Choctaw History


   The Choctaw


     Oklahoma, where the Choctaw Nation is now located, is actually two Choctaw words; okla "people" and homma meaning "red". The area was first called Oklahoma by Choctaw Chief Allen Wright in 1866 when he was asked what he would name the Indian Territory if it ever became a state. The Western Choctaw Tribal Headquarters today is Durant, Oklahoma. The Mississippi Band is in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Choctaws from all over the United States come together twice a year for festivals held in both Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

    The Choctaw language belongs to the Muskogean linguistic family of languages, which also includes Creek and Chickasaw who were the Choctaw's neighbors in both Mississippi and later in Oklahoma, then known as the Indian Territory.

    The Choctaws, who were hunters and farmers, lived in what is now Mississippi, western Alabama, and eastern Louisiana and that is where Hemando DeSoto found them when he invaded their lands in 1540 and massacred 1500 of them.

    The climate was warm and moist with warm winters, hot summers and plenty of rain, perfect for serving all their needs. The extensive pine and hardwood forests that covered the low rolling hills provided them with ample firewood, building materials and wild game for food and clothing. The many creeks and rivers that flowed through the region supplied them with abundant fish and fresh, clear water. The soil, however, was not rich so as a result, they had to cultivate the river flood plains for raising most of their crops of "tanchl"-corn, "tobl"-beans, peas, sunflowers, melons, and sweet potatoes. When men weren't helping in the fields, they were hunting "issl"-deer, rabbit, bison, turkey and bear.

    The Choctaw were able to live without interference until the French arrived in the early 1700's. The French treated them well, but continually drew them into their conflicts with the British. After the Revolution in 1775, they became allies with the Americans, with whom they negotiated nine treaties. The last treaty, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek signed on September 27, 1830, stated they had to leave their lands in Mississippi and move to Indian Territory. Almost a year later, on November 18th, 1831, the removal began and many Choctaws reluctantly left for the new land as their Chief had agreed, and many died along the way. By 1833, the last group of Choctaws had left. Some, however, refused to leave their lands in Mississippi and stayed on, even though they had no place to stay nor work to do that would allow them to survive. They were not prepared to live in the White Man's world, knew little of the customs and functioned from entirely different set of values. Over the next 90 years, they suffered from poverty and neglect until the Government finally provided a reservation for them in 1920. Citizenship for Native Americans was finally granted in June of 1924.