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Chickasaw

Chickasaw

The Chickasaw are a Muskogean-speaking American Indian group whose aboriginal homeland was located in present-day northeastern Mississippi. The Chickasaw, one of the socalled Five Civilized Tribes, numbered about five thousand in 1600 and about seven thousand in 1980.

By the nineteenth century the expansion of White settlement and resulting pressure on land and animal resources had forced the Chickasaw to abandon hunting and take up farming on a full-time basis. Continued White expansion and desire for the Chickasaws' land slowly pushed the group to give up their lands and migrate to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), a process that was completed by 1832. In 1906 the tribal governments of the Chickasaw and the other Civilized Tribes were dissolved by the federal government. In the 1980s the descendents of the Chickasaw located in Oklahoma numbered approximately seven thousand, and their tribal affairs were overseen by a tribal governor and ten-member advisory council.

The Chickasaw subsisted through a combination of hunting, fishing, gathering, and agriculture. Bison, deer, and bear were the most prized game animals, and hunting expeditions often took the Chickasaw men on long excursions throughout the Mississippi valley region.

Chickasaw society was characterized by a moiety organization, each half of which was divided into a number of exogamous matrilineal clans. Each moiety was headed by a priest whose primary responsibility was to oversee religious Ceremonies. Political leadership was vested in a head chief whose position was inherited within the leading clan and who was advised by a council of clan leaders and elders. At the bottom of Chickasaw society was a class of slaves taken in battles with neighboring tribes.

The supreme deity of the Chickasaw was Ababinili, beneath whom there were numerous lesser deities, witches, and evil spirits. The Chickasaw believed that after death those who had led a good life found reward in the heavens, and those who were evil wandered endlessly in a land of witches.


Bibliography

Gibson, Arrell M. (1971). The Chickasaws. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Kniffen, Fred B., Hiram F. Gregory, and George A. Stokes (1987). The Historic Indian Tribes of Louisiana: From 1542 to the Present. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.

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Chickasaw

Chickasaw (chĬk´əsô), Native North Americans whose language belongs to the Muskogean branch of the Hokan-Siouan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). They occupied N Mississippi and were closely related in language and culture to the Choctaw. The Chickasaw warred constantly with the Choctaw, the Creek, the Cherokee, and the Shawnee. The decline of the Chickasaw can be traced to the conflict for control of interior North America between France and Great Britain. Probably because British traders were established in their country before the settlement of Louisiana, the Chickasaw fought on the side of Great Britain, and French attempts to make peace with them were unsuccessful. After 1834 they moved, according to treaty arrangements, to Oklahoma, where they constituted one of the Five Civilized Tribes. In 1990 there were 21,500 Chickasaw in the United States.

See A. M. Gibson, The Chickasaws (1971).

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Chickasaw

Chickasaw Muskogean-speaking Native Americans, who originated in Mississippi-Tennessee (near present-day Memphis. One of the ‘Five Civilized Tribes’, the US government established the Ohio River as their boundary in the Hopewell Treaty (1786). In the 1830s, the Chickasaw were resettled in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Today, they number c.9000.

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Chickasaw

Chick·a·saw / ˈchikəˌsô/ • n. (pl. same or -saws) 1. a member of an American Indian people formerly resident in Mississippi and Alabama, and now in Oklahoma. 2. the Muskogean language of this people. • adj. of or relating to this people or their language.

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Chickasaw

Chickasaw •Nassau • hacksaw • heartsore •bedsore • Ensor • fretsaw • chainsaw •Esau, seesaw •jigsaw •ripsaw, whipsaw •eyesore • Warsaw • bowsaw •footsore • Luxor • plesiosaur •stegosaur • Arkansas • Chickasaw •dinosaur • brontosaur

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Chickasaw

Chickasaw

Name

The name Chickasaw (pronounced CHICK-uh-saw ) may come from a story of two brothers, Chisca and Chacta, from whom the Chickasaw and the Choctaw tribes are said to be descended. The British called these Native Americans “Flat Heads” because of an ancient tribal custom of flattening the skulls of children by putting a weight on their heads.

Location

The Chickasaw thrived in northeastern Mississippi at the head of the Tombigbee River. They controlled the entire Mississippi River valley as well as parts of western Tennessee and Kentucky and eastern Arkansas. One group was invited by South Carolina officials to settle on the Savannah River near Augusta, Georgia, and did so in 1723. By the beginning of the twenty-first century the Chickasaw Nation’s territory included a multi-county area of more than 7,648 square miles (19,808 square kilometers) in south-central Oklahoma.

Population

In 1693 there were an estimated 10,000 Chickasaw. In 1890 there were 6,400. In the 1990 U.S. Census, 21,522 people identified themselves as Chickasaw, although the Chickasaw Nation had 35,000 enrolled members at that time. In the 2000 census 20,887 people said they were Chickasaw, and 41,974 people claimed some Chickasaw ancestry. According to tribal sources 38,000 Chicasaw were enrolled in the tribe in 2005.

Language family

Muskogean.

Origins and group affiliations

The Chickasaw tell stories of originating in the West, possibly the Red River valley in Texas, where they were part of the Choctaw tribe. In around 1300 they crossed the Mississippi River and separated from the Choctaw, who alternated between being their allies and enemies. In fact, the Chickasaw fought with many tribes, including the Creek, Caddo, Cherokee, Iroquois, Menominee, Potawatomi, and Shawnee.

The Chickasaw were a fierce, warlike people who struck fear into the hearts of all who crossed their path. Their longtime allies, the British, recognized their courage and willingness to take on any foe, no matter how superior the enemy’s numbers. The British supplied the Chickasaw generously with weapons and relied on their help to win control of the North American continent. In the late 1700s when American colonists seized control of the eastern part of North America, they drove the tribe from its ancestral lands. The Chickasaw became part of a group known as the “Five Civilized Tribes,” which was forced to move to Oklahoma.

History

Troubled encounter with the Spanish

Long before the arrival of the Europeans the Chickasaw defended their fertile territory in the Mississippi River valley against any newcomers who dared set their sights on it. Chickasaw men thought of themselves first as warriors, then as hunters, and last as farmers.

In the late winter of 1540 Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto (c. 1496–1542) led an expedition into Chickasaw territory, making the first recorded contact with the tribe. The relations between the two groups were uneasy; there was distrust on both sides. The Spanish demanded food and a place to set up a winter camp. Chief Miculasa reluctantly agreed. According to historian Lee Sultzman, the Spanish shared some of their roast pork from the herd of pigs that traveled with them. The Chickasaw reportedly “loved it” and began to help themselves to Spanish pigs. The Spanish responded by killing two of the thieves and cutting off the hands of the third. Tensions mounted, and eventually the Chickasaw launched a surprise attack on the Spanish, driving off de Soto’s party. Their victory over the Spanish earned the Chickasaw a reputation across Europe as bloodthirsty warriors. The Spanish left the region in March 1541, never to return.

Important Dates

1540: The Chickasaw experience their first European contact, meeting Spanish treasure-hunter Hernando de Soto.

1698: The Chickasaw make their first contact with the British, who build trading posts two years later.

1786: The Treaty of Hopewell, the first treaty between the Chickasaw and the U.S. government, is signed.

1837: The Chickasaw agree to lease land in Indian Territory from their old enemies, the Choctaw, and begin the move from their homeland.

1856: The Chickasaw Nation is created.

1906: The Chickasaw Nation is dissolved.

1970: The present-day Chickasaw Nation is granted the right to regroup and to elect its own leaders.

Allies of the British

British traders based in South Carolina established trading posts along the Mississippi River in 1700, and the Chickasaw became their allies and trading partners. The traders had heard of the tribe’s superior fighting ability. In exchange for animal skins and slaves, they supplied the Chickasaw with guns, metal tools, knives, and cotton cloth. The Chickasaw people used the guns for hunting and for carrying out assaults on the French, who were battling Spain and England for control of the North American continent.

To get more skins for trade, the Chickasaw expanded their hunting expeditions into the territory of neighboring tribes, kidnapping their women and children to trade as slaves as they went along. Meanwhile, distant tribes, pushed westward by American colonists, tried to take over Chickasaw land. Throughout the eighteenth century the Chickasaw people engaged in almost constant fighting. Frequent contact with the British led many Chickasaw to adopt white ways. The makeup and culture of the tribe changed dramatically as many Chickasaw women married British men and gave birth to children of mixed blood. More cultural changes took place as the tribe willingly adopted refugees from other tribes that had been defeated by the French.

The Chickasaw remained allies of the British (but saw little actual fighting) until England’s defeat by the freedom-seeking colonists in the American Revolution (1775–81). After the war the tribe signed a treaty with the victorious Americans. The Treaty of Hopewell (1786) established the boundaries of Chickasaw territory, and American settlers agreed to stay off the land. But future conflicts with white settlers—who never seemed to have enough land—were almost guaranteed.

A half-century of treaties reduce homeland

In 1784 a measles epidemic struck the Chickasaw and killed many of their leaders. Weakened, but still ready to defend their territory, the tribe engaged in a four-decade-long battle with the Creek, the Osage (see entries), and others, who were stealing from them and attacking their hunting parties.

U.S. officials assured Southern tribes that they did not want their land—the white settlers already had plenty. In time, however, all confidence in this pledge to respect Native land rights was dashed. First, neighboring tribes such as the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Creek (see entries) gave up land to the U.S. government. Then in 1801 the Chickasaw agreed to grant the Americans permission to build a road through their homeland. Within eight years some five thousand Americans were living on Chickasaw land illegally. The U.S. government pressured the Chickasaw to leave and make way for whites. The tribe could see that their control of the region was nearing an end.

In 1832 the first in a series of treaties was signed giving all Chickasaw lands east of the Mississippi River to the U.S. government. The treaties called for the removal of the Chickasaw to Indian Territory, the land that now forms most of the state of Oklahoma. Over the remaining decades of the nineteenth century the U.S. government moved many tribes to Indian Territory.

The Chickasaw wanted their own land in Oklahoma, but could find nothing to suit them. They finally decided to lease a portion of land from the Choctaw, their old enemies. And so the Chickasaw became part of the movement of the “Five Civilized Tribes” to Indian Territory. (The Five Civilized Tribes were the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole (see entry), Creek, and Cherokee. Their white neighbors gave them this name because they had established institutions that were valued in white society.)

Removal to Indian Territory

The removal of the five tribes to Indian Territory took nearly twernty years to complete. The Chickasaw were the wealthiest of the five tribes and had greater access to wagons and other time-saving equipment that facilitated relocation efforts. They accomplished their move more quickly than other groups, in only two years (1837–38). A count of the tribe’s population taken just before their departure showed 4,914 Chickasaw and 1,156 black slaves. The Chickasaw also took five thousand horses with them and were plagued most of the way by would-be horse thieves. Throughout the journey many of the tribe’s members died from smallpox, malnourishment, or illness brought on by eating spoiled government-supplied food. Among the dead was Chief Tishomingo, the last great Chickasaw war chief, who had lived to the age of 102.

Conditions in Indian Territory were far from ideal. The region was filled with unhappy ex-warriors from numerous different tribes, many of them longtime enemies. An atmosphere of tension and chaos reigned. Living in Indian Territory on Choctaw land, the Chickasaw argued among themselves and with the Choctaw, whom they feared would come to control them. The conflicts were resolved in 1855 when the Chickasaw signed a treaty with the United States that created the land boundaries of an independent Chickasaw district. The next year the Chickasaw people formed their nation. They adopted a constitution and laws, elected Cyrus Harris (1817–1888) as their first governor, established a capital city at Tishomingo, and erected various government buildings.

Division over America’s Civil War

Though unified as a tribe by 1856, the Chickasaw people soon found themselves divided by conflicting political views. Some members of the tribe were mixed-blood slaveholders who had attained great wealth in American business. Others were more traditional full-blooded Chickasaw who took a strong stand against the enslavement of blacks. Matters came to a head with the outbreak of the American Civil War (1861–65; a war between the Union [the North], who were opposed to slavery, and the Confederacy [the South], who were in favor of slavery). Many Chickasaw joined Union forces, while the “official” Chickasaw Nation—dominated by so-called mixed-bloods—signed a treaty with the Confederacy. Many Chickasaw warriors lost their lives in the bloody struggle.

After 1865, with the Civil War over and no longer a distraction, white settlers cast their eyes on Indian Territory and began to move in, despite laws restricting such actions. They called for a reevaluation of the reservation system, arguing that too much land had been set aside for Native Americans and that the assimilation process (the Natives’ adoption of white American ways) was moving far too slowly.

Allotment of Chickasaw lands

The Chickasaw were the wealthiest and most advanced of the five nations living in Indian Territory. They had developed their oil resources and moved into the cattle industry. But feuds still turned the Chickasaw against each other. After one conflict-filled election, intermarried white Chickasaw citizens were stripped of their citizenship in the Chickasaw Nation. These conflicts did not last long, as the U.S. Congress moved forward with its allotment plans. Allotment called for the division of reservations into small parcels of land. Each Native American would be given an allotment to tend on his or her own, instead of large plots being tended by an entire tribe, as was their custom. Leftover land was opened up to white settlement.

Chickasaw lands were allotted in 1897. Each full-blood Chickasaw (then 1,538 of the 6,319 Chickasaw population) received 320 acres of land. In 1907 Oklahoma was admitted as the forty-sixth state of the United States. Just prior to this, the federal government dissolved the Chickasaw Nation, along with the governments of all five nations of the Civilized Tribes. By 1920 about 75 percent of Chickasaw lands had been either sold to whites or leased. The Chickasaw Nation continued only as a tribal council led by a federally-appointed governor. Many of the Chickasaw people moved away or assimilated into the local population.

Finally in 1970 Congress granted the Chickasaw tribe the right to elect its own leaders, and the people were able to regroup. Only in the 1990s did the tribe begin to recover from the blow of losing its land to allotment.

As the twentieth century drew to a close a majority of Chickasaw lived scattered throughout several counties in southern Oklahoma. The modern-day Chickasaw Nation is federally recognized, but no Chickasaw reservation exists. (Federally recognized tribes are those with which the U.S. government maintains official relations. Without federal recognition, the tribe does not exist as far as the government is concerned and therefore is not entitled to financial aid or other assistance.)

Religion

Everything in the Chickasaw world was filled with religious meaning. Rituals were closely tied to the Moon and its phases, and the tribe celebrated the beginning of each lunar cycle. The Chickasaw believed in a supreme being called Ababinili, a combination of the Four Beloved Things Above: Sun, Clouds, Clear Sky, and He That Lives in the Clear Sky. The tribe also recognized a host of other lesser powers, witches, and evil spirits. In the old times a priest called a hopaye conducted religious ceremonies and explained the meaning of signs, symbols, dreams, and other events to his followers.

The Chickasaw believed in a life after death. They buried their dead facing west—toward the pathway to judgment. The good were said to journey on to a world where they were rewarded for their life’s work; the evil, however, would be trapped between worlds, destined to wander in the Land of the Witches.

Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist missionaries worked among the Chickasaw after 1819, and today most Chickasaw belong to either Baptist or Methodist churches.

The Chickasaw came into contact with a variety of religious philosophies late in the nineteenth century. Among them were the Ghost Dance and Peyote (pronounced pay-OH-tee ) religions. A Paiute (see entry) named Wovoka (c. 1856–1932) initiated the Ghost Dance movement. Among the messages it spread were that Native Americans should love and help one another and return to their traditions. Followers hoped that its dances would bring dead ancestors and game back to earth and would restore the world to the way it had been before the white settlers arrived.

Followers of the Peyote Religion developed their own ceremonies, songs, and symbols. Peyote is a cactus native to the Southwest. When eaten, it brings on a dreamlike feeling and often produces visions, which followers of the Peyote religion felt moved them closer to the spirit world. Followers took peyote as a sacrament and vowed to follow the Peyote Road. They promised to be trustworthy, honorable, and community-oriented. Chickasaw people may have participated in Ghost Dance and Peyote ceremonies held by other Oklahoma tribes.

Language

In the eighteenth century the Chickasaw branch of the Muskogean language was the common language used between whites and all Native Americans living along the Lower Mississippi River. Only about 550 people spoke this language in the 1990s, but many of these speakers were working to teach and preserve the language.

Government

Traditional Chickasaw villages and towns were fiercely independent; only during times of war did the people put aside their differences and unite. A chief called a High Minko (an inherited position) and a war chief called a Tishu Minko led the villages. Tribal elders and priests served as advisers.

After 1800 Chickasaw leaders authorized mixed-blood members of the tribe to oversee dealings with U.S. officials. The mixed-bloods were well versed in the ways of the whites, and throughout the nineteenth century they advocated the idea of giving up Chickasaw lands to white settlers. Some mixed-blood supporters even received money from the U.S. government for their backing of the plan.

The U.S. government dissolved the Chickasaw Nation in 1906, despite protests by the Chickasaw and even their attempt to form a separate state. The United States appointed tribal governors until Congress granted the Chickasaw the right to elect their own in 1970. At that time the Chickasaw elected Governor Overton James, and under his leadership the modern Chickasaw Nation was born.

The Chickasaw Nation describes its current government as a democratic republic, modeled after that of the federal government. Registered voters elect a governor and lieutenant governor to four-year terms. The voters also elect 13 members to the tribal legislature. Three Chickasaw Supreme Court justices perform duties much like those of the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court (the highest court in the United States). The seat of the Chickasaw government is Ada, Oklahoma.

Economy

In traditional times the Chickasaw were mainly hunters; farming was a secondary occupation. After the British arrived, though, the tribe’s way of life changed. Extensive trading was carried on, and Chickasaw hunter-warriors became dependent on British guns for their livelihood. The Chickasaw developed their own breed of horse (the Chickasaw Horse, known for its endurance and its long, graceful stride) for conducting trade with the British. In addition, some mixed-blood Chickasaw grew very wealthy running large plantations (farms) powered by black slave labor.

Chickasaw life was thoroughly disrupted after the tribe’s removal to Indian Territory, and again by allotment and the abolishment of the tribal government. After a period of readjustment, though, some Chickasaw prospered as the wealthiest and most advanced members of the Five Civilized Tribes. Many remain farmers or cattle and horse raisers.

In the 1970s and 1980s, under the strong leadership of Governor Overton James, the Chickasaw took advantage of state and federal loan programs to encourage tribal self-sufficiency through business ownership. The Chickasaw Nation now operates several gaming centers with bingo—a primary source of money and employment. In the late 1990s the nation employed about 1,300 people in its various enterprises, which include a motel, restaurant, smoke shops, a computer equipment and supply company, and trading posts. By the early twenty-first century the tribal government employed six thousand people. The Chickasaw also operate businesses that cater to tourists at the tribe’s historic capital city, Tishomingo, and at sites such as the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Oklahoma’s only national park.

The tribe began Chickasaw Nation Industries, Inc. (CNI) in 1996 to manage government contracts. Within a decade CNI became a large and successful corporation and employed more than two thousand people. In the mid-2000s it owned and managed many different businesses in a variety of fields such as aviation, mining, construction, information technology, manufacturing, and medical services. The income from these various ventures provides millions of dollars in revenue for the tribe.

Daily life

Families

The Chickasaw is a matrilineal tribe; family lines are traced through the women of the tribe. Children usually take their mother’s house or clan-name. Men and women of the same house or clan-name may not marry.

Cleanliness was important to the Chickasaw, and they bathed daily, even in winter when there was ice on the water. They believed bathing removed the evil and trouble of the previous day. Women were expected to keep the house clean. If a woman did not, the tribe punished her by scratching her on the arms and legs with dried snake teeth.

Buildings

Centuries ago Chickasaw families usually owned three buildings: a winter house, a summer house, and a storage building. Some also built special steamrooms called sweat houses, used for purification rites.

The Chickasaw dug 3 feet (0.9 meters) into the ground to build their winter houses. They constructed the frame from pine logs and poles, then covered it with clay and plaster made from dried grass for added protection against the cold. These houses were so warm, in fact, that visiting British traders often complained about the heat.

The Chickasaw summer house was rectangular. Walls were made of a combination of woven mats and clay plaster, and roofs were made of thatch or bark. The houses had porches, balconies, and a central partition dividing the interior into two rooms. The pioneers later adopted this design for their log cabins.

A house at the center of the community was used for meetings and ceremonies. They used the grounds surrounding this house for ceremonies, ball games, and other gatherings.

Chickasaw villages changed in size based on the politics of the time. In times of peace the villages tended to spread out. In times of war, however, the houses and buildings were clustered more closely in fewer, larger villages, often situated in the hills to discourage attackers.

Clothing and adornment

Europeans noted that Chickasaw men were uncommonly tall for Native Americans, averaging six feet in height, while women were a foot shorter. Children’s heads were flattened in infancy, a look considered attractive. Mothers put a weighted cushion on a baby’s forehead and bound that to the cradle with a band. This custom caused the British to call the people “Flat Heads.”

Men wore breechcloths, garments with front and back flaps that hung from the waist. In cold weather they topped these with deerskin shirts, robes of bear fur, and deerskin boots. Deerskin leggings protected them when they rode through the underbrush. During special ceremonies and when preparing for war, men painted their faces. The most outstanding warriors wore a cape-like garment made from swan feathers. The men usually removed their body hair and shaved away the hair along the sides of their heads, leaving a tuft of hair down the center that they kept fixed in place with bear grease. In contrast Chickasaw women simply tied up their long hair and wore dresses made of deerskin.

Food

In traditional Chickasaw society men hunted and women gathered food and raised crops; some Chickasaw women also supervised slaves. The men of the tribe were extremely skilled trackers and trappers. They used animal calls and decoys to lure wild game such as deer, buffalo, and bear. They coaxed fish out of deep waters with poisoned nuts, then easily speared or netted them.

The women gathered and cultivated a variety of wild foods, including strawberries, persimmons, onions, honey, and nuts. They also dried fruits and made tea from different wild roots and herbs.

Comanche Chickasaw Plum Bars

  • 2 eggs, well beaten [with a fork]
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and allspice
  • 1 cup cooked wild plums, mashed (pits removed)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or hazelnuts
  • powdered sugar to sift over baked plum bars

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking dish or pan.

In a medium mixing bowl mix the beaten eggs with the brown sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla until the mixture is creamy. Add the flour, salt, and allspice, beating together, then stir in the cooked plums and chopped pecans. Pour this batter into the greased baking dish; spread evenly. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown.

Place cooked cake on wire rack until cooled completely. Cut into about 30 bars and dust them well with finely sifted powdered sugar.

Makes about 30 bars.

Kavasch, E. Barrie. Enduring Harvests: Native American Foods and Festivals for Every Season. Old Saybrook, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 1995, p. 287.

Education

At birth infant boys were placed on a panther’s skin in the hope that they would acquire the animal’s fierceness and power. This ritual marked the beginning of their training as warriors. Male children were trained and disciplined by their mother’s brother.

At the turn of the twenty-first century the Chickasaw Nation placed a strong emphasis on the education of its people. Children and adults attended public schools, vocational training centers, and colleges. Many students receive scholarships for higher education, and by 2001, 15.3 percent of the tribe had college degrees.

In 2007, to encourage their youth to become future business owners, the tribe sponsored an Entrepreneurship Academy, where students learn business management and write their own business plans. Other educational programs the tribe has implemented include Head Start, Arts in Education, Chickasaw Nation Aviation and Space Academy, Upward Bound, Youth Leadership Camp, and internship programs that give students opportunities to gain experience in their chosen professions.

Healing practices

The Chickasaw believed that evil spirits caused sickness. Traditional Chickasaw healers, known as aliktce, fought these spirits with potions, teas, and poultices (soft, moist substances that are heated, spread on a cloth, and applied to inflamed parts of the body). Healers also conducted the Picofa Ceremony, performing special rites over the sick person four times a day for three days. During the ceremony a fire was kept before the victim’s front door; it usually faced east, opposite the Land of the Dead. Only the family members of the sick person attended this service, and they danced around the fire at night. The name “Picofa” is taken from the cracked corn and pork casserole that participants ate on the third day of the ceremony.

Arts

Oral literature

Like many other Native peoples, the Chickasaw have a long storytelling tradition that centers on tales of world-ending floods. The Chickasaw also tell creation stories—stories of their origin in the Far West and their migration from there to the New World in ancient times. Tribal lore holds that the Choctaw and the Chickasaw—then one tribe known as the Chickemacaw—migrated over a long period of time, not all at once. They followed two brothers, Chisca and Chacta, who carried a magical pole that leaned eastward. The people settled on the eastern side of the Mississippi River, the place at which the pole stopped its eastward leaning. In The True Story of Chief Tishomingo Cecil Sumners traces the origin of the name “Mississippi” to the cry of a tribal elder. Upon seeing the river the elder is said to have shouted, “Misha-sipo-kni,” meaning both “beyond the ages” and “father of waters.”

The Hunter and His Dog

One winter a man of the Red Skunk people went off hunting with his dog and made camp near a mountain. After several days he had killed lots of deer and bear, and he began to think of returning home.

On the very morning he was to begin his journey home, the mountain began to smoke. He set off, but after a time he saw that he was back in the same spot where he had camped at the foot of the mountain. For several days he tried desperately to get home, but he always ended up where he had started.

Finally he decided to stop and sleep. As he was dozing, he looked up to see a strange creature, about the size of a man, approaching him. The creature said nothing to the hunter and eventually went away.

The hunter’s dog said, “You cannot stay here all night. If you do you will surely die.”

“What shall I do?” the man said.

“If you want to escape,” said the dog, “when the creature comes back, shoot an arrow as far as you can. The creature will chase the arrow. Then begin running for home, and get ready to shoot another arrow if he catches up with you again.”

Soon the creature appeared again, and the hunter shot an arrow far away. While the creature ran after it, he and his dog ran in the other direction.

When the creature found the arrow, he turned around and followed the man and his dog. As he got close, the man shot off another arrow. This continued until the hunter ran out of arrows and the creature was close behind. “Quick,” the dog said, “let’s get in this hollow tree.”

They crawled in, and the dog licked at the opening until he had licked it closed. The creature could not get to them in the tree and finally left. The next morning the dog licked again at the hole until it was open.

Free of the creature at last, the man and his dog made their way home.

Brown, Virginia Pounds, and Laurella Owens, eds. Southern Indian Myths and Legends Birmingham, AL: Beechwood Books, 1995.

Customs

Festivals, games, and ceremonies

Like the Seminole and other Southern tribes, Chickasaw men performed a purification ceremony in which they consumed a “black drink,” a potion that contained a large amount of caffeine and made them vomit. In the summer they entertained themselves by playing a particularly violent type of football. The games lasted a full day and involved hundreds of players.

The Chickasaw hold two major annual festivals. One, called the Renewal of Traditions, lasts for two days in July and features the Stomp Dance, ball games, storytelling, and traditional foods and crafts. The Chickasaw Festival and Annual Meeting—a week-long affair held each September—includes a Princess Pageant, Chickasaw Nation Junior Olympics, and a powwow (a traditional song and dance celebration).

War and hunting rituals

Chickasaw war parties in traditional times were small, consisting of thirty to fifty men. The warriors were best known for their sneak attacks on the enemy. Even after acquiring horses, Chickasaw warriors often traveled on foot because the landscape was heavily wooded.

They believed that the ghost of a dead warrior would haunt his family until his death was avenged (the person responsible for his death was punished). Often the widows of warriors killed in battle slept directly over the tombs of their dead husbands.

Courtship and marriage

Women arranged all marriages. If a man decided to take a bride, he sent his mother and/or sister to the chosen girl’s family, carrying enough cloth to make at least one dress. If her family agreed to the proposal, the bundle of cloth was presented to the bride-to-be, who sealed the pact by accepting the material. Then a marriage ceremony was held.

When a Chickasaw man married a woman, in a sense he married all of her sisters as well. He could choose to live with all of them. Likewise, if a man died, the man’s brother had the right to marry the widow.

The tribe had a strict moral code. Unfaithfulness to a spouse was a serious offense among the Chickasaw, especially if the wife did the cheating. Women who bore children out of wedlock (without being married) were considered a disgrace to their families.

Funerals

In many ways Chickasaw traditions were nearly identical to those of the Choctaw, but the tribes differed in their way of burying the dead. Chickasaw buried their dead beneath their houses with all their worldly possessions. They painted the faces of the dead red, and arranged the bodies in a sitting position, facing west (the direction of the land of the afterlife).

Current tribal issues

Only in the last quarter of the twentieth century were the landless Chickasaw Nation able to move toward self-sufficiency and away from interference by the federal government. The tribe is making great strides in employing its people and educating its children.

Notable people

Esteemed Native American Studies professor Linda Hogan (1947–) is a writer and poet whose works reflect ideas and images of Chickasaw life. Other notable Chickasaw include Puc-caiunla (c. 1760–1838), the last Chickasaw chief to inherit his position from his father; Cherokee/Quapaw/Chickasaw writer and educator Geary Hobson (1941–), a staunch supporter of Native American writing; painter and sculptor Bert D. Seabourn (1931–); and anthropologist and museum curator Towana Spivey (1943–).

Atkinson, James R. Splendid Land, Splendid People: The Chickasaw Indians to Removal. Tuscaloosa: University Alabama Press, 2003.

Barbour, Jeannie, Amanda J. Cobb, and Linda Hogan. Chickasaw: Unconquered and Unconquerable. Ada, OK: Chickasaw Press, 2006.

Cobb, Amanda J. Listening to Our Grandmothers’ Stories: The Bloomfield Academy for Chickasaw Females, 1852-1949. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007.

Cushman, H. B. History of the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999.

Ryan, Marla Felkins, and Linda Schmittroth. Tribes of Native America: Chickasaw. San Diego: Blackbirch Press, 2003.

Sumners, Cecil L. The True Story of Chief Tishomingo. Amory, MS: Amory Advertiser, 1974.

Swanton, John R. Chickasaw Society and Religion. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006.

The Chickasaw Nation. (accessed on August 29, 2007).

“Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume 2, 1924.” Oklahoma State University Library Electronic Publishing Center. (accessed on August 29, 2007).

“Historic Diaries: Marquette and Joliet.” The Wisconsin Historical Society. (accessed on August 29, 2007).

George Cornell, Ph.D.; Associate Professor, History and American Studies, Michigan State University; Director, Native American Institute

Laurie Edwards

John H. Moore, Ph.D., Anthropology Department University of Florida, Gainesville

Laurie Edwards

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Chickasaw

Chickasaw

CHICKASAW. The Chickasaw Indians were an important eighteenth-century Indian nation that inhabited the lower Mississippi Valley, on the borderlands between British North America (later the United States) and Spanish Louisiana. In the eighteenth century, Chickasaw settlement was concentrated in the northern part of modern-day state of Mississippi, although their settlements also ranged into modern-day Tennessee and Alabama and some Chickasaw located villages among other Indian nations, such as the Creeks. The Chickasaw sided with the British and against both the Spanish and the United States during the War of the American Revolution.

The Chickasaw spoke a Muskogean language and lived in the region from the period before European contact. The people subsisted on an economy that combined agriculture and hunting and lived in established, named towns. European observers recorded eighteen different Chickasaw towns in the early eighteenth century, but by the middle of that century only ten named towns were recorded. English traders made contact with the Chickasaw in the 1680s, and the Chickasaw generally remained allied with the British throughout the years of the American Revolution.

The Chickasaw often attacked their French-allied neighbors, the Illinois and the Choctaw, and, with the Creeks, openly attacked the French garrison at Mobile during Queen Anne's War (1702–1712). The Chickasaw continued hostilities toward other French-allied Indians throughout the 1740s. The Chickasaw fought alongside the British forces in the Seven Years War. Their alliance with the British was reaffirmed by the negotiations of Indian Agent John Stuart at the Augusta Conference of 1763. Stuart sent a succession of deputies to the Chickasaw villages, which helped keep them loyal to the British during Pontiac's rebellion (1763–1766), and this same policy preserved the Chickasaw-British alliance during the Revolutionary war, albeit on their own terms.

The Chickasaw directed their hostility primarily against the Spanish government in Louisiana, which was under the command of Governor Bernardo de Galvez.. As the Revolutionary War drew to a close, the Spanish and American governments competed for access to trade with the Chickasaw, with the Americans finally winning out. Chickasaw leaders signed the Treaty of Hopewell (1786) with the United States. In the early national period, the Chickasaw pursued a variety of strategies to cope with the expansion of American power, most often signing treaties that ceded progressively greater amounts of the lands they had claimed in the eighteenth century. The Chickasaw were removed west of the Mississippi River in accordance with the Treaty of Pontotoc (1832), which was signed after the passage of the Indian Removal Act (1830).

SEE ALSO Pontiac's War.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brightman, Robert A., and Pamela S. Wallace. "Chickasaw." In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 14: Southeast, edited by William C. Sturtevant. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1978.

Calloway, Colin G. "Tchoukafala: The Continuing Chickasaw Struggle for Independence." In The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Salisbury, Neal. "Native People and European Settlers in Eastern North America, 1600–1783." In The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas. Vol. 1: North America, edited by Bruce G. Trigger and Wilcomb E. Washburn. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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