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Choctaw

Information about the Choctaw

The Choctaws are a Native American people originally from the southeast United States (Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana). In the nineteenth century, they were known as one of the "Five Civilized Tribes," so-called because they had integrated a number of cultural and technological "practices" of Europeans. The Choctaws are famous for their extreme generosity in providing famine relief during the Irish Potato Famine.

Pre-history

One creation story holds that the Choctaws emerged from the ground at a cave near Nanih Waiya. Another holds that it was the site on which a sacred "guiding pole" stood erect - a sign that they had arrived in the promised land.

Nanih Waiya is in Winston County, Mississippi about ten miles southeast of Noxapater. As a State Park it is now in the protection of the State of Mississippi.

Early history

The Choctaw were no doubt a part of the Mississippian culture in the Mississippi river valley. At the time that the Spanish made their first forays into the gulf shores, the political centers of the Missisppians were already in decline or gone. The region is best described as a collection of moderately-sized Native chiefdoms (such as those on the Coosa and Alabama rivers) interspersed with completely autonomous villages and tribal groups. This is what the earliest Spanish explorers encoutnered, beginning in 1519.

In 1528, Pánfilo de Narváez travelled through what was likely the Mobile Bay area, encountering Indians who fled and burned their towns in response to the Spaniard’s approach. This response was a prelude to Hernando de Soto’s extensive journeys in 1540 to 1543. De Soto travelled up through Florida, and then down into the Alabama-Mississippi area that later was inhabited by the Choctaw. Reading between the lines of his accounts of Native interactions provides a region full of tribes of various sizes and with various degrees of control over neighboring areas.

The impact of European is unclear. Reports of De Soto’s journeys do not describe illness among his men, although pigs traveling with them often escaped and may have been excellent vectors for dangerous microbes. The two subsequent brief forays into the Southeast by Tristán de Luna y Aellano in 1559 and Juan Pardo in 1565-1567 do not provide any evidence for widespread epidemics. After Pardo, the historical picture ends. There would be no official European contact in the area at all for more than a century, and during that time the group identities of the region completely transformed.

The first direct contact recorded between the Choctaw and a European was with Moyne d’Iberville in 1699; however, indirect contact no doubt occurred between the Choctaw and English settlers through other tribes, including the Creek and Chickasaw. Illegal fur trading may have led to further unofficial contact. Unfortunately, the archaeological record for this period between 1567 and 1699 is not complete or well-studied, but there are similarities in pottery coloring and burials that suggest the following scenario for the emergence of the distinctive Choctaw culture: the Choctaw region (generally located between the Natchez bluffs to the south and the Yazoo basin to the north) was slowly occupied by Burial Urn people from the Bottle Creek area in the Mobile delta, along with remnants of the Moundville chiefdom that had collapsed some years before. Facing severe depopulation, they fled westward, where they combined with the Plaquemine and a group of “prairie people” living near the area. When precisely this occurred is not entirely clear, but in the space of several generations, a new culture had been born (albeit with a strong Mississippian background).

During the American Revolutionary War, Choctaw scouts served under Generals George Washington, Daniel Morgan, Anthony Wayne, and John Sullivan. Some Choctaw scouts served with General Wayne again in the Northwest Indian War. During the American Civil War, the Choctaws sided with the southern states.

George Washington’s Indian Policy was used to “civilize” Indians. He believed that Indians were equals, but believed their society was inferior. The 6 points plan includes: 1) impartial justice toward Indians, 2) regulated buying Indian lands, 3) promoted commerce, 4) promoted experiments to civilize Indians, 5) give the president authority to give them “presents”, and finally 6) provided punishments to those who violate Indian rights. The Choctaws agreed to this policy.

Treaties

Nine treaties were signed between the Choctaws and the United States between the years of 1786 and 1830.
  • Treaty of Hopewell January 3, 1786
  • Treaty of Fort Adams December 17, 1801
  • Treaty of Fort Confederation October 17, 1802
  • Treaty of Hoe Buckintoopa August 31, 1803
  • Treaty of Mount Dexter November 16, 1805
  • Treaty of Fort St. Stephens October 24, 1816
  • Treaty of Doak's Stand October 18, 1820
  • Treaty of Washington City January 20,1825
  • Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek September 15-27, 1830
The last treaty was the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek (1830). The treaty signed away the remaining traditional homeland of the Choctaw to the United States. Article 14 of that treaty allowed for some Choctaws to remain in the state of Mississippi:

"ART. XIV. Each Choctaw head of a family being desirous to remain and become a citizen of the States, shall be permitted to do so, by signifying his intention to the Agent within six months from the ratification of this Treaty, and he or she shall thereupon be entitled to a reservation of one section of six hundred and forty acres of land, to be bounded by sectional lines of survey; in like manner shall be entitled to one half that quantity for each unmarried child which is living with him over ten years of age; and a quarter section to such child as may be under 10 years of age, to adjoin the location of the parent. If they reside upon said lands intending to become citizens of the States for five years after the ratification of this Treaty, in that case a grant in fee simple shall issue; said reservation shall include the present improvement of the head of the family, or a portion of it. Persons who claim under this article shall not lose the privilege of a Choctaw citizen, but if they ever remove are not to be entitled to any portion of the Choctaw annuity."

Those Choctaws who were "forcibly removed" to the Indian territory in the 1830s were organized as the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Those who signed under article 14 of the Treaty of Dancing Rabit Creek later formed the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. In 1831, tens of thousands of Choctaw walked the 800km journey to Oklahoma and more than half died. They later called this journey the "Trail of Tears".

Irish famine aid

In 1847, midway through the Irish famine, a group of Choctaws collected $710 and sent it to help starving Irish men, women and children. "It had been just 16 years since the Choctaw people had experienced the trail of Tears, and they had faced starvation . . . . It was an amazing gesture. By today's standards, it might be a million dollars." according to Judy Allen, editor of the Choctaw Nation's newspaper, Bishinik, based at the tribal headquarters in Durant, Okla. To mark the 150th anniversary, eight Irish people retraced the Trail of Tears [1].

Original Code Talkers

Choctaw code talkers in World War IIn World War I, a group of Choctaws serving in the U.S. Army used their native language as a code. They were the forerunner to Native Americans from various nations, most notably the Navajo, who were used as radio operators, or code talkers, during World War II.

Recent history

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI) has one of the largest casinos located near Philadelphia, Mississippi. The Silver Star Casino opened its doors in 1994. The Gold Moon Casino opened in 2002. The casinos are collectivelly known as the Pearl River Resort.

"[Jack] Abramoff and partner Michael Scanlon inflated expenses and divided the profits from $15 million in payments from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, according to testimony and e- mails released at a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing." (Bloomberg Website)

"Choctaw Chief Phillip Martin did not testify, but released a prepared statement to the committee. 'After we learned what happened, we were astounded that a senior director at a major law firm would or could engage in misconduct of this sort -- whether as regards [to] billing fabrication or as regards [to] the more egregious "gimme five" scheme -- and that he was able to get away with it for so long.'" (Washington Post Website)

U.S. Senator John McCain stated during a June 22, 2005 hearing that some of the money contributed by the tribe was unknowingly "funneled" to various people and organizations, like an Israeli sniper school instructor.

Famous Americans who reportedly claim Choctaw ancestry include Roy Rogers (Western film actor), Brett Favre (NFL quarterback), James Meredith (the first person of African American heritage to attend the University of Mississippi), and Jessica Biel (actress).

Location

The Choctaw Reservation in Mississippi has 8 communities: Bogue Chitto, Bogue Homa, Conehatta, Crystal Ridge, Pearl River, Red Water, Tucker, and Standing Pine. These communities are located throughout the state like a chain of "islands."

Most Choctaws moved to Oklahoma during the removal period. However, a good many remain in their homeland of Mississippi.

Culture

Stickball

Stickball, the oldest field sport in America, was also know as the "little brother of war" because of its roughness and substitution for war. When disputes arouse between Choctaw communities, stickball provided a peaceful way to settle the issue. The earliest reference to stickball was in 1729 by a Jesuit priest. The stickball games would involve as few as twenty or as many as 300 players. With the goal posts any way from a few hundred feet apart to a few miles.

"The nature of the playing field was never strictly defined. The only boundaries were the two goalposts at either end of the playing area and these could be anywhere from 100 feet to five miles apart, as was the case in one game in the 19th century" (Kendall Blanchard, The Mississippi Choctaws at Play: The Serious Side of Leisure)

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians still play stickball. Every year at the Choctaw Indian Fair near Philadelphia, Mississippi it can be seen.

The above includes excerpts from Wikipedia.org, the free encyclopedia:






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