Among the Choctaws the phratric organization appears in a conspicuous manner, because each phratry is named, and stands out plainly as a phratry. It doubtless existed in other tribes, but the subject has not been specially investigated. The tribe of the Choctaws consists of eight gentes arranged in two phratries, composed of four gentes each, as among the Iroquois. According to Morgan 1 the Choctaw were divided into two phratries, each including 4 gentes, as follows:
I. Kushapokla (Divided people)
- Kushiksa (Reed)
II. Watakihulata (Beloved people)
- Chufaniksa (Beloved people)
- Iskulani (Small people)
- Chito (Large people)
- Shakchukla (Crayfish people)
Besides these, mention is made of a gens named Urihesahe 2, which has not been identified. Morgan’s list is probably far from complete.
The gentes of the same phratry could not intermarry; but the members of either of the first gentes could marry into either gens of the second, and vice-versa. It shows that the Choctaws, like the Iroquois, commenced with two gentes, each of which afterwards subdivided into four, and that the original prohibition of intermarriage in the gens had followed the subdivisions. Descent among the Choctaws was in the female line. Property and the office of sachem were hereditary in the gens. In 1869 they numbered some twelve thousand, which would give an average of fifteen hundred persons to a gens. The foregoing information was communicated to the author by the late Dr. Cyrus Byington, who entered the missionary service in this tribe in 1820 while they still resided in their ancient territory east of the Mississippi, who removed with them to the Indian Territory, and died in the missionary service about the year 1868, after forty-five years of missionary labors. A man of singular excellence and purity of character, he has left behind him a name and a memory of which humanity may be proud.
A Choctaw once expressed to Dr. Byington a wish that he might be made a citizen of the United States, for the reason that his children would then inherit his property instead of his gentile kindred under the old law of the gens. Choctaw usages would distribute his property after his death among his brothers and sisters and the children of his sisters. He could, however, give his property to his children in his lifetime, in which case they could hold it against the members of his gens. Many Indian tribes now have considerable property in domestic animals and in houses and lands owned by individuals, among whom the practice of giving it to their children in their lifetime has become common to avoid gentile inheritance. As property increased in quantity the disinheritance of children began to arouse opposition to gentile inheritance; and in some of the tribes, that of the Choctaws among the number, the old usage was abolished in the 19th century, and the right to inherit was vested exclusively in the children of the deceased owner. It came, however, through the substitution of a political system in the place of the gentile system, an elective council and magistracy being substituted in place of the old government of chiefs. Under the previous usages the wife inherited nothing from her husband, nor he from her; but the wife’s effects were divided among her children, and in default of them, among her sisters.
The following bands are those published within the Handbook of American Indians.
- Boguechito (big bayou).
A Choctaw band formerly residing in Neshoba County, Mississippi, in a district known by the same name. 3
The Choctaws were divided into various clans called Iksa, established and regulated upon principles of unity, fidelity and charity. They held this to be a necessary and important custom to be sacredly kept and inviolably observed by them at all times and under all circumstances, and never to be forgotten. If one should be found in a strange place far from home, and should be placed in a situation to need assistance, all he had to do was to give the necessary intimation of his membership of one of those Iksas, and upon the mention of the name of that clan he would never fail to meet one or more, who would immediately extend to him the hand of friendship. Should he be sick, in want or in distress, relief would be immediately administered. The marriage of person’s belonging to the same Iksa was forbidden by the common law of the tribe. The brotherly love so strongly inculcated and highly recommended in the Inspired Volume, was to a great extent practiced under this sort of arrangement. It was considered that the Nation could not exist without the Iksa. One Iksa piled the bones, and buried the dead of another. No Iksa performed these last offices to any of it’s own Iksa. Each had their bone-pickers – old men being usually chosen or that purpose and was held in high esteem on account of their age and office.
The following clans are those published within the Handbook of American Indians.
- Chito (large [people]). A Choctaw gens of the Watakihulata phratry. 4
- Chufaniksa. (Chu-fan-ik′sa, beloved people) . A Choctaw clan of the Watakihulata phratry. 4
- Iskulani. .(small [people]). A Choctaw clan of the Watakihulata phratry. 4
- Kushiksa. (Kush-ik´-sä). The Reed clan of Choctaw, belonging to the Kushapokla or Divided people phatry. 4
- Lawokla. A Choctaw clan of the Kushapokla phatry. 4
- Linoklusha. (Lin-ok-lū-sha, ‘crayfish’). A clan of the Kushapokla phatry of the Choctaw. 4
- Lulakiksa. A Choctaw clan of the Kushapokla phatry. 4
- Shakchukla. (Shak-chuk´-la, crayfish people’). A Choctaw clan of the Watakihulata phratry. 4
- Urihesah. Mentioned as a Choctaw clan. Not identified. 2
- Morgan, Ancient Society, 99, 166, 1877
- Wright in Ind. Aff. Rep. 1843, 348
- Gatschet, Creek Migration Legend, i, 108, 1884.
- Morgan, Ancient Society, p. 166. New York, 1877.