and overcome,’” Hindman said.

Such a revelation was not wasted on a lifelong artist. In addition to a boost in morale, Hindman’s musical mind beckoned her to transform these thoughts and emotions into song.

An excerpt from Hindman’s song “Tell Me” depicts her sentiments:

 

I’ve been walking this trail

Tears in my eyes and I know

You’ve been here

You’re the strength in my legs

The skip of my stones

The bones in my neck

Know I’m not alone…

You’re the wind at my chest

The salt of my earth

Got me catching my breath

Feeling quite at home

 

“I found such great strength when I had that realization I, too, am Chickasaw. I too have overcome trials and will continue to not just survive but thrive, like the Chickasaw people and tribe,” Hindman said.

“Tell Me” is her reminder of the difficult times, which have come before, and the inner strength needed to travel forward. It is a message Hindman wants to share.

“I want to tell everyone, ‘You’re not alone and you’re strong,’” she said. It is a message she especially wants to get across to fellow musicians and artists.

“The world can try and scare us out of our dreams. It can try and remove the beauty and the inspiration from our lives. But I’m going to shine. I’m going to fight to inspire,” she said.

Hindman aims to let her light shine so she is able to light others’ fire if they need a spark.

This line of thought is why she got involved with Blossom Music, an ACM-based music group for musical artists that helps them down a fruitful path, educating and equipping them to build lasting careers.

“There’s not much in this life that influences future generations with as much impact as the strength of music. It’s the universal language. I want to be a part of a positive influence through that medium,” she said.

As she continues her journey to a career in music, Hindman says she is blessed to have a connection to the Chickasaw Nation. She describes herself as one who has an advocate’s heart for Oklahoma, its artists and people. She hopes the music business in Oklahoma flourishes, with her being a part of it.

To keep up with Hindman, follow her on Instagram @LoveKatilee. Some of her music can be heard at soundcloud.com/user-298635066 or by searching soundcloud.com for “Katilee.”

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