Chickasaw. An important
Muskhogean tribe, closely related to the Choctaw in language and
customs, although the two tribes were mutually hostile. Aside from
tradition, the earliest habitat traceable for the Chickasaw is north Mississippi. Their villages
in the 18th century centered about Pontotoc and Union counties, where the
headwaters of the Tombigbee meet those of Yazoo river and its affluent,
the Tallahatchie, about where the De Soto narratives place them in
1540, under the name Chicaza. Their main landing place on the
Mississippi was at Chickasaw Bluffs, now the site of Memphis, Tenn.,
whence a trail more than 160 miles long led to their villages. They had two other landing places farther up the Mississippi. Adair, who for
many years was a trader among the Chickasaw and gives a full and
circumstantial account of them (Hist. Am. Inds., 352-373, 1775),
states that in 1720 they had four contiguous settlements, and that the
towns of one of these were:
Two of the other settlements of which he
gives the names were Yaneka, 6 miles long, and Chookka Pharáah (Chukafalava),
4 miles long. Romans (Florida, 63, 1775, describing their country and
villages, says that they "live nearly in the center of an uneven
and large nitrous savannah; have in it 1 town, 1½
miles long, very narrow and
irregular; this they divide into 7 [towns] by the names of:
Amalahta 'hat and feather'
Chatelaw 'copper town'
Chukafalaya 'long town'
Hikkihaw 'stand still'
Chucalissa 'great town'
Tuckahaw 'a cert'n
Ashukhuma 'red grass'
Formerly the whole was inclosed in palisadoes."
The warlike Chickasaw claimed other territory
far beyond the narrow limits of their villages, and extending on the
north to the confluence of the Ohio with the Tennessee. They also
claimed n large area north of the
Tennessee to the ridge between Duck river and the Cumberland to the
headwaters of Duck river and south to Chickasaw Old Fields on the
Tennessee, thence along an indeterminate southeast line to the Mississippi. This claim was admitted by the Cherokee.
According to Haywood and
other authorities an outlying colony of Chickasaw formerly dwelt on
Savannah river nearly opposite Augusta, Ga., but trouble with the Creeks
drove them westward again. In 1795 the Chickasaw claimed payment from
the United States for the land on the Savannah thus occupied.
The Chickasaw were noted from remote times for their bravery,
independence, and warlike disposition. They were constantly fighting
with the neighboring tribes; sometimes with the Choctaw and Creeks,
then with the Cherokee, Illinois, Kickapoo, Shawnee, Mobilians, Osage,
and Quapaw. In 1732 they cut to pieces a war party of Iroquois who had
invaded their country. They were constant enemies of the French, a
feeling intensified by the intrigues of British traders and their
hatred of the Choctaw who had entered into friendly relations with the
French colonists. The Chickasaw urged the Natchez to resist the French
encroachments, and gave shelter to them when driven from their home.
They defeated the French at Amalahta in 1736, at the Long House and
other points, and baffled their attempts at conquest in the war of
1739-40. They combined with the Cherokee about 1715 and drove the
Shawnee from their home on the Cumberland, and in 1769 utterly routed,
at Chickasaw Old Fields, these former Cherokee allies.
Their relations with the United States began with the Hopewell treaty
in 1786, when their boundary on the north was fixed at the Ohio river.
They began to emigrate west of the Mississippi as early as 1822, and treaties
for the removal of those who remained in their old seats were made in
1832 and 1834. By the treaty of 1855 their lands in Indian Territory were
definitely separated from those of the Choctaw, with which they had
before been included.
In manners and customs they differed little from their congeners, the
Choctaw, the principal difference being the more sedentary habits and greater devotion to agricultural pursuits by
the Choctaw on the one hand, and the more turbulent, restless, and
warlike disposition of the Chickasaw on the other. Their traditional
origin is the same as that of the Creeks and Choctaw (q. v.), and is
given in the so-called "Creek migration legend" (see Creeks). The
Chickasaw appear to have sheltered and ultimately incorporated into
their organization the small tribes along Yazoo river, who spoke
substantially the same language.
The Chickasaw language served as a
medium of commercial and tribal intercourse for all the tribes along
the lower Mississippi. Early estimates of population vary widely,
those of the 18th century ranging from 2,000 to nearly 6,000.
According to Adair (op. cit., 353) they had been much more numerous
than during his time (1744), one of the two divisions, the "Long
House," numbering not more than 450 warriors, indicating a population
of 1,600 to 1,800 persons. He gives no estimate of the other
division, but assuming it to have been about the same, the population
of the entire tribe was between 3,000 and 4,000. Morse (Rep. to Sec.
War, 364, 1822), though estimating the Choctaw at 25,000, gives the
Chickasaw population as 3,625. In 1865 the estimated population was
4,500; in 1904 the official number was given as 4,820, including mixed
(Choctaw: nanpisa, 'spy,' 'sentinel') A tribe mentioned
in 1699 by Iberville as united with the Chickasaw living in villages
adjoining hose of the later, and speaking the same or a cognate language.
As they disappeared from history early in the 18th century, it is probably
that they were absorbed by the Chickasaw, if indeed they were not a local
division of the latter.
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of American Indians, 1906
Index of Tribes or Nations
Index of Tribes or Nations