Civil War and after
The planters and slavers held the majority of power in the Choctaw nation, so when
Civil War broke out, the Choctaw Nation sided with the Confederacy. The
Choctaws and Texans fought off attempts at a Union invasion of Texas in Indian
Territory and in Arkansas; over 600 Choctaw men fought in the Camden Campaign
of 1864. However, not all Choctaws wanted to participate in the war. Many families
fled as disorder and criminality descended onto the nation - outlaw gangs like the
Quantrills burned farms, stole cattle, murdered African Americans, and raped women.

After the war, the U.S. government considered the Choctaws traitors. Like the
Cherokees and Chickasaws, their nation and constitution were dissolved and a new
treaty between the Choctaws and the U.S. was signed. One of the main stipulations
from the
1866 treaty was that the freed people would receive land and education
from the Choctaws; however, being Southerners, the Choctaws segregated their

The Choctaw Nation regained its strength during and after Reconstruction; much of
their growth in wealth was due to their cattle ranching and the arrival of the
Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad in 1870-1871. Large deposits of coal were
discovered in the Choctaw Nation; although the coal was in their land, they did not
benefit from it - white men, with ties to the MKT railroad, owned the mines instead.

In 1869, the western half of Indian Territory became open to land lotteries and to the
reservations set aside for the
Caddos, Kiowas, Comanches, and Wichitas, among
many other tribes. To keep control over their own lands, Choctaw nationals had to
make a Faustian bargain. They either had to renounce their Choctaw heritage to
become "free people of color" or be enrolled in official tribal census. By enrolling as
Choctaws, they were officially enumerated in the census as Choctaws. The Dawes
Act of 1887, as applied in 1893, made being considered an "Indian" a deliberate act;
it took control of tribal membership away from the tribes themselves, under the
assumption that if natives were treated as individuals rather than as a community,
they would stop their dependence on the U.S. government. The act divided the
Choctaw lands into individual allotments - at 160 acres maximum, these allotments
were not considered sufficient to build a successful farm. Plus, a large portion of
the Choctaw Nation consisted of mountainous terrain, which was unsuitable to
agriculture. Except for the ranchers, the allotments did not benefit the Choctaws.

In 1907, the Choctaws sent several delegates to vote Indian Territory into the
nation's newest state. This
new state was named after the western territory -
Oklahoma, a Choctaw word combination for "red land" (oka - land; homma - red). In
1924, the Indian Citizenship Act granted citizenship status to all native Americans,
no doubt due to their participation in the Great War (1917-1919). The Choctaws, for
example, enlisted in large numbers. Some of the soldiers served as "code talkers"
during the war - this program expanded greatly during WWII.

Great Depression hit the Choctaws hard; under the New Deal, the Indian
Reorganization Act of 1934 gave the Choctaws more say over their nation and the
annuity payments that the U.S. government had been paying them since their
removal. The Choctaws shuttered their academies to form public schools, and
opened their tribe to different monetary schemes, which included gambling.

Today, the Choctaws have prospered in both wealth and population growth. The
Choctaw Nation is an integral asset to the state of Oklahoma in cultural, economic,
and political contributions. To the people who live in the Red River Valley,
southeastern Oklahoma is, invariably, Choctaw.
Caddos         Wichitas         Comanches         Kiowas
Shawnees        Osages        Tonkawas
Choctaws        Chickasaws        End of the Trail
The Choctaw Nation
According to illustrations drawn in 1777, the Choctaws tattooed their
bodies and faces. They abandoned this practice as they were one of
the earliest tribes to assimilate to the European culture (LOC).
Like the Caddos, the Choctaws originated from the Hopewell, then the Mississippian
cultures in the distant past. These cultures centralized around large cities. Upon
decentralization prior to the 15th century, the Choctaws remained an organized tribe
but centered their culture around their ancestral burial mounds in their homelands on
the eastern side of the Mississippi River in today's Mississippi, and into Alabama.
Their main mound was "Nanih Waiya" which, according to their origination story,
was the mound that gave birth to their culture. This may also be part of the
Chickasaw origination story - the tribes were once together, but separated for some
unknown reason.

The Choctaws lived as an agricultural, settled people along the Mississippi River.
They conducted both warfare and trade with their Muskogean linguistic kin, which
included the
Chickasaws and the Creeks. Like all of the settled tribes, they were
matrilineal and relied on women for food distribution, manufactures, and building
their homes.

Siding with the Europeans
While the Choctaws did not like the Spanish, they enjoyed better trading
relationships with the French. As a river people, they took part in the southern fur
trade and journeyed into Natchez and New Orleans. Like the
Shawnees, they found
themselves amid turmoil when the European powers went to war with each other;
after the French lost their foothold in the New World in 1763, the Choctaws traded
with the English. The Proclamation Line of 1763 was also supposed to protect the
native tribes from further colonial intrusion, which didn't always work. This is one
reason why they sided with the English and against the colonists during the
Revolutionary War.

Although the Choctaws fought American incursion until the 19th century, they also
adapted to the culture of the United States. American missionaries built churches and
schools, and a large number of Choctaws converted to Presbyterianism. Their dress
and familial structures changed as well. Some Choctaw women and men married
white people, and began to adopt other American practices, such as the southern
slave system. With the forced labor of African-American people, Choctaw plantations
prospered in their fertile native soil. Anglo Americans began to covet the land and the
Choctaw plantations. Instead of waging war, Anglos sought governmental assistance
instead. They urged the state of Mississippi to initiate removal treaties, and the
federal government complied by providing land to the Choctaws in Arkansas
Territory in 1820.

On the Move
A few hundred Choctaws and African Americans enslaved by them left for Arkansas
Territory, though traditionalists in the Choctaw tribe fought the treaty from the state
governments to Washington, D.C. In 1830, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek put an
end to the Choctaws' wish to stay in their homelands. They were forced to endure the
first of many "trail of tears" into Indian Territory, which was carved from Arkansas
Territory in 1824.

When the Choctaws and the people they enslaved first arrived in Arkansas Territory
in 1820, they entered at Ultima Thule along the division line between Arkansas and
Indian Territory. Some stayed nearby at
Eagletown, while others moved a bit further
west to
Doaksville next to Fort Towson, where a trading post centered the tribe.
Along with the Presbyterians, the Choctaws also established several academies for
the education of their children after the remainder of the tribe came to Indian Territory
after the 1830. Another group of Choctaws went to Mexican Texas instead to apply for
Mexican land grants, as did other displaced people like the Shawnees and Delawares.
Just like the Shawnees and Delawares, they became farmers on their land grants but,
after Texas statehood, were coerced to sell their lands and left Texas for Indian

A new Culture

The Trail of Tears was brutal for the Choctaws and the African Americans; over a
thousand died along the trail from disease and exposure. With them came the
Chickasaws, who had refused to sign any removal treaties with the U.S. until they
sold their lands in their original homelands to the highest bidder. When the last of
the Chickasaws came to Indian Territory in 1857, the western half of the Choctaw
Nation was fashioned into the Chickasaw Nation. Those who survived the arduous
journey rebuilt their culture. The Choctaws wrote a constitution and passed laws. The
men and women who had been planters east of the Mississippi reestablished
plantations along the Red River Valley and acquired even more African American
people to do so. The largest plantation was owned by Robert Jones in today's
Choctaw County.

The majority of Choctaws were not slave-owners but small-time farmers. They were
also cattle ranchers, tradesmen, and teachers. They leased their land to Texans, but
saw a number of incursions into nation from non-natives. The Choctaws also feared
Comanche and Kiowa raids, who saw the Choctaws as invaders into their territory.
The sparsely-inhabited nation also attracted criminal elements, who hid from state
authorities in the mountains of the Choctaw lands. However, gradually, their nation
prospered; so much, in fact, that in the 1850s, the Choctaws sent aid to Irish people
during the potato famine.
Mississippi River in
exchange for land in
Indian Territory and
annuities (payment for
improvements made on
their original lands).
This mass-migration of
an entire people and
culture did not happen
overnight. In this 1833
map of the state of
Mississippi, the
Choctaws were still
present in Mississippi,
but their territory had
been greatly reduced.
In addition, they
shared what was left of
their territory with the
Chickasaws, who by
1837 were considered
as part of the Choctaw
tribe (LOC).
A map of the Choctaw
and Chickasaw nations
in Indian Territory in
1866 lists a number of
places that no longer
exist, including Ultima
Thule, the little town on
the survey line between
Arkansas and Indian
Territory where the
Choctaws first arrived to
their new homelands.
The term Ultima Thule
means "beyond the
borders of the known
world." Click on the map
to see it a bit larger
George Catlin
depicted Choctaws
playing a game that
the French dubbed
Lacrosse, which is
now played all over
the world and has
become an Olympic
sport. This game is
a lasting legacy of
traditional Choctaw
culture (LOC).
The Choctaws
enlisted in
American wars in
record numbers,
including this
unknown man who
enlisted as one of
Teddy Roosevelt's
Rough Riders in the
Spanish American
War of 1898.
Photographs like
these were sold as
war souveniers
Although most
attention in U.S.
history textbooks is
paid to Navajo Code
Talkers, the Choctaw
language constituted
one of the earliest uses
of this ingenious form
of coded
communication, as the
Choctaws enslisted in
large numbers during
the Great War. This
unknown Choctaw
soldier's photograph
was taken at Fort Sill in
1918 (LOC).