Information On The Chickasaw Indian Tribe's History

Learn about the history, culture, way of life and present situation of the Chickasaw Indian tribe.

The Chickasaw Indian nation comprised one fifth of the amalgamation known as the Five Civilised Tribes. They originally inhabited lands to the west of The Mississippi River. Around 1300, C.E, however, they crossed the Mississippi and settled in an area around present day Huntsville, Alabama. By 1700 they had further migrated to the headwaters of the Tombigbee River in Northeast Mississippi. It appears that prior to the removal east of the Mississippi, the Chickasaw incorporated what was to become the Choctaw nation. After these two split, the Chickasaw were still left with about 15,000 people. European diseases were to wreak havoc on these people throughout the 17th Century, however, and their population at the beginning of the 18th Century was down to about 10,000. Because they were physically removed they did not suffer from the epidemics as drastically as did other eastern tribes.

The Chickasaw were fierce warriors. This fact did not escape the notice of British traders who worked to form an alliance with them in order to subjugate the French for control over the North American Continent. The British provided armaments to the Chickasaw, which further strengthened their stronghold on the lands surrounding the lower Mississippi River. Because of the resistance of the Chickasaw French traders were never able to establish a presence in this lucrative area.

The Chickasaw lived in towns which would typically spread for between ten and fifteen miles along a river bank. Each town had it's own fort and ceremonial rotunda. In the event of war the people would withdraw into one or two well fortified stockades. There were approximately seven such townships throughout the Chickasaw territory. The Chickasaw had two different types of housing, one for winter and the other for summer. The summer houses were wooden structures, about twelve by twenty foot. It would feature a gabled roof a porch and a balcony. The winter house, however, would be circular in design. It would be made of a mud and wattle construction. They were partially sunk into the ground and well insulated, thus providing excellent protection from the winter cold. By the end of the 17th Century, however, the Chickasaw had moved into log cabins, following the pattern of the Colonial frontiersmen.

The Chickasaw were hunters as well as farmers. The main sources of food were the bison, the deer and the bear. Fish was also an important supplement to the diet of the Chickasaw. Primarily it was the women who were responsible for the tending to the crops. The most important crops that were planted were maize, beans and squash. The Chickasaw were also slave owners.

The Chickasaw wore their hair long, letting it hang loose. Warriors would arrange their hair in a scalplock when preparing for the warpath. The Chickasaw had a custom of removing all body hair. They would also heavily tattoo each other. They also took on the custom of some of their neighboring tribes of flattening the foreheads of their infant males. This was intended to accentuate the appearance in adulthood. For this reason the Chickasaw were often referred to by the French as Tetes-Plattes or flat heads.

Chickasaw towns operated as independent units. In times of war, however, they would come together to form a common defence. Each town had it's own chief or "Ëśminko', with a high chief over all the towns.

Chickasaw war parties would travel in smallish groups of between thirty and fifty warriors. These bands were able to travel swiftly and silently and strike an enemy with deadly effect. The Chickasaw had very few allies among their neighboring tribes. They did, however, have many enemies. These included the Iroquois, Cherokee and Kickapoo. All of these tribes were to succumb to the wrath of the Chickasaw.

The Chickasaw were still a fearsome prospect at the time of the American Civil War. They did, in fact, provide two full regiments for the Confederate Army and were the last political unit of the Rebel resistance to surrender. By the end of the 19th Century, the Chickasaw had been relocated to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. Today there are about 35,000 Chickasaw, which makes it the eighth largest Indian nation in the United States.

© High Speed Ventures 2011