TULSA - Elizabeth Maria Tallchief, the first Native American to ever become a prima ballerina, died in a Chicago hospital Friday at the age of 88.
She danced with the New York City Ballet from its founding in 1947 until 1965 under the stagename Maria Tallchief.
She was a member of the Osage Tribe, born in Fairfax, Oklahoma January 24, 1925.
Tallchief also danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlon from 1942 to 1947.
After retiring as a dancer, she moved to Chicago where she eventually founded the Chicago City Ballet in 1981.
Tallchief married famed Russian-born choreographer George Balanchine in 1946.
They divorced six years later, but continued to collaborate and he wrote several of his most famous works for her, including The Firebird.
She was the original Sugarplum Fairy in his version of the Nutcracker, first performed in 1954.
She was also the first of five world famous Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma.
She and her sister Marjorie, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin, and Yvonne Chouteau were honored by a mural called Flight of Spirit placed in the Oklahoma capitol in 1991.