Laws of the Chickasaw Tribe

The ancient Chickasaw divisions of the tribe were called Yakissah, (here stops). In reference to family connections in marrying they were the same as the Choctaws, No persons of the same Yakissah were allowed to marry. Also they have been called In Chukka Holhtenah Hochifo, most frequently abbreviated to Inchukka holhte chifo, his house (or clan) is numbered and named; and with the same reference as Yakissah, and also Iksa of the Choctaws. If a man violated the law by marrying a woman of his own Yakissah (or house), he forfeited his own rights and privileges, and also his children of the same; but the wife forfeited nothing.

The Chickasaws, like their brethren, the Choctaws, never betrayed any trust reposed in them. No matter what whether of great value or of little consequence, was left in their charge to be taken care of, that confidence was never betrayed. They were true to their friendship, never being the first to violate its sacred ties; yet bitter their animosity, even as all the fallen race of unfortunate Adam. But like all their race of the long ago, they too possessed but little idea of compensation; therefore were easily made the victims of unprincipled white traders who well knew how to defraud them, and had no compunctions of conscience to use that knowledge to their own pecuniary advantage, though to the utter impoverishment of the Indian. But the Chickasaws, beginning to realize that they received very little in re turn for a very large amount given, adopted a very proper plan, as they thought, to test the honesty of all white traders, but which gave them completely into their hands. It was this: They first offered for sale the most indifferent article they had in whatever the line of barter consisted, and asked a higher price for it than its intrinsic value; and if the white man accepted it without dispute, it was sufficient evidence to them that he did not design to wrong them, and their confidence in his integrity was firmly established. But if the trader refused to make the purchase in harmony with the Chickasaws offer, the bargain was at once closed by the suspicion that the white man intended to defraud them. But the Whites soon learning the Chickasaws method of testing their honesty (though utterly void of the virtue), at once bought the first article offered at the full price set upon it by the owner without a whimper and thus gained their confidence; and without hesitation, entered the door of trade thus opened and continued to defraud the misguided Chickasaws.

The ancient Chickasaws had four laws only; all of which were strictly adhered to and rigidly enforced throughout the entire Yakissahs of the Nation. First, the law of murder, which placed the slayer wholly and exclusively in the hands of the oldest brother of the slain, whenever failed to execute the law whose claims were thus entrusted to his care and keeping, the standing verdict of which was “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” death. In case the deceased lad no brother or brothers, then one of the next nearest and oldest male relative became the self-appointed executioner of the violated law in which no delinquent was ever found. Nor did anyone, not even the nearest relations of the slayer, interfere in the matter in any way whatever either to assist or oppose. If the slayer fled, which was very seldom if ever the case, his oldest brother, and if he had no brother, then the next nearest and oldest relative in the male line was slain in his place; after which he could return in safety and without the fear of molestation, but to be ostracized and for ever stigmatized as a coward wherever he went, a punishment more to be dreaded by all North American Indians than a hundred deaths. In all such cases a woman was never slain in the place of a man. On account of this rigid and inexorable custom of dealing with him who had slain his fellowman, murders were very few and far between, as the slayer well knew the inevitable consequence that would follow unless he fled to parts unknown, which would be attended with eternal disgrace to himself, family and kindred, at the sacrifice also of his brother s life, or next nearest male relative.

Second, whipping for minor offenses; after which the culprit was reinstated to favor without any disgrace being attached to his name for his offense or punishment. He had violated the law, but had paid the penalty thereunto attached. The claims of the law were satisfied and therefore it was a thing of the past, to be mentioned no more, and it never was.

Fourth. The property of deceased parents descended to the brothers and sisters of the deceased, and not to their own children.

To us a strange, unjust and inconsistent law; but of which I was informed, as above recorded, by Governor Cyrus Harris, in 1886, who was regarded as among the best posted of the Chickasaws in regard to their laws and customs when living in their ancient domains, and whose veracity was never questioned by all who knew him, either among his own race or that of the white.


Chickasaw, Choctaw,

Cushman, Horatio Bardwell. History Of The Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians. Greenville, Texas: Headlight Printing House. 1899

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