Member of an American Indian people who moved from northern Mississippi and Alabama to the floodplains of Mississippi and parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Arkansas by the 16th century. They were formerly part of the Choctaw, and share language origins with the Muskogean family. Originally seminomadic, they later farmed the fertile floodplains producing maize and other crops, and were known as one of the Five Civilized Tribes. Many now live on tribal landholdings in Oklahoma and raise cattle. Most have abandoned their traditional culture and are either Methodist or Baptist. Their population numbers about 20,900 (2000).
During their seminomadic period, they lived in dwellings scattered along streams or rivers rather than in villages, and raided and absorbed other American Indian peoples. Their homes were made from rectangular wood-pole frames covered with grasses, bark, or animal skin. Once on the rich lands of the Mississippi River floodplains, the Chickasaw yielded abundant crops of maize (corn), beans, squash (pumpkin), sunflowers, and melons. The Chickasaw were a matrilineal people, tracing descent from a common female ancestor. They believed in a supreme deity whom they associated with the sky. Their major ceremony was the new-fire rite, celebrated in the summer, and the green corn ceremony, celebrated in the spring.
The Chickasaw raided Spanish settlements in the Mexican Gulf area of North America and, in the 18th century, sided with the British against the French and Choctaw. They proved to be strong and invincible warriors in many raids. In 1786 they signed a treaty with the USA fixing their northern boundary at the Ohio border and between 1800 and 1818, through a series of treaties, they ceded much of their land to the USA.
In 1837 the US government forced them to move to Indian Territory under the Indian Removal Act (1830), where many died of cholera and food poisoning. In 1855 they were granted their own land in Indian Territory, on former Choctaw lands. The Chickasaw Nation established a capital at Tishomingo, and had written laws and a representative form of government. In 1906 the government was dissolved in preparation for Oklahoma's statehood.
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