The Choctaw Nation, from its earliest known history to the present time has, at different intervals, produced many great and good men; who, had they have had the advantages of education, would have lived upon the pages of history equally with those of earth’s illustrious great.
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The first of whom we have any historical account, is Tush-ka Lu-sa, (the heroic defender of Moma Bin-na, a Lodge for All corrupted first to Mobila, then to Mobile) who perished, with many thousands of his people, in that bloody tragedy of three and a half centuries ago, while de fending his ancient city against the Spaniards, nothing more however, has been handed down by which we can judge of his ability as a wise and judicious ruler, but the fact that De Soto found his Nation in a prosperous condition; his people dwelling in large and well fortified towns, comfortable houses, subsisting to a very large extent by the cultivation of the soil.
But of the patriotism and undaunted bravery of Tush-ka Lusa, and his ability as a commander of his warriors, DeSoto had satisfactory proof at the battle of Momabinah. But so little of the history of those ancient Choctaws has escaped oblivion that in sketching a line of their history at such a distance of time we necessarily pass through un known fields so wide and diversified that it is like gliding lightly and swiftly over the numberless waves of the agitated ocean, and only touching here and there some of their highest tops; while, as we approach our own times, merely the outline of their history, if accurately drawn, would fill many volumes; therefore, in the selection of objects to pre sent to the reader, with a due regard for his pleasure and profit, I shall have continual reference to the power of association, and endeavor to present such as will be most likely to bring to my Choctaw and Chickasaw friends, for whom the work is especially written, the remembrance of many incidents and circumstances, which once were fresh, but now are fading in their minds, by devoting here a few pages to the brief sketch of the lives of some of their eminent men now living, together with some of their distinguished dead. Noble men they were; the fame of whose virtues belong not to the world, but alone to their own Nation and people, though I am well aware that the whole subject of the North American Indians is so tinged with romance and fiction that did not the interest of correct history demand that at least an attempt should be made to shed a ray of light upon that wonderful people, I would not, as a truthful chronicler, have attempted to lift the veil and look in upon this mystic people, so long known, but so little under stood by my own race.
It is an accepted fact that one grand requisite to give, or sufficiently comprehend a biography, lies in a knowledge of the times to which it refers. I can truly say that with a knowledge of the times to which most of the following biographical sketches refer, I am fully acquainted; but I am well aware, however, that the standard of public regard is so constantly changing that a character half a century ago would have attracted the adulation of the world with its excellence; in the present age receives but a moderate share of praise, however meritorious, aside from that of its own fellow citizens and people.
But the custom of commemorating the virtues and eminent characteristics of those who have won the admiration, confidence and affection of, their fellow citizens, and have passed away from earths tragic scenes, has always commanded the services of civilized life; as it has been deemed useful to their contemporaries to awaken and keep alive in their thoughts those grateful deeds that are hallowed by memory, and to transmit a record of those deeds to the future, in order to act as incentives and models to succeeding generations.
Therefore, that the following biographical sketches may be as incentives and models to the young men of the Choctaw and Chickasaw people has been one of the inducements that have actuated me in writing them. Still to notice the virtues of humble individuals, lacking kingly ancestry and high position in the civilized world, with none of the accomplishments of birth, fortune and name, is an incident so unusual, that I might forbear, were I not writing to and for their own people, who will read not to criticize, but to bear testimony to the excellence and worth of their noble dead.
It has been said that there is a place for every man in the theater of life. If true, it is equally so, that every man does not always find his true place, nor occupy the position best suited to his capacity or ability. The circumstances and incidents of human life, as they are daily unrolled, have much to do in throwing men in the various situations in society; some of which they neither occupy nor faithfully, fill. There should be a fitness for the man for the place; else a statue of Vulcan would as well adorn a niche in the temple of the Muses, and a clown in his colored dress suitably represent the stern judge. I claim, however, for the subjects of this biography, not only a proper place, but an entire fitness for the varied duties incident to the occupancy of the place. Therefore, whether we look upon them as the faithful men, the intelligent and judicious citizens or the zealous rulers, they challenge alike a just admiration and worthy praise. In the various relations in which they stood among their people, They won the confidence, affection and esteem of all who knew them, both of their own race and also of the white; and, under the influence of a laudable ambition, they spared neither labor, time, nor well directed exertion to elevate their people in the scale of morality, prosperity and happiness. To their signal success in these efforts, the intelligence and prosperity of their people to-day, bear indisputable testimony, as the result of the labors of those who, in conjunction with the missionaries, carried all the ardor of their souls, all the strength of their minds, and all the application and concentration of their powers that were necessary for securing their object in view. The responsibility of the stations they thus honored, they felt in all their force, and earnestly, honorably, and nobly they endeavored to discharge them.
None but those who personally knew them, can form any just conception of the manly efforts put forth by those truly noble and honest patriots, in their exertions to elevate the standard of their Nation in the estimation of the Christian world. They sought and obtained every useful information that could give them additional mental power in the pursuit of their favorite object, and studiously gathered the ripe experience of others, both by the study of books and observations in their travels among the whites, in their visits to Washington City on business of national affairs; and it is a matter of astonishment that amid the many difficulties they had to overcome in counteracting the evil influences of the lawless whites who invaded their country, that they accomplished what they did. Yet they were but in a preparatory state for enlarged usefulness among their people, when the hand of disease was laid upon them and they were re moved from their labors. Many of them in the very prime of their powers, in the very morn of the expansion of their matured minds, were cut down in the bright promise of a glorious future. But they had done enough to make their lives notable, and to justify the presenting of the records of their lives as containing laudable incentives to encourage others in the path of honorable usefulness, and meritorious examples as a model for them.
Tushka Lusa, the hero of Moma Bina, as before stated, is the only Choctaw chief whose name has been handed down from that tragic scene through the long line of historic silence, to the year 1745, when in the English and French wars, in which each were contending for supremacy upon the western continent, involving both the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, a few chiefs arose to the surface whose names have, escaped oblivion by their daring achievements during those scenes of blood and carnage; the most prominent of the Choctaws were Shulush Humma and Ibanowa, (one who walks with) Miko (chief) whom I will more particularly speak in the history of the Chickasaws. From 1745 to 1785 no other names of Choctaw chiefs have been preserved, all alike having gone down into the silence of eternal forgetfulness, but from 1785 the names of many of their great chiefs have been preserved, though long since deceased; among which, as the most prominent, stand that of A-push-a-ma-ta-hah-ub-i, (a messenger of death; literally, one whose rifle, tomahawk, or bow alike fatal in war or hunting.) A-pak-foh-li-chih-ub-ih, (to encircle and kill, corrupted by the whites to A-puck-she-nubee, and so used by the Choctaws of the present day.) A-to-ni Yim-in-tah, (a watchman infatuated with excitement) Olubih, (to take by force); Coleman Cole, Greenwood La Flore, Nit-tak-a chih-ub-ih, (to suggest the day and kill); David Folsom, Peter P. Pitchlynn, (the Calhoun of the Choctaws); Isaac Folsom, Silas Pitchlynn, Israel Folsom, (The Wesley of the Choctaws) and many others. With the last seven mentioned I was personally acquainted.
- Apushamatahah, A Choctaw Chief
- Dutch Johnnie
- Memoirs of Nathaniel Folsom
- Memoirs of John Pitchlynn
- Memoirs of the LeFlore Family
- Memoirs of the Durant and Crowder Families
- Memoirs of the Harkins Family