The Mississippi Valley was the earliest recorded settlement of the Choctaw. It is hypothesized that all Native American Tribes were descendants of Asians that crossed the land bridge between Alaska and the Bering Straight. New theories incorporate Pacific crossings that populated the Central and Southern areas of the Americas.
The first encounter between the Choctaws and the Spaniards occurred when Hernando de Soto arrived in 1540 with his warriors looking for the seven cities of gold rumored to be somewhere in the North American continent. The encounter proved to be fatal to many on both sides.
About 200 years later, the European immigrants had adopted the Choctaw as one of the civilized tribes willing to trade and intermingle with the newcomers. Choctaw people accepted many white customs and converted to Christianity at a high rate. The other Native American tribes considered to be civilized included the Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole and Cherokee.
President George Washington initiated a program to integrate Southeastern Indigenous people into American culture following the Revolutionary War.
The Choctaw Nation signed nine treaties with the new government before the Civil War. By 1830, those treaties were worthless. The United States seized the last of Choctaw land and forced the tribes to relocate to Indian territory west of the Mississippi River. The Choctaws lost nearly 3,000 people on the Trail of Tears.
The Choctaw people recovered from the forced march, found suitable land and built homes, churches and schools in what is now central Oklahoma. They drafted a new constitution and established a new nation.
During the potato famine of Ireland, the Choctaw were generous enough to collect funds to help their Irish neighbors. The Choctaws became known as generous and kind to their new friends.
After the Civil War was over, the U.S. Government opened up the Indian territory of Oklahoma and the resulting land rush nearly wiped out the Choctaw Nation again. The whites stole the land out from under the Choctaw, stole their meager possessions, inflicted terrible cruelty towards the "savages" and even turned tribal members against each other. At times, the Choctaw were out and out murdered.
Even after all of the cruelty towards the Choctaw Nation, many members eagerly enlisted in the Armed Services of the U.S.A. It might be speculated that this is the only way they could manage to make a living during WWI and WWII. The Choctaws played an invaluable role in communications during the great wars as Code Talkers. They used their native language to send and receive messages that could not be intercepted and used by the enemies.
By the 1960s, the U.S. Government enacted policies that would eliminate all sovereign Native American Nations. The goal was to completely integrate the indigenous peoples with the American government and the national constitution.
In 1970, Congress repealed this policy and the Choctaw Nation escaped assimilation. The Nation then proceeded to enact their own constitution and judicial branch as well as holding a democratic election for a new Chief. During this decade, the Nation established a newspaper, a membership initiative and a movement to preserve the Choctaw language.
Congress also passed the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act which enabled all recognized tribes to negotiate with the U.S. Government directly via the U.S. Department of the Interior and the establishment of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
By the 1980s, the Choctaw Nation had ratified their own constitution with provisions for the legislative, executive and judicial branches. The Oklahoma Native American reservation saw the construction of Bingo halls, resorts and casinos for the financial wealth and stability of its nearly 200,000 members. With this money, they have built schools, businesses, health centers and college scholarships.
In the Twenty First century, the Choctaw Nation is self sufficient and capable of supporting the members of the tribe. The Nation is dedicated to improving the health and welfare of the individuals that inhabit the Oklahoma Native American Choctaw reservation.
Native American Culture
Choctaw Engagement and Wedding Rituals
A young man will choose a potential mate and casually visit her home. At some point during the visit, he will surreptitiously move a token towards her. The token may be a stone, a piece of carving or other small object. If the lady wishes to be courted by the man, she will coyly push the object back towards him. If she does not, she will stand and leave the room.
If the young man's attentions are acceptable, he will return to her home some time later and bring gifts for the parents of the girl friend to be. If the parents approve of the courtship, they will accept the gifts. If not, they will refuse.
Eventually, the two young Choctaws will set a date for a marriage and the tribe prepares a celebration feast for that day. Two lines are formed along a narrow runway. On one side are the friends and relatives of the bride. On the other side, the friends and relatives of the groom. At the end of the runway is a pole. The runway is about 300 yards long. When all is ready, the bride is released to run toward the pole. After a moment or two, the groom is released to run for his bride. The bride has this final time to accept the marriage and let him catch her before the pole or run fast enough to get past the pole before being caught. The usual ending is that she is caught and won over by the young man, of course.
The bride is then led to her new home and showered with wedding gifts. They literally "shower" her by throwing the gifts at her head! She doesn't truly receive the gifts until after the wedding ceremony. The Chief of the tribe or local official will pronounce the two to be married and chastised to be faithful and never to speak disrespectfully of each other. Then the feasting and honeymoon begins!
For more information on Choctaw Dresses and Crafts, click here.
The two foods I remember from my childhood were Cracklin Cornbread and Blackberry Cobbler. Choctaw food is mainly corn and hominy based. They also cook many stews.
Jerky was popular for Choctaws and many Choctaw recipes can be found at the Choctaw Nation Page. They list such delicacies as: Banaha Indian bread, Blue Grape Dumplings and Choctaw Casserole. A lot of the recipes use contemporary ingredients which demonstrate the adaptability of Native Americans.
Native American Sports
Choctaw crafts included the making of the standard stick for stick ball.The men of the tribe played a ball game, called Stick Ball, that was similar to football, hockey and soccer combined. It was also a wrestling game and quite intense. Sometimes the players were injured or killed. Perhaps it was like Australian Football?
Choctaw gamers also played a game with corn kernels. The kernels were blackened on one side and a group of them would be cast like dice. Generally, the light sides up counted as the number for the throw and the game was won by getting the most points.
A clever game played was the Shell game. Six players on each team would try to guess which shell a marble or other round object was hidden. The winners were the team with the most correct guesses.
Native American Powwow - Choctaw
Choctaw Powwow: Dancing
Native American Languages
The Choctaw language is related to the Muskogean group of Native American languages. This group also includes the Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole. It does not include the Cherokee language however. Cherokee is an Iroquoian dialect.
Choctaw language schools are available on the internet and if you are truly interested in learning the tongue of these people, I recommend : School of Choctaw Languages Internet Classes.
Common Choctaw Words and Phrases
Native American Names
It is acceptable to give yourself an ""Indian" name. You may choose your new name at any time during your life. There are no clear cut rules for choosing a Native American name. Sometimes, a vision quest will result in choosing a name for yourself.
My Choctaw name is Shikoba Humma, which means Red Feather. I chose this name because I am a Choctaw on the maternal side of my family, but I have the red hair and Irish genetic code from my paternal side. I also work with feathers and make many dream catchers. Some of them are red.
If you wish to give yourself a Choctaw name, pleas consult Mike Boucher's Web Page which explains a great deal about choosing a name from the Choctaw tribe.
The Choctaw Nation
Native American Symbols
The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation
This seal is used on all official papers of the Choctaw Nation until 1907, when the Native American Choctaw and Oklahoma Territories united as the State of Oklahoma. It is still used to represent the government of the Choctaw Nation.