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Choctaw Tribe

Choctaw Tribe – Choctaw Indians (possibly a corruption of the Spanish chato, ‘flat’ or ‘flattened,’ alluding to the custom of these Indians of flattening the head).    An important tribe of the Muskhogean stock, formerly occupying middle and south Mississippi, their territory extending, in their most flourishing days, for some distance east of Tombigbee River, probably as far as Dallas County, Georgia. Ethnically they belong to the Choctaw branch of the Muskhogean family, which included the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Huma and their allies, and some small Indian tribes which formerly lived along Yazoo River. The dialects of the members of this branch are so closely related that they may be considered as practically identical1.

Choctaw Tribe History and Ethnology

Choctaw Eagle Dance, George Catlin, 1845-8

Choctaw Eagle Dance, George Catlin, 1845-8.
The Choctaw give the Eagle Dance once a year, to the War Eagle, the bird that conquers all other varieties of the Eagle species; and the tail feathers of the Eagles the Choctaw use to decorate the heads of the brave.

The earliest notice of these Indians is found in the De Soto narratives for 1540. The giant Tascalusa, whom he met in his march down Coosa Valley and carried to Mauvila, was a Choctaw chieftain; and the natives who fought the Spaniards so fiercely at this town belonged to a closely related tribe. When the French, about the beginning of the 18th century, began to settle colonies at Mobile, Biloxi, and New Orleans, the Choctaw came early into friendly relations with them and were their allies in their wars against other Indian tribes. In the French War on the Natchez, in 1730, a large body of Choctaw warriors served under a French officer. They continued this friendship until the English traders succeeded in drawing over to the English interest some of the east Choctaw towns. This brought on a war between them and the main body, who still adhered to the French, which continued until 1763. The tribe was constantly at war with the Creeks and Chickasaw. After the French had surrendered their American possessions to Great Britain, in 1763, and to some extent previously thereto, members of the tribe began to move across the Mississippi, where, in 1780, Milfort2 met some of their bands who were then at war with the Caddo. About 1809 a Choctaw village existed on Wichita River, and another on Bayou Chicot, Opelousas Parish, Louisiana. Morse (1820) says there were 1,200 of them on the Sabine and Neches Rivers, and about 140 on Red River, near Pecan point3. It is stated by some historians that this tribe, or parties of it, participated in the Creek War; this, however, is emphatically denied by Halbert4, who was informed in 1877 by some of the oldest members of the tribe that the Choctaw manifested no hostility toward the Americans during this conflict. A small band of perhaps 30 were probably the only Choctaw with the Creeks. The larger part of those in Mississippi began to migrate to Indian Territory in 1832, having ceded most of their lands to the United States in various treaties5.

Choctaw Phratries

According to Morgan6 the Choctaw were divided into two phratries, each including 4 gentes, as follows:

A. Kushapokla (Divided people)

  1. Kushiksa (Reed)
  2. Lawokla
  3. Lulakiksa
  4. Linoklusha

B. Watakihulata (Beloved people)

  1. Chufaniksa (Beloved people)
  2. Iskulani (Small people)
  3. Chito (Large people)
  4. Shakchukla (Crayfish people)

Besides these, mention is made of a gens named Urihesahe7, which has not been identified. Morgan’s list is probably far from complete.

Consult further:

Choctaw Tribe Culture and Life

The Choctaw were preeminently the agriculturists of the southern Indians. Though brave, their wars in most instances were defensive. No mention is made of the “great house,” or “the square,” in Choctaw towns, as they existed in the Creek communities, nor of the busk. The game of chunkey, as well as the ball play, was extensively practiced by them. It was their custom to clean the bones of the dead before depositing them in boxes or baskets in the bone-houses, the work being performed by “certain old gentlemen with very long nails,” who allowed their nails to grow long for this purpose. The people of this tribe also followed the custom of setting up poles around the new graves, on which they hung hoops, wreaths, etc., to aid the spirit in its ascent. As their name seems to imply, they practiced artificial head flattening.

Choctaw Indians Chiefs and Leaders

Choctaw Indians Rolls and Census

Choctaw Language

There are, or at least were formerly, several dialects spoken in different sections; these, however, differed so little that they have not been considered worthy of special mention.

Choctaw Tribe Treaties

Choctaw Tribe Land Claims

Choctaw Locations

The small Muskhogean tribes known as MobilianTohome or Tomez, TawasaMugulashaAcolapissaHuma, and Conshac, on the gulf coast of Mississippi and Alabama, are sometimes called Choctaw, but the Choctaw proper had their villages inland, on the upper courses of the Chickasawhay, Pearl, and Big Black Rivers, and the west affluent of the Tombigbee. At least in later times they were distinguished into three sections, each under its mingo or chief. The western division was called Oklafalaya, ‘the long people,’ and consisted of small, scattered villages; the northeastern, Ahepatokla (Oypatukla), ‘potato-eating people,’ and the southeastern district came to be called Oklahannali, ‘Sixtowns,’ from the name of the dominant subdivision. The people of these two latter districts lived in large towns for mutual defense against their constant enemies the Creeks. Gatschet gives Cobb Indians as the name of those Choctaw settled west of Pearl River.

The population of the tribe when it first came into relations with the French, about the year 1700, has been estimated at front 15,000 to 20,000. Their number in 1904 was 17,805, exclusive of 4,722 Choctaw freedmen (Negroes). These are all under the Union Agency, Indian Territory. To these must be added a small number in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Choctaw Tribe Mailing Lists

Online Choctaw Tribe Resources

Choctaw Gallery of Photos


  1. Gatschet, Creek Migration Legends, I, 53, 1884 

  2. Milfort, Méoire, 95, 1802 

  3. Rep. to Sec. War, 373, 1822 

  4. Halbert, Creek War of 1813 and 1814, 124, 1895 

  5. Royce, Indian Land Cessions, 18th Rep. B. A. E., 1899 

  6. Morgan, Ancient Society, 99, 162, 1877 

  7. Wright in Ind. Aff. Rep. 1843, 348