Choctaw Indians

The tribe of Choctaw Indians was originally located in the southeastern part of the Mississippi, southwestern Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia. This name for this tribe of Indians is attributed to various sources, some of these are the Spanish word chato which means flat because the Choctaw used to flatten the foreheads of their male infants and Haccha, a name of the Pearl River with which these people were associated . These people believe that they originated from “Ninah Waya”, which is a sacred hill located near Nozapter, Mississippi.

The name “Ninah Waya” means “Productive Mountain” and is often referred to as “The Mother Mound”. The “emergence myth” is a part of Choctaw history. These Indians are supposed to have belonged to the Muskhogean linguistic family. Initially they existed as very large groups, but were significantly reduced in numbers due to infected foreigners who spread a number of epidemic diseases amongst these hapless Indians. The other tribes in this linguistic family are Creeks, Chickasaws, Seminoles and Apalachi .

In comparison to the Chickasaw and the Creek who were their age old enemies, the Choctaws were more democratic and less warlike. The Choctaws lived in wattle-and-daub homes. These homes had walls consisting of pole frames covered with mud and bark and a thatched roof. They were agrarian in general and in this aspect were unsurpassed in the entire Southeastern part of the U. S, and used simple tools to cultivate corn, beans, sweet potatoes, and tobacco.

They were so proficient in this activity that they were in the enviable position of possessing surplus food which they bartered in order to obtain goods that they did not have. Moreover, they utilized blowguns, bows and arrows, spears and traps to hunt animals for food and pelts. Their trading capacity was so great that they traded on a very large scale with other tribes and in order to communicate with their customers they developed a simple trade language. In order to transport merchandise and animals hunted by them they used dugout canoes.

The Choctaws were fond of sport and it occupied an important part of their culture. Their variety of lacrosse, which was very popular amongst the eastern tribes was a very rough game played with a stick. This game was used to promote social gatherings, bring about settlement of disputes and to train the participants for warfare. The number of participants in this game would be in the hundreds and all sorts of violence like biting, belabouring and kicking were permitted. Not surprisingly, the participants would suffer serious and sometimes fatal injuries.

The outcome of this game had so much importance attached to it that Choctaw priests used to offer prayers in order to have an effect on the result of the game . The Choctaws took to riding horses and using them as pack animals with the advent of the Europeans in the 16th century. They developed their own specialized horse breeds and raised cattle. The 18th and 19th centuries were witness to the forced migration of the Choctaws farther and farther west in order to circumvent clashes with the European settlers.

Initially they allied with the French later on they worked as spies for the Americans in the American Revolution, which lasted from 1775 to 1783, and reported the activities of the British. In the War of 1812 they allied with the U. S and fought under General Andrew Jackson and they also fought against the Creek in the Creek War that lasted from 1813 to 1814. The universal belief was that the land occupied by the Indians had gold in it, accordingly President Jackson brought about legislation that required relocation of the Southeast Indian tribes to lands west of the Mississippi River.

The first victims of this inhuman deed were the loyal Choctaws, who were made to shift their location to the Indian Territory, which is in Oklahoma under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Accordingly, as per the provisions of the 1830, Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek the Choctaw nations was forcibly relocated to South-eastern Oklahoma. The years from 1831 to 1834 saw these hapless Choctaws being subjected to a series of forced marches westward, which proved fatal for many of their numbers who succumbed to disease, hunger, exposure and attacks by bandits.

Around twenty thousand Choctaws were shifted and only seven thousand survived this arduous journey notorious as the “The Trail of Tears”. The greed of the settlers was gratified to some extent by the year 1842 as most of the Choctaw lands had become the property of the settlers. Oklahoma, was chosen by the Choctaws as their promised land, because it was for the most part empty and was considered to be useless for any other purpose. However, this place proved to be very fertile and was utilized by them as an agricultural haven. The surviving Choctaws built a new city based on their agricultural genius.

In the Indian Territory the Choctaw, the Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Seminole were collectively known as the Five Civilized Tribes, because they had organized governments with written constitutions and due to the fact that they had established public schools and newspapers. The Choctaw joined forces with the Confederacy during the American Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865. Due to the ever increasing influx of non-Indian settlers, the Choctaws were unable to retain their lands, even in Oklahoma, where they had been ruthlessly relocated.

Ironically, Oklahoma is a term invented by the Choctaw leader Allen Wright to connote red people and was initially used to denote the western half of the Indian Territory. The number of persons who identified themselves as Choctaw in the U. S. census of 2000 was approximately 87,000 and a further 71,000 identified themselves as having Choctaw blood. Federal trust lands are held by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma in the vicinity of Durant. Furthermore, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians’ reservation is located near the Pearl River.

Some Choctaw groups reside in Louisiana and what should be of encouragement to these hapless people, there has been a revival of traditional customs and unity between these groups since the 1950s . Women have traditionally been objects of veneration in the Choctaw culture. This honour has been accorded to them due their being the head of every family household and due to their being the caretakers of children and elders in the family. In legends these tribes are considered to be vegetarians and one of the Cherokee legends describes this epoch as the beginning of equality and mutual helpfulness between humans, plants and animals.

Initially all three lived in harmony, however, with the passage of time, man became destructive and started to kill and eat some of the animals and in retaliation some of the animals invented diseases to limit the human population. True generosity was exhibited by only the plants, which provided not only food to man, but also medicine to cure these diseases . The historical evolution of the Choctaw makes one aware of their efforts in respect of economic development and the strong Tribal government which has resulted from such development.

In the past, the Choctaw people had undergone several hardships like health problems and reliance upon the federal government for the bare necessities of life. However, subsequent to the year 1945, the situation has improved drastically and the strong tribal governmental leadership and appropriate planning have made the Choctaw people self reliant. With the improvement in employment and educational opportunities, availability of better housing and healthcare facilities a resurgence of the Choctaw community and their cultural arts has transpired and this has brought about betterment in their standard of living.

The language of the Choctaws and their native culture are no longer threatened with extinction as they had been saved and strengthened due to their efforts. At present Choctaw community can be considered to be a successful community. This is due to the fact that they not only preserved their culture but did so in the face of great adversity. The Choctaw Indian Reservation is spread across 35,000 acres of Tribal lands, which are located in ten counties of the Mississippi. The federal government is responsible for safeguarding these lands.

These sites are Pearl River, Red Water, Bogue Chitto, Standing Pine, Tucker, Conehatta and Bogue Homa. The Tribal government is headquartered in Pearl River and is the largest of these lands. The Choctaws enjoy several traditional cultural activities in addition to those provided by modern society. Their artistic output comprises of hand woven baskets made from Mississippi swamp cane, beadwork, etc. They are also famous for their dances, cooking and sewing traditional apparel. In the modern world they are active in almost all fields of scientific and commercial endeavour.

In contrast to the past, when they had been relegated to the background, these people can be assumed to have become a part of the fast paced and exciting American way of life. These people are highly creative and gifted and some of their special events, which enable them to congregate as a Choctaw community in order to commemorate their tribal traditions, are the annual Choctaw Indian Fair held in the month of July in the Choctaw Indian Reservation and the spring festivals of the Choctaw communities . Works Cited Page Ferguson, Bob.

Choctaw Chronology. Retrieved from http://www. choctaw. org/history/chronology. htm on October 6, 2006 Rita Laws, WAS THE AMERICAN ABORIGINAL DIET VEGETARIAN? , retrieved from www. animalvoices. org/aboriginal. htm. on 06. 10. 2006. Retrieved from http://www. choctaw. org/culture/welcome. htm on 06. 10. 2006. Team Sports. Choctaw. Retrieved from http://www. cradleboard. org/cnat/resource/choctaw. htm on October 8, 2006 Waldman, Carl. “Choctaw. ” Microsoft® Encarta® 2006 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2005.

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