Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Choctaw from Philip's Encyclopedia

One of the largest tribes of Muskogean-speaking Native Americans, located in SE Mississippi and part of Alabama. An agricultural people, they were generally at peace with European settlers, and remained neutral during the Revolution. As large slave-owners, they supported the South during the Civil War. Some 40,000 still reside in Oklahoma.


Summary Article: Choctaw
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Member of an American Indian people who inhabited the Mississippi region, possibly as descendants of the prehistoric Moundbuilders. They are closely related to the Chickasaw and the Creek. Their language belongs to the Muskogean group. The Choctaw were known as one of the Five Civilized Tribes. They lived in farming settlements, growing maize (corn) and other crops, and trading surplus. After ceding some 2.4 million ha/6 million acres in Mississippi to the USA, many moved to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in 1833. The Choctaw still live in Mississippi and Oklahoma, and continue to speak their native language. Their population numbers about 87,300 (2000).

The Choctaw lived along the rivers of Mississippi in settlements of thatched-roofed houses plastered with mud; 115 villages were recorded in the 18th century. They grew maize, beans, squash (pumpkin), sunflowers, and melon; gathered plant foods; and hunted and fished. Surplus food supply was sold or traded. In the summer they celebrated the ripening of the corn, an event known as the Green Corn Festival. Their traditional game is stickball, played since prehistoric times. The Choctaw prized their physical appearance. They wore their hair long and many had distinctive tattoos. They believed a flat head enhanced appearance and, in common with the Chickasaw and some other peoples, the Choctaw hinged wood against the foreheads of male infants to flatten the head.

In the late 1600s and early 1700s, the Choctaw allied with the French, aiding them in the French and Indian wars. In the 19th century they increasingly adopted the white settlers' ways, converting to Christianity, developing a governmental system similar to that of the USA, owning slaves, and developing a written form of their language. They aided the US government in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Creek War of 1813–14.

In 1830, under increasing pressure from white settlers for good cotton land, the Choctaw ceded nearly 2.4 million ha/6 million acres in Mississippi to the US in exchange for 1.2 million ha/3 million acres in Indian Territory, where they moved in 1833. A cholera epidemic and inadequate food and shelter en route cost 5,000 lives. In Indian Territory they maintained a semiautonomous government modelled on that of the USA. They became prosperous farmers and developed roads and an education system. In 1906 their tribal government was dissolved and their land allotted to individuals or sold to white settlers.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

Related Articles


Full text Article CHOCTAW
Cassell's Peoples, Nations and Cultures

A Native North American nation from Mississippi. Sedentary farmers, hunters and gatherers, they spoke an Algonquian language. One of the FIVE...

Full text Article Choctaw
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

A North American Indian people and language of the Muskogean group originally of SE Mississippi. They were skilled farmers, growing corn,...

Full text Article Choctaw
Philip's Encyclopedia

One of the largest tribes of Muskogean-speaking Native Americans , located in SE Mississippi and part of Alabama. An agricultural people, they...

See more from Credo