Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Chickasaw Indians: The Spartans Of Mississippi

When thinking of brave native Americans struggling for survival on the Great Plains of North America, most Americans think of individuals like Sitting Bull, a Hunkpapa Lakota chief and holy man, because he once danced at a Little Big Horn Sun Dance ceremony for 36 hours straight without water and later embarrassed the American government by defeating the famous General George Armstrong Custer in battle. However, as a tribe, the Chickasaw can perhaps be called some of the bravest warriors in North America.

At an early age, boys were trained in combat skills and learned to cope with pain and deprivation without complaining. Raised on an ethos of courage, these warriors were so formidable that they never lost a major military war until the American Civil War.

Originally, the Chickasaw tribe lived in the southeast in places like Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri, but they were forced to move to Oklahoma, where their descendants still live today.

Considered the Spartans of Mississippi, the Chickasaws lived in town sites with its own sophisticated ruling system, religions and legal traditions. They traded with other tribes, as well as with the English and French. Although engaged in an agrarian life, they were willing to go to battle if the need arose. During the French and Indian War, they became allies of the English. Without their help, the United States might have become a French-speaking nation.

During what the Chickasaw referred to as the "Trail of Tears," but that the American government called the "Great Removal," the tribe was forced to relocate to Indian Territory, along with other tribes, referred to as the “Five Civilized Tribes” like the Choctaw, Creek, Cherokee and Seminole.

In 1837, the Chickasaws were forced by the Treaty of Doaksville to resettle with the Choctaws in Indian Territory, but were able to restore their own form government 19 years later when they broke away from the Choctaw tribe.

At Tishomingo, tribal leaders framed a constitution and created a government with executive, legislative, and judicial functions. People were elected for office through a popular vote.

The only time the Chickasaws lost a major military engagement was during the Civil War when the tribe allied with the South, raised a native army, and fought against the Confederacy, waging war all the way up to the last battles of that conflict.

Humiliated by this colossal defeat, the Chickasaws overcame conditions of extreme poverty and hardship by becoming ranchers and farmers. Later, they began building businesses, banks, and schools in Indian Territory. Slowly, the tribe prospered again.

In 1907, the Chickasaw Nation’s principal officers were appointed by the President of the United States.

In 1970, Congress legislated permission for the Five Civilized Tribes to elect their own principal officers.

In 1983, the Chickasaws adopted a new constitution.

Recapturing History

It’s possible to get a taste of the story of the Chickasaw tribe by visiting Chickasaw Country in Oklahoma. At an autumn campfire, you can listen to tales that date back centuries. If the sun hasn't set, you might catch a glimpse of a pellucid lake set against an azure sky.

You can explore ancient hills and beautiful lakes in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, water ski on Lake Texoma, and watch live performances at the Chickasaw Cultural Center. All these experiences will recapture a sense of a world that has faded into antiquity. You’ll get a feel for their tradition and their ancient culture.

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