#1. The Choctaw Tribe Was A Mississippian Culture
The Choctaw Tribe was a Southeast Indian Tribe that was part of the Mississippian culture prior to European contact.
During the Mississippian era of 800 to 1500 AD, ancestral Choctaw and Chickasaw peoples are believed to have been connected to the polity surrounding Moundville in Alabama.
The Mississippian Ideological Interaction Sphere was a religious, cultural, and trade network centered along the Mississippi River valley and spanning much of the Midwestern, Eastern, and Southeastern United States.
After the epic journey of Cabeza de Vaca, the Spanish wanted to send an expedition into the interior of the New World to see what else was available. Hernando de Soto was chosen, and he planned to enter Florida and explore the interior.
This was due to an ambush laid by Chief Tuskaloosa at the Battle of Mabila. Chief Tuskaloosa was possibly from the Choctaw tribe. Here is what Historian Bob Ferguson said about the battle:
Hernando de Soto, leading his well-equipped Spanish fortune hunters, made contact with the Choctaws in the year 1540. He had been one of a triumvirate that wrecked and plundered the Inca empire and, as a result, was one of the wealthiest men of his time. His invading army lacked nothing in equipage. In true conquistador style, he took as hostage a chief named Chief Tuskaloosa, demanding of him carriers and women. The carriers he got at once. The women, Tuscaloosa said, would be waiting in Mabila (Mobile). The chief neglected to mention that he had also summoned his warriors to be waiting in Mabila. On October 18, 1540, de Soto entered the town and received a gracious welcome. The Choctaws feasted with him, danced for him, and then attacked him.
The attack would shorten de Soto's expedition.
#2. They Had Somewhat Positive Relations With The Americans
During the American Revolutionary War, the Choctaw were divided in their support. Some fought against the American forces at Natchez, and some joined Washington's Army and fought throughout the entire war.
After the formation of the United States, George Washington maintained a positive view of the civilized Native Americans, which included the Choctaw.
He believed their economy was inferior but believed them as equals. This was an uncommon view at the time. Nevertheless, George Washington wanted to do something.
He put together a plan to help "civilize" the tribes. The policies would be picked up under Thomas Jefferson and continued.
The tribe would continue their support of the Americans when they allied with them during the War of 1812. They enjoyed peace with the United States and learned much technology from them. They opted to fight against Tecumseh and his dream of an independent Native state.
The Choctaw Tribe and the United States would remain friendly until the presidency of Andrew Jackson. Jackson had no use for the Native Americans and sought to remove them. He was able to narrowly pass the Indian Removal Bill, which resulted in the removal of many tribes, including the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee.
#3. The Removal Cost 1,500 Choctaw Lives
The Cherokee is often remembered for the Trail of Tears. However, the Choctaw also were forced to walk that trail.
It was noted by Alexis de Tocqueville as one of the saddest days he has witnessed:
In the whole scene, there was an air of ruin and destruction, something which betrayed a final and irrevocable adieu; one couldn't watch without feeling one's heart wrung. The Indians were tranquil but sombre and taciturn. There was one who could speak English and of whom I asked why the Chactas were leaving their country. "To be free," he answered, could never get any other reason out of him. We ... watch the expulsion ... of one of the most celebrated and ancient American peoples.
It was truly a sad moment in American History. A Native American tribe that had been loyal allies to the United States through their founding and multiple wars and had even begun to merge with their society.
It was all due to one man and one political party, Andrew Jackson and the Democrats.
The debate was bitter against the act. Men such as Henry Clay argued against the bill. Jackson pointed to the northerner's hypocrisy in how they treated Native Americans in their lands.
He argued as follows:
Humanity has often wept over the fate of the aborigines of this country, and philanthropy has long been busily employed in devising means to avert it, but its progress has never for a moment been arrested, and one by one have many powerful tribes disappeared from the earth... But true philanthropy reconciles the mind to these vicissitudes as it does to the extinction of one generation to make room for another... In the monuments and fortresses of an unknown people, spread over the extensive regions of the West, we behold the memorials of a once powerful race, which was exterminated or has disappeared to make room for the existing savage tribes… Philanthropy could not wish to see this continent restored to the condition in which it was found by our forefathers. What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms, embellished with all the improvements that art can devise or industry execute, occupied by more than 12,000,000 happy people, and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization, and religion?
Jackson believed he was being benevolent. However, history views it in a different way. Especially when considering the history of the Choctaw.
#4. The Choctaw Would Join The Confederacy
Years prior, it had been the Whigs/Republicans who had fought to save their removal from Andrew Jackson. However, over time, it would be an indictment on America rather than an indictment on a party.
The Confederates promised them national sovereignty if they allied with them. the Choctaw tribe also practiced slavery, which was another reason they were sympathetic to the Confederate cause.
Their decision would cost them dearly as the Union defeated the Confederates. This loss would be the Choctaw's loss as well.
Upon defeat, the Choctaw Nation in Indian Territory signed an 1866 Reconstruction Treaty that ceded the western portion of their lands to the United States.
#5. The Choctaw Would Face Discrimination After The Civil War
Following the Reconstruction era and the Democrats regaining political power in the late 1870s, state legislators passed laws establishing Jim Crow laws and legal segregation by race.
In addition, they effectively disfranchised freedmen and Native Americans by the new Mississippi constitution of 1890, which changed rules regarding voter registration and elections to discriminate against both groups.
Ironically, the Democrats had removed them from their land, and after the Civil War, despite the Choctaw supporting their cause, they were then discriminated against.
They are now a federally recognized tribe that is located in Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Louisiana.