The Chickasaws

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Conquest or Progress! It is the same, since it is with blood that the book of humanity is written. The pages here devoted to the narrative of the Chickasaw Indians is not an exception; theirs, too, is stained with the seemingly inevitable sanguinary horrors, but nowhere is the trace inexplicable. To some it may seem useless and even wrong to recall these pages of history so distant in the past, which began in wrong, continued in wrong and will end, so for as human observation can judge, in wrong, and then ask nothing better than to be forgotten. Alas, experience has shown that to change the mode of life of a primitive race is to condemn it to death; since always regarded as an inferior race by their conquerors, they have been swept away without justice or mercy a people who had existed in an unbroken line of descent from prehistoric ages unknown.

East of the Mississippi River was also the Chickasaws hereditary domain, handed down through a long line of ancestry during ages unknown, and who, like the Choctaws, were first made known to the Eastern world by Hernando De Soto who invaded their country in the month of November, 1540; but beyond which, except through the tradition of the Choctaws and Chickasaws, as before related, the faintest glimmerings of vague tradition has afforded scarcely a ray of light to penetrate the darkness which envelops their history with its mantle of silence; yet has also opened a wide field to those dreamy speculations of which the imagination is so fond, and in which it so delights to indulge. Ah, would not there ancient history, if known, present as many subjects of interest as any other race of primitive man, our own not excepted? Would there not be much found in that period of their early existence which precedes their known history, which, when placed in contrast to their seemingly unhappy, cruel destiny, appeals to the heart of the Christian? Who so incapable of reflection, could sit under the shades of the gigantic trees of centuries growth that bedecked their ancient possessions, standing so densely together that their wide extended branches, interlocked high above, shutting out the rays of the sun which only reached the ground here and there, while the earth beneath was covered with grass, from twelve to fifteen inches high, interspersed with a great variety of wild flowers, many of which were of exquisite beauty and emitting the sweetest perfume, with no bushes to mar the beauty and grandeur of the fascinating scene; or on the top of those ancient mounds, the sepulchers of man erected by his own hand the Nunih Waiyahs of the long ago and not feel his whole soul glow with hallowed emotions?

Holmes Colbert
Holmes Colbert, A Chickasaw Native American, helped write the Chickasaw constitution

Let your thoughts again revert to the scene presented in the Bay of Santo Spiritu, Florida, May 31st, 1540. Three vessels, it is recorded, of strange and curious shape to the native beholders, bearing the banner of haughty Spain, moored close to their shores, and one thousand men of infantry and three hundred cavalry landed in proud array, with Hernando De Soto, their leader, the former companion of Pizarro, in his conquest of Peru and butchery of its helpless inhabitants. View again the heroism of those ancient Choctaws in the patriotic defense of their city, Moma-Binah. Look again upon those noble Choctaw women mothers, wives, sisters and daughters lighting side be side with fathers, husbands, brothers and sons, mid blood and carnage, and perishing in the flames of their burning homes rather than yield to the human fiends that had invaded their country. Take also a retrospective view of those foreign marauders afterwards quartered for the winter in Chikasahha, November, 1540, the most ancient city of the Chickasaws, the bravest of the brave among the North American Indians, whose king (the Chickasaw rulers were anciently called kings instead of chiefs) had received De Soto and his followers (though uninvited) with the greatest kindness, and extended to them the hospitality of his town and people; but who, preparatory to the renewal of his wild and Quixotic journey in the following spring, manifested his gratitude to the generous Chickasaw king for his kindness and hospitality, by haughtily demanding two hundred of his warriors to accompany him in his dubious adventures as burden bearers and servants of the camp. To which insolent, insulting and outrageous demand the Chickasaw king scorned to submit, and evaded a direct answer to De Soto by requesting a few days in which to lay the matter before his people in council assembled, but during which interval nobly prepared for a bold resistance; and, ere the insolent invaders were aware, gave his reply to De Soto’s insulting demand in the defiant war-whoop; then setting fire to their town in which the perfidious Spaniards were sleeping, the brave and justly indignant Chickasaws, with a noble patriotism, unsurpassed even in the civilized world, rushed upon their unprincipled and ungrateful invaders and intruders.

But as the Choctaws, in defense of Moma Binah a few months before, were defeated, so too were the Chickasaws; for what could avail the feeble bow and arrow wielded by an unprotected body against powder and lead, lance and broad sword wielded by a steel-clad body? Yet they bravely fought until hundreds of their noble warriors were slain and longer fighting was vain; not without, however, making it a deadly fought victory to the Spaniards; besides teaching them, as had the Choctaws a few weeks before, that, though termed savages, yet they were patriots and heroes unsurpassed even by exotic barbarians of boasted Castilian blood with bodies incased in steel; since, unprotected and with feeble bows and arrows, the young Chickasaw king and his warriors heroically attacked the insolent intruders and marauders and justly punished their base ingratitude by burning their ancient Capitol, Chikasahha the Moscow of the Chickasaws in which De Soto had unceremoniously quartered his cruel soldiers for the near approaching winter, and killed many of his men and horses, destroying the greater part of his baggage, throwing his entire army into confusion; and though the Chickasaws were finally defeated by superior arms, yet De Soto was glad to bid them an eternal adieu with out any further demonstration of their prowess. Thus, as the Choctaws were initiated into a knowledge of the characteristics of the White Race, so too were the Chickasaws. And from that day to the present, the former bright sun of their freedom, contentment and happiness, alike with their entire race upon the North American continent, has been steadily and constantly waning. And though over 400 years, have elapsed since their entire country was sleeping in its cradled wilderness of grand forests and prairies, unknown in its solitude and beauty to the Eastern world, yet they were here, but in their primitive state of nature, as they were then regarded and so termed; and, being also pronounced by their new discoverers to be of different origin from all others of the human race, they were denounced as. “Irreclaimable savages” from that day to this; yet were a noble branch of the human race, possessing more of the virtues that adorn humanity, and fewer of vices that degrade,, than any other race of unlettered people recorded upon the pages of history, ancient or modern. Today as a race of people, though overpowered (not conquered), impoverished, calumniated, abused, they fearlessly challenge these United States to show purer and cleaner skirts, in point of virtue and morality as set forth in the Bible (our professed guide) and point to the God of the Bible as the judge by whose decision they will abide. Who will take up that glove thrown at our feet as an acceptance of the challenge?

Three centuries after, the Russians burned their capitol, Moscow, over the head of their invader, Napoleon Bonaparte; thus forcing him to retreat at the loss of his army; which act of patriotism was heralded over the world by the pens of historians as meriting immortal fame; while the patriotism of the true Native Americans, though equally meritorious, remains unwritten and unsung. But such is the consistency of fallen and depraved humanity everywhere, and such too is its boasted justice.

No history records the Chickasaws past prior to their acquaintance with the White Race. Like their entire race, it is hidden amid the mysteries of the unknown. But from the legends handed down through the long and bewildering tracts of time by their “wise old men,” those Chroniclers of the North American Indians long ago, as related to the missionaries seventy-five years in the past, the voice of the Chickasaws traditions are in harmony with the dubious lights afforded by the Magi of the ancient Choctaws; differing, however, in a few nonessential particulars. Their tradition in regard to ancestry, migration, etc, are the same as the Choctaws, being one tribe and people until the mutual division made by their two chiefs Chikasah and Chahtah many years after their arrival and location east of the Mississippi river.



MLA Source Citation:

Cushman, Horatio Bardwell. History Of The Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians. Greenville, Texas: Headlight Printing House. 1899 AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 23 July 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/chickasaws.htm - Last updated on Jun 7th, 2014


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