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History of the Choctaw and Chickasaw in Indian Territory
Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Native American | No Comments
R. W. McAdam, treating of the traditions, early history, and progress of the Choctaws and Chickasaws, writes:
If credence is to be given tradition the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Muskhogees (Creeks), and Seminoles were many centuries ago one tribe, occupying the southeastern portion of the United States from the Mississippi to the Savannah River. Internecine rebellions, engendered by factional quarrels and the jealousies of ambitious chiefs, ultimately divided the great nation into 4 tribes, which, in the course of time, learned different dialects, customs, and laws, The Seminoles claimed as their domain the peninsula country, now Florida; the Creeks, the region north of the Seminoles, comprising a part of eastern Alabama, Georgia, and perhaps part of South Carolina; the Choctaws a large portion of Alabama and the southern half of Mississippi; the Chickasaws, the lands to the north of the Choctaws, comprising northern Mississippi and a portion of west Tennessee. When De Soto explored this region (1540) these tribes occupied the territory in the manner described.
The Choctaws and the Chickasaws had their traditions, many of which have been preserved to this day. In the old Choctaw country is a cave in a hill which the Choctaws held as sacred, claiming that the time parents of their people came from this cave by magic. The Chickasaws have another tradition. Long centuries ago, when the Choctaws and Chickasaws were one people, they dwelt far to the west of the Mississippi. Driven by ferocious northern Indians from their country, they journeyed toward the sunrise many moons, under the guardianship of a sacred dog, led onward by a magic pole, which they planted in the ground every night, and in the morning traveled toward the direction the pole leaned. At last, after crossing vast deserts, boundless forests, and dismal swamps, leaving thousands of their dead along the way, they reached the great Father of Waters. While crossing the Mississippi the sacred dog was drowned. Following the direction indicated by the magic pole they continued eastward to the banks of the Alabama River, where the pole, after being unsettled for several days, pointed distinctly southwest. They proceeded in that direction to the southern portion of Mississippi, where the pole planted itself firmly in a perpendicular line. This was the omen for permanent settlement, and here the tribe dwelt. Tradition concerning the rebellion and formation of an independent tribe by the Chickasaws is very vague. The word Chikasha, (Chickasaw) in the Choctaw tongue signifies rebel, the latter tribe giving its rebellious offshoot that name, which the Chickasaws evidently accepted as their distinctive tribal name.”
When the early navigators touched upon the unknown shores of the Gulf of Mexico, the red men who greeted them were not savages, living exclusively by the chase and the spoils of war. In a measure these Indians were civilized. They had their rude arts, laws, customs, and religion, inferior but somewhat similar to those of the Aztecs and Incas, which leads to the belief that the magic pole tradition had its origin in an exodus of these tribes from Mexico. The theory that the Chickasaws and Choctaws were an offshoot of the civilized Aztecs has some foundation. They were not primarily a warlike race. Their disposition was not ferocious, although they were capable of waging long and bloody wars when driven to such an extremity by perfidy and wrong. The ancient government of the Choctaws and Chickasaws was democratic and simple. Their ruler was called king, but his authority was abridged by the powers of the council, which was made and unmade at will by the people. Their ideas of justice were based on principles of equity. Virtue, truth, and honesty were; it is said, a striking characteristic. Their methods of agriculture were crude, but it is certain that they cultivated the great Indian cereal and prepared it for food by crushing, the meal being baked as bread, or the grain parched or boiled whole. Their theology was beautifully poetic and largely a worship of the heart, without the elaborate and barbarous rites of the sun worshipers farther south. To their simple imagining the manifestations of the Great Spirit were constantly heard and seen in the works of nature. Their daily life was one of devotion to quaint and pretty superstitions and spirit worship. When De Soto, Deluna, and other white explorers first penetrated their country they found a race hospitable, virtuous, peaceable, and happy. They were met as gods, and lavished with gifts and kindness. They requited this generous treatment by treachery, rapine, and conquest.
After the white man had come among these Indians with the innovations which we proudly term civilization, the history of the Choctaws and Chickasaws is the history of the subjugation of the red race. Contact with the white man’s civilization began the work of extermination and implanted in hitherto trustful breasts the seeds of hatred and revenge. The Chickasaws and Choctaws were fearfully decimated by wars with the Europeans and other tribes. During the early explorations it is said they had 15,000 warriors, while in 1720 the two tribes could muster less than 1,000 fighting men. The Choctaws allied themselves to the French in the war against the Natchez, whom the Chickasaws aided. The two latter tribes were badly beaten. From 1540 to the establishment of the American republic the Chickasaws and Choctaws were almost constantly at war. As progress followed the star of empire westward the rights of these Indians as they understood them were more and more circumscribed. In 1765 the Chickasaws made their first general treaty with General Oglethorpe, of Georgia, and in 1786, after the colonies had gained their independence, both the Chickasaws and Choctaws made a treaty at Hopewell and were guaranteed peaceable possession of their lands. From the date of this treaty the Choctaws and Chickasaws have kept faith with the federal government. The Chickasaws, in the treaty of 1834, boast “that they have ever been faithful and friendly to the people of this country; that they have never raised the tomahawk to shed the blood of an American”.
As early as 1800 the encroachment of the whites filled these people with a desire to emigrate beyond the Mississippi, and many families did so. In 1803 it was estimated that 500 families had departed, mostly Choctaws. The whole nation would have gone but for the opposition of the Spaniards and the western tribes. In the war of 1812 and the Creek war the Choctaws and Chickasaws did valiant service for the United. States. In 18’20 the Choctaws ceded to the government a part of their territory for lands west of Arkansas. The establishment of state governments over their country, to whose laws they were subject, still further dissatisfied the Choctaws and Chickasaws, who, as their treaty put it, “being ignorant of the language and laws of the white men, can not understand nor obey them”. The Choctaws were first to emigrate. By the treaty of Dancing. Rabbit Creek in 1830 they ceded the remainder of their lands, 19,000,000 acres in all, and received 20,000,000 acres in the country west of Arkansas, with $2,225,000 in money and goods. After the ratification of this treaty nearly the entire Choctaw tribe emigrated to the new lands. Those who chose to remain behind were given allotments by the government and the residue lands were sold to white settlers. In 1805, 1816, and 1818 the Chickasaws ceded, all their lands north of Mississippi on liberal terms. Many of the tribe joined the Choctaw exodus to the west. In 1822 there were 3,625 Chickasaws remaining in Mississippi. In 1832 the Chickasaw Nation began negotiations with the United. States for the sale of their reservation, consisting of 6,412,400 acres, and the treaty was ratified the following year. The conditions of the sale were that the government should sell the land to the highest bidder, the Chickasaws to receive the sum so derived, after the expense of the survey and sale had been deducted. It was the purpose of the Chickasaws to seek a new home in the west, whither their neighbors, the Choctaws, had gone; but in case a desirable location could not be procured, or certain members of the tribe should prefer to remain behind, the Chickasaws were allowed to take allotments pending, their emigration. The government agreed to furnish funds sufficient to defray the expenses of the journey and for one year’s provisions after their arrival at their now home, the amount thus appropriated to be refunded from the receipts of the sale. The amount received by the Chickasaws from the sale of these lands was $3,646,000. The Chickasaws determined to create a perpetual fund from the sale of their lands, the money to be invested by the United States, the interest derived there from to be used for national purposes. In 183.1 the final treaty in reference to the cession of the Chickasaw lands and the removal of the tribe was made at Washington.
The commissioners sent by the Chickasaw Nation to seek out a new home in the west entered successfully into negotiations with the Choctaws for an interest in their lately acquired lands beyond the Mississippi. In 1837 a treaty between the two tribes was ratified near Fort Towson, in the Choctaw Nation, by which the Chickasaws; for the consideration of $530,000 were ceded a district in the Choctaw country west of the Choctaw Nation proper. The conditions of this sale were that the Chickasaws should participate jointly with the Choctaws in the tribal government, with equal rights and privileges, the land to beheld in common by both, neither tribe having a right to dispose of its interest without the consent of the other. Each tribe reserved to itself the right to control and manage its own funds, invested in Washington. The lands set apart for the Chickasaws were known as the Chickasaw district of the Choctaw Nation, and members of either tribe were given the privilege of locating in either the Choctaw or the Chickasaw country proper.
During the emigration of the Chickasaws to their new home, smallpox broke out, carrying off nearly 700 of the movers. They did not settle in the Chickasaw district, but many scattered through the Choctaw country.
As a body, the Chickasaws did not advance as rapidly as the Choctaws, their large annuities encouraging idleness and improvidence. Their efforts at agriculture were insignificant; such work as there was being performed by slaves. Their first school was not established until 1851. The political relations between the two tribes, under the provisions of the treaty of 1837, were far from amicable, as instead of equal representation, as they expected, they were allowed only in proportion to population, and were therefore a powerless minority, the Choctaws outnumbering and hence outvoting the Chickasaws, thereby controlling the national offices and affairs of government. The Chickasaws feeling themselves aggrieved, appealed to the President of the United States and on paying $250,009 to the Choctaws obtained by treaty of 1855 a political separation from the Choctaws and a complete title to time Chickasaw district. The Chickasaws then established their own government, and though closely allied by treaty and other relations to the Choctaws, they have maintained au independent government and distinct geographical boundaries.
By a liberal policy extended toward intermarried whites and stock raisers within their boundaries, and through their efforts in the direction of education, the progress of the Chickasaws and Choctaws was gradual until the great civil war. The agents of these nations took sides with the seceding states, and the sympathies’ of the Indians were naturally with the Confederate states. The Choctaw’s and Chickasaws furnished several thousand men for the cause and negotiated treaties with the Confederate government. The nations suffered considerably by the war, losing nearly one-fourth of their population, much stock, and of course their slaves. The United States -held that by the part taken by the tribal government in -the war they had forfeited all their rights, which, however, were restored under certain conditions, and the treaty of 1866 was made; This treaty, the provisions of which supersede all conflicting provisions of former treaties, is the basis of all laws pertaining to the intercourse of the Choctaws and Chickasaws with the federal government. The allotment and governmental provisions of the treaty of 1866 have never been complied with, and vexed. questions have resulted there from.
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