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First Posted: Mar 2, 2010
Nov 2, 2011

Chickasaw Indians

A sketch of a Chickasaw by Bernard Romans, 1775

Total population: 38,000
Regions with significant populations: United States (Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana)
Languages: English, Chickasaw
Religion: Protestantism, other
Related ethnic groups: Cherokee, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), and Seminole

The Chickasaw are Native American people originally from the Southeastern United States (Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee). They are of the Muskogean linguistic group.

The Chickasaw were a part of the Mississippian culture which was located throughout the Mississippi River valley. Sometime prior to the first European contact, the Chickasaw moved east and settled east of the Mississippi River. The Chickasaw were one of the "Five Civilized Tribes*" who were forced to sell their country in 1832 and move to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) during the era of Indian Removal; most Chickasaw now live in Oklahoma. All historical records indicate the Chickasaw lived in northeast Mississippi from the first European contact until the Indian Removal in 1832.

*"The Five Civilized Tribes were the five Native American nations: the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole, which were considered civilized by white settlers during that time period because they adopted many of the colonists' customs and had generally good relations with their neighbors. The process of cultural transformation was proposed by George Washington and Henry Knox; the Cherokee and Choctaw were successful at integrating European-American culture. The Five Civilized Tribes lived in the Southeastern United States before their relocation to other parts of the country, especially the future state of Oklahoma." Wapedia

The Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma is the thirteenth largest federally recognized tribe in the United States. They are related to the Choctaw and share a common history with them. The Chickasaw are divided in two groups: the Impsaktea and the Intcutwalipa.


The name Chickasaw, as noted by anthropologist John Swanton, belonged to a Chickasaw leader. Chickasaw is the English spelling of Chikashsha (IPA: [t?ika??a]), meaning "rebel" or "comes from Chicsa."


The origin of the Chickasaws is uncertain. Noted 19th-century historian Horatio Cushman thought the Chickasaw, along with the Choctaw, may have had origins in present-day Mexico and migrated north. When Europeans first encountered them, the Chickasaw were living in villages in what is now Mississippi, with a smaller number in the area of Savannah Town, South Carolina. The Chickasaw may have been immigrants to the area and may not have been descendants of the prehistoric Mississippian culture. Their oral history supports this, indicating they moved along with the Choctaw from west of the Mississippi River into present-day Mississippi in prehistoric times.

"These people (the choctaw) are the only nation from whom I could learn any idea of a traditional account of a first origin; and that is their coming out of a hole in the ground, which they shew between their nation and the Chickasaws; they tell us also that their neighbours were surprised at seeing a people rise at once out of the earth."" -Bernard Romans- Natural History of East and West Florida

The second leg of the de Soto Expedition, from Apalachee to the Chicaza.The first European contact with the Chickasaw was in 1540, when Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto encountered them and stayed in one of their towns, most likely near present-day Tupelo, Mississippi. After various disagreements, the Chickasaw attacked the De Soto expedition in a nighttime raid, nearly destroying the expedition. The Spanish moved on quickly.

The Chickasaw began to trade with the British after the colony of Carolina was founded in 1670.[citation needed] With British-supplied guns, the Chickasaw raided their enemies the Choctaw, capturing some members and selling them into slavery, a practice that stopped when the Choctaw acquired guns from the French. The Chickasaw were often at war with the French and the Choctaw in the eighteenth century, such as in the Battle of Ackia on May 26, 1736. Skirmishes continued until France gave up her claims to the region after being defeated by the British in the Seven Years' War.

In 1793-94 Chickasaw fought as allies of the new United States under General Anthony Wayne against the Indians of the old Northwest Territory. They were defeated in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, August 20, 1794.

"Neither the Choctaws nor Chicksaws ever engaged in war against the American people, but always stood as their faithful allies."
-Horatio Cushman, History of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez Indians, 1899

United States Relations

George Washington (first U.S. President) and Henry Knox (first U.S. Secretary of War) proposed the cultural transformation of Native Americans. Washington believed that Native Americans were equals, but that their society was inferior. He formulated a policy to encourage the "civilizing" process, and Thomas Jefferson continued it. Noted historian Robert Remini wrote, "They presumed that once the Indians adopted the practice of private property, built homes, farmed, educated their children, and embraced Christianity, these Native Americans would win acceptance from white Americans." Washington's six-point plan included impartial justice toward Indians; regulated buying of Indian lands; promotion of commerce; promotion of experiments to civilize or improve Indian society; presidential authority to give presents; and punishing those who violated Indian rights. The government appointed agents, like Benjamin Hawkins, to live among the Indians and to teach them, through example and instruction, how to live like whites. The Chickasaws accepted Washington's policy as they established schools, adopted yeoman farming practices, converted to Christianity, and built homes like their colonial neighbors.

Hopewell (1786)

The Chickasaw signed the Treaty of Hopewell in 1786. Article 11 of that treaty states: "The hatchet shall be forever buried, and the peace given by the United States of America, and friendship re-established between the said States on the one part, and the Chickasaw nation on the other part, shall be universal, and the contracting parties shall use their utmost endeavors to maintain the peace given as aforesaid, and friendship re-established." Benjamin Hawkins attended this signing.

The Colbert Legacy (19th century)

In the 1700s, a Scottish trader by the name of James Logan Colbert settled in Chickasaw country and stayed there for the next 40 years. He married Minta Hoye, a Chickasaw woman with whom he had six sons: William, George, Levi, Samuel, Joseph, and Pittman (or James). For nearly a century, the Colbert descendants provided critical leadership during the tribe's greatest challenges. William Colbert once visited U.S. President George Washington. He also served with General Andrew Jackson during the Creek Wars of 1813-14.

Third-generation Colberts, such as Holmes and Winchester, continued the family civic service and political prominence. They helped create the governmental foundation for the Chickasaw Nation in Indian Country (now known as Oklahoma). Holmes Colbert worked on writing the nation's constitution.

Removal Era (1837)

Unlike other tribes who exchanged land grants, the Chickasaw were to receive financial compensation of $3 million U.S. dollars from the United States for their lands east of the Mississippi River. In 1836 the Chickasaws had reached an agreement that purchased land from the previously removed Choctaws after a bitter five-year debate. They paid the Choctaws $530,000 for the westernmost part of Choctaw land. The first group of Chickasaws moved in 1837. The $3 million dollars that the U.S. owed the Chickasaw went unpaid for nearly 30 years.

Because the Chickasaws sided with the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War, they had to forfeit their claim to the unpaid amount. The Chickasaws gathered at Memphis, Tennessee on July 4, 1837 with all of their assets—belongings, livestock, and enslaved African Americans. Three thousand and one Chickasaw crossed the Mississippi River, following routes established by Choctaws and Creeks. During the journey, often called the Trail of Tears, more than five hundred Chickasaw died of dysentery and smallpox. Once in Indian Territory, the Chickasaws merged with the Choctaw nation. After several decades of mistrust, they regained nationhood and established a Chickasaw Nation. The majority of the tribe was deported to Indian Territory (now headquartered in Ada, Oklahoma) in the 1830s.

Remnants of the South Carolina Chickasaws, known as the Chaloklowa Chickasaws, have reorganized their tribal government. In 2005 they gained official recognition from the state of South Carolina as a Native American tribe. They have their tribal headquarters at Indiantown, South Carolina.

American Civil War (1861)

The Chickasaw Nation was the first of the Five Civilized Tribes to become allies of the Confederate States of America. They passed a resolution signed by Governor Cyrus Harris on May 25, 1861. Earlier that year the United States abandoned Fort Washita, leaving the Chickasaw Nation defenseless against the Plains tribes. This was their main reason to affiliate with the Confederates. The Chickasaw were the last Confederate community to surrender to the United States.

"This was the first time in history the Chickasaws have ever made war against an English speaking people."
-Governor Cyrus Harris, As Chickasaw troops marched against the Union, 1860s.

Government: Chickasaw Nation

The Chickasaws were first combined with the Choctaw Nation and their area in the western area of the nation was called the Chickasaw District. Although originally the western boundary of the Choctaw Nation extended to the 100th meridian, virtually no Chickasaws lived west of the Cross Timbers due to continual raiding by the Indians on the Southern Plains. The United States eventually leased the area between the 100th and 98th meridians for the use of the Plains tribes. The area was referred to as the "Leased District."

Most government services are administrated from Ada.

  • Treaty Year Signed with Where Purpose Ceded Land
  • Treaty with the Chickasaw 1786 United States Hopwell, SC Peace and Protection provided by the U.S. and Define boundaries N/A
  • Treaty with the Chickasaw 1801 United States Chickasaw Nation Right to make wagon road through the Chickasaw Nation, Acknowledge the protection provided by the U.S.
  • Treaty with the Chickasaw 1805 United States Chickasaw Nation Eliminate debt to U.S. merchants and traders
  • Treaty of with the Chickasaw 1816 United States Chickasaw Nation Cede land, provide allowances, and tracts reserved to Chickasaw Nation
  • Treaty of with the Chickasaw 1818 United States Chickasaw Nation Cede land, payments for land cession, and Define boundaries
  • Treaty of Pontotoc 1832 United States Chickasaw Nation Removal and Monetary gain from the sale of land 6,422,400 acres.
Post-Civil War

Fred Tecumseh Waite, a hired cowboy and Chickasaw Nation statesmanBecause of their siding with the Confederacy, after the Civil War, the US government made a peace treaty with the Chickasaw in 1866. It included the provision that they emancipate enslaved blacks and provide them with full citizenship in the nation.

These people became known as Chickasaw Freedmen. They were adopted into the tribe. Many and their descendants continued to live in Oklahoma.

Today the Choctaw-Chickasaw Freedmen Association of Oklahoma represents their interests. They have expressed support for the Cherokee Freedmen, who are struggling to regain citizenship in their nation after the Cherokee made newly limiting rules on membership.


The suffix -mingo (Chickasaw: minko) is used to identify a chieftain. For example, Tishomingo was the name of a famous Chickasaw chief. The town of Tishomingo, Mississippi and Tishomingo County, Mississippi were named after him, as was the town of Tishomingo, Oklahoma. South Carolina's Black Mingo Creek was named after the colonial Chickasaw chief, who controlled the lands around it as a sort of hunting preserve. Sometimes it is spelled minko, but this most often occurs in older literary references...

Chicasaw Pony Some Gaited Some Not Gaited

The Chickasaw Horse

This article can be seen on their Official web site: Chickasaw Horse

The Chickasaw Horse: Grandfather to Quarterhorse

By Holmes Willis Lemon

On the Chickasaws first encounter with the horse, some accounts claim that the tribe captured some of De Soto's horses. Later, English traders introduced the horse to the tribe in trading pack trains. The tribe began to acquire, breed and develop the horse which was to play such an important part in the life and activities of the tribe during the next two centuries. The tribes searched, raided and traded for horses. During the war with the French in the early 1700s, they traded French war captives for horses at the rate of one captive for one horse. A description of the Chickasaw Horse of that period is as follows: Small, about 13 hands, close coupled, well developed muscular structure.

The horse had a very short neck, and some even had to spread their front legs to graze as some wild horses and zebras do. As a short distance runner, he could not be beaten.

The horse was very gentle in disposition and was used by the tribe for many purposes: packing, transportation, hunting and working fields. They were the best utility horse of their time.

During the middle 1700s and following the American Revolution, the Chickasaw Horse became very popular with the planters and others in the Colonies. At fairs and races held throughout the South, the horses were raced over a distance of 1/4 mile. In 1792, the Knoxville Gazette was advertising the service of a Chickasaw Stud, "Piomingo," a horse named after a much beloved chief of the tribe.

When the removal of the tribe to the Indian Territory began, the Chickasaws had large horse herds which they would not sell. The ratio of horses to tribal members during the removal was approximately 3 to 1.

The book, Outstanding Modern Quarter Horse Sires, by Frye lists the Chickasaw Horse as the true beginning of the Quarter Horse. In the late 1800s, the Chickasaw breed began to die out due to cross breeding with European and Arabian stock, and the Quarter Horse of today took its place. There still remain some true Chickasaw Horses on the islands of the Outer Banks, off Virginia, North and South Carolina.

In 1957, J.A. (Andy) Barker conceived the idea of bringing the Chickasaw Horse back into prominence. He organized the Chickasaw Horse Association at Love Valley, Statesville, North Carolina. Barker sent to Canada and imported a young stud from horses belonging to the Blood Indian Tribe.

The horse was cross bred with some of the small Chickasaw Horses from the islands off the Atlantic Coast. The National Chickasaw Horse Association is presently located at Clarinda, Iowa, and members of this group are registering and developing a type of horse which closely conforms to the size, colorations and characteristics of the original Chickasaw Horse which made such a valuable contribution to Chickasaw and American History.

Exerpt from an article printed from The Chickasaw Times April-May-June, 1977 issue.

For More Information:

Official Site of Chickasaw Nation
Native American Horse Breeds
Chickasaw Facts for Kids