Choctaw Eagle Dance, George Catlin, 1845-8

Choctaw Tribe

Choctaw Tribe – Choctaw Indians (possibly a corruption of the Spanish chato, ‘flat’ or ‘flattened,’ alluding to the custom of these Indians of flattening the head).    An important tribe of the Muskhogean stock, formerly occupying middle and south Mississippi, their territory extending, in their most flourishing days, for some distance east of Tombigbee River, probably as far as Dallas County, Georgia. Ethnically they belong to the Choctaw branch of the Muskhogean family, which included the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Huma and their allies, and some small Indian tribes which formerly lived along Yazoo River. The dialects of the members of this branch are so closely related that they may be considered as practically identical 1.

Choctaw Tribe History and Ethnology

Choctaw Eagle Dance, George Catlin, 1845-8
Choctaw Eagle Dance, George Catlin, 1845-8.
The Choctaw give the Eagle Dance once a year, to the War Eagle, the bird that conquers all other varieties of the Eagle species; and the tail feathers of the Eagles the Choctaw use to decorate the heads of the brave.

The earliest notice of the Choctaw Tribe is found in the De Soto narratives for 1540. The giant Tascalusa, whom he met in his march down Coosa Valley and carried to Mauvila, was a Choctaw chieftain; and the natives who fought the Spaniards so fiercely at this town belonged to a closely related tribe. When the French, about the beginning of the 18th century, began to settle colonies at Mobile, Biloxi, and New Orleans, the Choctaw came early into friendly relations with them and were their allies in their wars against other Indian tribes. In the French War on the Natchez, in 1730, a large body of Choctaw warriors served under a French officer. They continued this friendship until the English traders succeeded in drawing over to the English interest some of the east Choctaw towns. This brought on a war between them and the main body, who still adhered to the French, which continued until 1763. The Choctaw Tribe was constantly at war with the Creeks and Chickasaw. After the French had surrendered their American possessions to Great Britain, in 1763, and to some extent previously thereto, members of the tribe began to move across the Mississippi, where, in 1780, Milfort 2 met some of their bands who were then at war with the Caddo. About 1809 a Choctaw village existed on Wichita River, and another on Bayou Chicot, Opelousas Parish, Louisiana. Morse (1820) says there were 1,200 of them on the Sabine and Neches Rivers, and about 140 on Red River, near Pecan point 3. It is stated by some historians that this tribe, or parties of it, participated in the Creek War; this, however, is emphatically denied by Halbert 4, who was informed in 1877 by some of the oldest members of the tribe that the Choctaw manifested no hostility toward the Americans during this conflict. A small band of perhaps 30 were probably the only Choctaw with the Creeks. The larger part of those in Mississippi began to migrate to Indian Territory in 1832, having ceded most of their lands to the United States in various treaties 5.

  • Choctaw Indians – Swanton
  • The Choctaw of Bayou Lacomb
    This collection depicts the specific culture and history of the Choctaw tribe residing within Bayou Lacomb, Louisiana. Included are the geography, history, society, language, ethnology, and myths, legends and religion of the Choctaws who resided within the area of Bayou Lacomb. By the people of the tribe, or, more correctly, that portion of the tribe now under consideration, they themselves are called the Chata’ogla or the Chata’ people or family. According to them, the first word can not be translated as it is merely a proper name.
  • History of the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians
  • 1822 Congressional Report on Indian Affairs
    Jedediah Morse's 1822 report to Congress of his travels through Indian Territory on behalf of the office of Secretary of War - Jedediah was tasked by a resolution of Congress to report of his travels amongst the tribes throughout the United States. Acknowledging that he did not visit all of the tribes, and that he relied on known facts and materials for the body of text he provided, Jedediah presented a large collection of tabular data and descriptive content. This data was then used by Congress to shape it's policies as it dealt with expansion further west, and specifically tribal relations.
  • Indian Missions of the Southern States

Choctaw Tribe Phratries

According to Morgan 6 the Choctaw were divided into two phratries, each including 4 gentes, as follows:

A. Kushapokla (Divided people)

  1. Kushiksa (Reed)
  2. Lawokla
  3. Lulakiksa
  4. Linoklusha

B. Watakihulata (Beloved people)

  1. Chufaniksa (Beloved people)
  2. Iskulani (Small people)
  3. Chito (Large people)
  4. Shakchukla (Crayfish people)

Besides these, mention is made of a gens named Urihesahe 7, which has not been identified. Morgan’s list is probably far from complete.

Consult further:

Choctaw Tribe Culture and Life

The Choctaw were preeminently the agriculturists of the southern Indians. Though brave, their wars in most instances were defensive. No mention is made of the “great house,” or “the square,” in Choctaw towns, as they existed in the Creek communities, nor of the busk. The game of chunkey, as well as the ball play, was extensively practiced by them. It was their custom to clean the bones of the dead before depositing them in boxes or baskets in the bone-houses, the work being performed by “certain old gentlemen with very long nails,” who allowed their nails to grow long for this purpose. The people of this tribe also followed the custom of setting up poles around the new graves, on which they hung hoops, wreaths, etc., to aid the spirit in its ascent. As their name seems to imply, they practiced artificial head flattening.

  • Choctaw Nation Schools in 1904
  • The Choctaw Freedmen and Oak Hill Industrial Academy
    The aim of the Author in preparing this volume has been to put in a form, convenient for preservation and future reference, a brief historical sketch of the work and workers connected with the founding and development of Oak Hill Industrial Academy, established for the benefit of the Freedmen of the Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory, by the Presbyterian Church, U. S. A., in 1886, when Miss Eliza Hartford became the first white teacher, to the erection of Elliott Hall in 1910, and its dedication in 1912; when the name of the institution was changed to "The Alice Lee Elliott Memorial."
  • The MOWA Choctaws
    Extinction by Reclassification: The MOWA Choctaws of South Alabama and Their Struggle for Federal Recognition - In the 1930s, Carl Carmer, a professor at the University of Alabama and author of Stars Fell on Alabama, traveled around Alabama collecting unusual stories. He said that he chose "to write of Alabama not as a state which is part of a nation, but as a strange country in which I once lived." One of his stories describes his efforts to determine the ancestry of the so-called Cajuns who lived around Citronelle in southwest Alabama. Carmer’s story provoked a flurry of interest in the “Cajans,” when in reality they were not Cajun at all. Instead, they were descendants of the indigenous Choctaw Indians of southwest Alabama. Originally appearing in The Alabama Review, Volume 59, July 2006, pages 163-204.
  • Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek
    This section of our website is being created for those who have searched in vain for their Mississippi Choctaw Ancestors. Many knowledgeable people have contributed information to help you find these missing ancestors. Because of the controversy of the Article 14 Claimants it may not be possible to establish tribal affiliation, but with the help of so many it may be possible to prove that your family was indeed Native American.
  • The Indian Races of North and South America
    The Indian Races of North and South America provides ethnographic information (manners, peculiarities and history) on the tribes of North and South America. We've added pictures to the mix, to provide some sort of visual reference for the reader. This is an important addition to AccessGenealogy's collection for it's inclusion of tribes in South America and Central America, as well as the Caribbean Islands.
  • The Five Civilized Tribes in Oklahoma
    Five Civilized Tribes in Oklahoma - This manuscript has been extracted from Congressional records relating to relief of specific individuals of the Five Civilized Tribes in Oklahoma. If one of your ancestors was rejected or added to the rolls of any of the five civilized tribes in Oklahoma you should peruse the information here. It contains a lot of case work involving specific Native Americans and those that attempted to prove themselves as part of the tribes.
  • Life Among the Choctaw Indians
    Henry Benson worked as a missionary amongst the Choctaw at the Fort Coffee Academy for Boys in the mid 1800's. In this manuscript he depicts the formation of the Academy and missionary amongst the Indians, providing valuable insight into the tribal customs of the Choctaw after they had been forcibly moved to the Indian Territory. He also provides glimpses into the lives of westerners before the Civil War in the south-west.
  • A Bill to Reopen the Rolls of the Choctaw-Chickasaw Tribe
  • Choctaw Mixed Bloods and the Advent of Removal
    Choctaw Mixed Blood and the Advent of Removal: This dissertation by Samuel James Wells lists the names and families of the known mixed bloods and examines their role in tribal history, especially regarding land treaties during the Jeffersonian years preceding Removal. This dissertation includes a database of over three thousand names of known and probable mixed bloods drawn from a wide range of sources and therefore has genealogical as well as historical value.
  • Col. William Wards Register
    Colonel William Ward was appointed United States agent to register Choctaw Indians according to Article 14 of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, September 1830. The treaty was ratified February 24, 1831 and the six month time limit for those wishing to remain ended August 24, 1831. The registration procedure resulted in numerous "contingent claims" by members of the Choctaw Nation.

Choctaw Indians Chiefs and Leaders

Choctaw Indians Rolls and Census

Choctaw Language

There are, or at least were formerly, several dialects spoken in different sections; these, however, differed so little that they have not been considered worthy of special mention.

  • The Chahta Language
  • Chahta is a derivative for Choctaw, so the following information is referencing the Choctaw Language. The Chahta Language, the representative of the western group of Maskoki dialects, differs in its phonetics from the eastern dialects chiefly by the more general vocalic nasalization previously alluded to.

Choctaw Tribe Treaties

Choctaw Tribe Land Claims

Choctaw Locations

The small Muskhogean tribes known as MobilianTohome or Tomez, TawasaMugulashaAcolapissaHuma, and Conshac, on the gulf coast of Mississippi and Alabama, are sometimes called Choctaw, but the Choctaw proper had their villages inland, on the upper courses of the Chickasawhay, Pearl, and Big Black Rivers, and the west affluent of the Tombigbee. At least in later times they were distinguished into three sections, each under its mingo or chief. The western division was called Oklafalaya, ‘the long people,’ and consisted of small, scattered villages; the northeastern, Ahepatokla (Oypatukla), ‘potato-eating people,’ and the southeastern district came to be called Oklahannali, ‘Sixtowns,’ from the name of the dominant subdivision. The people of these two latter districts lived in large towns for mutual defense against their constant enemies the Creeks. Gatschet gives Cobb Indians as the name of those Choctaw settled west of Pearl River.

The population of the Choctaw Tribe when it first came into relations with the French, about the year 1700, has been estimated at front 15,000 to 20,000. Their number in 1904 was 17,805, exclusive of 4,722 Choctaw freedmen (Negroes). These are all under the Union Agency, Indian Territory. To these must be added a small number in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Online Choctaw Tribe Resources

Choctaw Tribe Gallery of Photos

Choctaw, Muskogean,

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

Search Military Records - Fold3
  1. Gatschet, Creek Migration Legends, I, 53, 1884[]
  2. Milfort, Méoire, 95, 1802[]
  3. Rep. to Sec. War, 373, 1822[]
  4. Halbert, Creek War of 1813 and 1814, 124, 1895[]
  5. Royce, Indian Land Cessions, 18th Rep. B. A. E., 1899[]
  6. Morgan, Ancient Society, 99, 162, 1877[]
  7. Wright in Ind. Aff. Rep. 1843, 348[]

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