Who are the Chickasaw Indians?

S . Seegars
S . Seegars
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The Chickasaw Indians are a Native American tribe known in ancient times as the "Spartans of the Mississippi Valley." They were great hunters and fierce warriors who lived mostly near what is now the Tombigbee River in northeastern Mississippi but occupied the entire Mississippi valley region. The Chickasaw Nation territory now includes more than 7,500 square miles in south-central Oklahoma. The capital is Tishimongo, and Chickasaw Indians have their own constitution, with executive, legislative and judicial departments of government and a governor and lieutenant governor who are elected by popular vote every four years.

In 1600, the Chickasaw Indians numbered only about 5,000, but they still managed to amass a huge number of hunting grounds throughout western Kentucky and Tennessee, northern Alabama and Mississippi. They were made up of numerous clans, and the leadership included a head chief called the High Minko and council members who came from other clans and tribal elders. The men were responsible for hunting, fishing, building and war. The women took care of farming, food gathering and household work. The Chickasaws built sophisticated towns with advanced ruling systems, including laws and religion.

The Chickasaw Indians made their first contact with Europeans in 1540, when they encountered Hernando De Soto from Spain, who was searching for treasure. The Chickasaws drove away the Spanish, but a century later, they participated in trade with the French and the English, and they sided with the English in the French and Indian War. During the early 19th century, the Chickasaw Indians became successful cotton farmers and owned more than 1,000 black slaves.

In the 1830s, the Chickasaw Indians were one of the five tribes moved to Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma, during the "Great Removal" on the "Trail of Tears." The other tribes moved were the Cherokee, Chocktaw, Creek and Seminole. The Chickasaws resettled with the Chocktaws in 1837 after the Treaty of Doaksville, then separated from the Chocktaws to form their own autonomous government in 1856.

After the Civil War began in the United States, the Chickasaws sided with the Confederacy. After the war, they built some of the first schools, businesses and banks in Indian Territory. In 1906, the U.S. dissolved the tribal governments of the Chickasaw, Cherokee, Chocktaw, Creek and Seminole tribes, and in 1907, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt named the chief officers of the Chickasaw Nation. The U.S. Congress passed legislation in 1970 that allowed the Chickasaw Indians to elect their own officers, and in 1983, they adopted a new constitution.

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Discussion Comments


I live in what used to be Chickasaw territory in Mississippi. My county is named Pontotoc, which means “weed prairie.” The land is flat and will quickly be covered in weeds if not maintained, so I see where the Chickasaw got the inspiration for the name.

An American general bought Pontotoc from the Chickasaw, and he only had to pay $1,000, but that was way back in 1836, so I’m sure it was a lot of money at the time. Right next to Pontotoc County is Chickasaw County, named in their honor.

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