Chickasaw Districts, Death, and Doctors
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Up to the time the Chickasaws moved west (1836- 38), their country was divided into three districts, viz: Tishomingo, Sealy and McGilvery. At the time of their exodus west to their present places of abode, Tishomingo (properly Tishu Miko, chief officer or guard of the king) was the chief of the Tishu Miko district; Samuel Sealy, of the Sealy district, and William McGilvery, of the McGilvery district.
The Chickasaw ruler was styled king instead of chief and his chief officer was called Tishu Miko.
Ishtehotohpih was the reigning king at the time they left their ancient places of abode east of the Mississippi river for those west. He died in 1840. He was the last of the Chickasaw rulers who bore the title, king. After his death the monarchical form of government, which was hereditary, as I was informed by Governor Cyrus Harris, was abolished, and the form of Republicanism adopted. The power of their kings was very circumscribed, being only about equal to that of their present governor. The king’s wife was called queen, but clothed with no authority what ever, and regarded only as other Chickasaw women.
That Tishu Miko was a wise counselor and brave warrior among the Chickasaws is about all that has escaped oblivion, as little has been preserved of his life by tradition or otherwise. He was the acting Tishu Miko of Ishtehotohpih at the time of the removal of his people to the west. He died in 1839, the year before his royal master. He was appointed during life as one of the chief counselors to Ishtehotohpih; and when he advised the king upon any mooted question, so great was his influence over the other counsel ors, as Governor Harris stated, that they at once unanimously acquiesced to his propositions, but invariably with the reiterated exclamation, “That s just what I thought! That’s just what I that!” while the king said but little, but generally adopted the suggestions of Tishu Miko.
Tushkaapela (Warrior-Helper) was a former Chickasaw king, but was made an invalid for life by an accident which rendered him unable to walk in an upright position, but slowly crawled about by means of a buck s horn in each hand extended behind him, and his feet thrust forward, presenting an object of great compassion. His wife was named Pakarli (blossom), corrupted by the whites Puc-caun-la.
The ancient Chickasaws, unlike the Choctaws, buried their dead soon after life became extinct placing in the grave with the corpse, if a man, his clothes, war and hunting implements, pipe and tobacco, and a few provisions; if a woman or child, the clothes and other little articles the deceased may have prized in life, and a few provisions. A Chickasaw widow mourned twelve full moons for her deceased husband, while the other relatives prolonged their mourning only three; at the close of which a Special Cry was appointed at night, which was kept up until the break of day; then the end of the hair of the mourners was clipped and a string handed to them with which they tied up their hair, which had been permitted to hang loose over their shoulders from the death of their kindred to the end of the three moons, the appointed time for mourning.
Suicide was sometimes committed by the ancient Chickasaws, but very seldom. When it was, it was invariably done with their favorite instrument of death, the rifle. Any of their doctors were well informed in the medicinal properties of various herbs and roots found in natures pharmacopoeia, and were remarkably successful in their practice, especially in cases of common fevers, the bite of snakes, and many other ills to which frail humanity is so subject everywhere; they were more skillful years ago than at the present day, relying principally upon the white doctors located among them.
But much practical sense would the best white physicians of the long ago have displayed, and much useful information obtained concerning the medicinal virtues of many herbs which Nature then presented in her wild botanical garden (now forever lost) if they had humbled their foolish pride of imagined superiority over the Indian enough to have studied his pharmacy a little more attentively.
When living in the ancient domains of their fathers the Chickasaws had many native women among them who practiced the healing art; and not a few of them became quite adepts in their profession. A few female physicians are still found among them.
Some of the most skillful doctors were regarded by their people as being not only wise in the knowledge of the medicinal properties of various herbs and roots which their boundless forests furnished so abundantly, but also gifted with the power of making it rain when so inclined; but they did not make as frequent illustrations of that power by actual experiment, as did some of the Choctaws.
As among all North American Indians, as far as I have been able to ascertain, so too had the Chickasaws those privileged personages, the Rain Maker, Medicine Man and the Prophet, or Seer. The first, in seasons of protracted drought, was invoked to exert his mysterious power to bring about an abundant shower; the second to interpret dreams and charm, away spells, and the third to lift the veil from the dim and mystic future. But in this they differed not from all the human race whose minds had not been illuminated by the divine rays of the gospel of the Son of God.