Bienville

In 1696, Bienville convened the chiefs of the Choctaws and Chickasaws in council, that he might conciliate their good will by presents; and, with a view of impressing them with his power and greatness by an imposing display, he also called together all the colonists within his reach; but his effort to impress the Choctaws and Chickasaws with an idea of his greatness proved more humiliating than flattering to the pride of Bienville, as they manifested to him their utter contempt of such a farcical evidence of power and greatness, by propounding a question to him, through one of their chiefs, which was a humiliating proof of the low estimation in which they held him as well as the entire French people; it was, “If his people at home were as numerous as those who had settled in their country”? In reply, Bienville, who had learned to speak their language to some extent, attempted to describe to them by various comparisons the great numbers and power of the French. But still the chiefs proved not only to be doubting Thomas’s, but wholly established in the belief that all he had said was false, by finally propounding the following questions: “If your countrymen are as thick, as you say, on their native soil as the leaves on the trees of our forests, why have they not sent more of their warriors here to avenge the death of those whom we have slain in battle? When they have the power to avenge their death and then fail do so, is an evidence of great cowardice or a mean spirit. And why is it that the places of the strong and brave soldiers that first came with you, but now dead, are filled by so many little, weak and bad looking men, and even boys? If your nation is so great and your people so numerous, they would not thus act, and we believe that our white brother talks with a forked tongue.” Thus was Bienville fully convinced that the Choctaws and Chickasaws did not tremble through fear of his boasted power; and that, they also well knew that he only had about, fifty soldiers at his command, and that his attempted display of power had but convinced them of his weakness. And had the Choctaws and Chickasaws been so disposed, they could, with a little handful of their warriors, have wiped out the French colony, Bienville, soldiers and all.

In 1702, Bienville, then commander of the French at Mobile, secretly sent out a small party to the Choctaws and Chickasaw to solicit their friendship, and thus secures their trade. A few chiefs returned with the party to Mobile, whom Bienville welcomed and entertained with affected friendship and assumed hospitality, bestowing” presents and soliciting” their friendship; yet, “In January, 1704,” says Barnard de la Harpe, pp. 35, 83, “Bienville induced several war parties of the Choctaws to invade the country of the Indian allies of the English, and having” taken several scalps, they brought them to Bienville, who rewarded them satisfactorily;” thus involving” the Choctaws, whose interests he professed to have so much at heart, in destructive warfare so greatly detrimental to their national interests; and proving the shallowness of his professed friendship for the Indians and the perfidy of his nature, in a letter to the French minister, October 12. 1708, in which he suggested the propriety of the French colonists in North America, being” allowed the privilege offending Indians to the West India Islands to be exchanged as slaves for Negroes, and asserting that “those Islanders would give two Negroes for three Indians.”

There was a tradition of the Choctaws related to the missionaries over seventy-five years ago by the old warriors of the Choctaws of that day, who for many years before had retired from the hardships of the war-path, which stated that a two years war broke out between their nation and the Chickasaws, over a hundred years before (about 1705) the advent of the missionaries among them, resulting in the loss of many warriors on both sides and finally ending in the defeat of the Chickasaws; whereupon peace was restored to the mutual gratification of both nations wearied with the long fratricidal strife. This war had its origin as the tradition affirms, in an unfortunate affair that occurred in Mobile, (then a little French trading post) between a party of Chickasaw warriors (about seventy) who had gone there for the purpose of trade, and a small band of Choctaws who had preceded them on the same business. While three together, a quarrel arose between some of the different warriors resulting in a general fight, in which, though several Chickasaws were killed and wounded, the entire little band of Choctaws was slain as was supposed; but unfortunately for the Chickasaws a Choctaw happening to be in another part of the town at the time of the difficulty, escaped; and learning at once of the killing of his comrades, fled for home, where arriving safely he informed his people of the bloody tragedy at Mobile. Without delay the Choctaws adopted measures of revenge. Knowing that the company of Chickasaws would have to return home through their country, they laid their plans accordingly. The Chickasaws, not without fears, however, lest the Choctaws might have heard of the unfortunate affair, secured an escort from Bienville of twenty-five Canadians under the command of Boisbriant. As they approached a village, the Choctaws sent a small company to invite and escort them to a council pretenvedly to be in session; which the Chickasaws, feeling safe under their escort, accepted. They were escorted to the sham council, and were given, as was customary on such occasions, the inside circles, all seated on the ground; while the Choctaws formed a circle completely hemming them in. A Choctaw chief then arose and advanced with great solemnity and dignity to the speakers place in the centre, with a tomahawk concealed under his dress, which, when he drew from its place of concealment, was the signal for the work of death to begin. The speaker went on for a few minutes in a strain of wild eloquence, but saying nothing that would awaken the least suspicion in the minds of his still unsuspecting guests; when suddenly he snatched the fatal tomahawk from its concealment and in an instant hundreds of tomahawks, heretofore concealed, gleamed a moment in the air and then descended upon the heads of the doomed Chickasaws, and, ere they had time for a second thought, all were slain. The Choctaws knowing that the Chickasaws would hear of the destruction of their brethren and would retaliate upon them, rushed at once into their country and destroyed several villages ere the Chickasaws could recover from their surprise. But the brave and dauntless Chickasaws, ever equal to any and all emergencies, soon rallied from their discomfiture, and presented a bold and defiant front. Then commenced a two years war of daring deeds and fatal results between those two nations of fearless warriors, known and to be known to them alone. The creek, dividing that portion of their territories that lay contiguous t6 the place where the band of Chickasaws were slain on their return from Mobile, now in the northern part of Oktibbiha County, Mississippi, and known as Line Creek, was named by the Choctaws, after the two years war, Nusih (sleep or slept, Chiah, yau-yau slept, that is, you were taken by surprise) in memorial of those two tragical events, the surprise and destruction of the Chickasaw warriors, and the disquiet and discomfiture of their nation at the unexpected attack upon them by the Choctaws, Nusih Chia has been erroneously interpreted by some as meaning “Where acorns abound.” Nosi aiasha means where acorns abound;

The killing” of this little band of Chickasaws under the circumstances, together with that of being under the escort and protection of the French, caused the Chickasaws to believe it was done through the connivance of the French, and ever afterwards they were the most inveterate and uncompromising enemies of the French, among all the Indian tribes, north and south, except the Iroquois, and in which, as a matter of course, they were encouraged by the Carolina traders from the English settlements.

That the southern Indians were friendly to their foreign intruders and disposed to live in peace with them, and were not such a bloodthirsty people as they have been represented, is clearly demonstrated by the fact that, in 1810 there was such a scarcity of provisions, that Bienville had to scatter his men among the Indians in order to obtain food for them, and so informed his government; a plan to which he had been driven before; and had not the Indians preferred peace to war with the whites, they surely would have embraced such favorable opportunities to destroy the unwelcome invader of their country.

In 1711, through the machinations of the English, who were ever ready to embrace every opportunity to enhance their own interests, though at the destruction of the Indians, the Choctaws and Chickasaws, were again involved in a fratricidal war, at the beginning of which, there was a little company of thirty Chickasaw warriors instead of Choctaws, in Mobile, and fearing to return home through the Choctaw nation, they too earnestly requested Bienville to send a company of his soldiers with them for protection. Bienville, seeing so favorable opportunity of winning the friendship of the Chickasaws, and hoping thus to seduce them from their alliance to the English to that of the French, cheerfully complied to their request by sending his brother, Chateaugne, to escort them through the Choctaw nation, which he safely did. But the cause and result of this war have long since passed with its participants into the silence of the unknown past.

Charles Gayarre (Vol. 1, p. 91) says: “In 1714 twelve English men, with a large number of Muskogees, came among the Choctaws, and were kindly received by all the towns except two, who fortified themselves and, while besieged by the Muskogees, one night made their escape to Mobile.” From the above, it appears that the visit of the twelve Englishmen to the Choctaws was attributed to an invitation extended to them by a Choctaw chief; since in. the following year, July 1715, Bienville sent messengers to the Choctaws, demanding the head of Outoct-chito”(a corruption of his true name, Oktak (oketark) (Prairie) Chitoh (Big or Big Prairie)) “who had persuaded the English traders to visit- their nation, and had thereby caused to be driven off the inhabitants of two Choctaw towns, who were still in Mobile. The messengers returned to Mobile with the head of the unfortunate Oktark Chitoh, which had been stricken off by the Choctaw chiefs, who now were afraid of Bienville.”

How different the Choctaws then from what they were in 1696, when they closed their interrogatories to him with” the bold assertion, “We believe our white brother talks with a forked tongue.” Alas! How rapidly had they fallen from a state of perfect independence to that of servile dependence within the period of three quarters of a century; the dupes at first, only to become the abject slaves of a heartless tyrant. Thus did the rivalry of France and England for the possession of the North American continent, encouraged and emboldened by their national jealousy and innate hatred long cherished each for the other, involve the deceived Indians in continued war-fare with each other, as their respective traders and emissaries throughout the length and breadth of the Indian territories to contend for the patronage of the Indians, and to drive each the other from those positions where they had established themselves, ultimately to end in ruin and destruction of the Indians. But the Choctaws, though reduced to such servile extremities and seemingly wholly under the arbitrary power of the French, were still dreaded by many of the neighboring tribes, and even by the English themselves.. As an illustration, in 1727, the English, being at war with the Spaniards, used every means in their power to influence the Indians to make war upon them, and by their instigation a tribe, then known as Talapauches, had laid siege to Pensacola (corrupted from the Chahtah words Puska, bread, and Okla, people, Bread People, or people having bread); but Pirier, who had succeeded Bienville in the governorship at New Orleans, sent word to the Talapauches (corrupted from the Choctaw words Tuli, rock or iron, and Poo-shi, dust; and no doubt an ancient off-shoot of the Choc taws) to return to their homes without delay, or he would put the Choctaws after them; and they at once sought their homes with much more alacrity than when they left them. Such was the dread of the Choctaws and such the terror inspired by their name alone.

In 1733, the Choctaws, as allies to the French, engaged in a war with the Natchez, of which I will more particularly notice in the history of that tribe.