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Choctaw - Page 2

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After the Civil War, the Mississippi Choctaw were largely ignored by the government and fell into obscurity, though they continued to practice their culture as they had for generations. In the meantime, the Choctaw in Oklahoma struggled to maintain their nation, as land cessions were required by the Five Civilized Tribes, who had supported the Confederacy.

 

They were also required to free their slaves and make them citizens. Called Choctaw Freedmen, considerable debates occurred over the next several years, but they were finally granted Choctaw Nation citizenship in 1885.

 

In 1889, the government used its railroad access to the Oklahoma Territory to stimulate development there and opened two million acres for settlement, resulting in the Land Run of 1889. The Choctaw Nation was overwhelmed with new settlers and could not regulate their activities, suffering from violent crimes, murders, thefts and assaults from new settlers and other tribal members.

 

Mississippi Choctaw, 1908

Mississippi Choctaw, 1908.

 

 

 

The struggle over land with the U.S. Government continued and soon the Dawes Commission was established to end the tribal lands held in common, and allot acreage to tribal members individually and dissolve the governments of the Five Civilized Tribes. Though the nations fought hard against this, the governments were dissolved in 1906 and the following year, Oklahoma was admitted as the 46th state.

 

In World War I, the Choctaw served in the U.S. military as the first Native American code talkers, using the Choctaw language as a natural code. Tribal members also served in World War II, after which the nation began efforts to reestablish itself. For the next two decades they worked hard to attract and develop new businesses and fight legislation to eliminate Native American rights of sovereignty. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma was scheduled for termination when Congress repealed the law in 1970, citing the policy’s documented failure in helping Native Americans.

 

The repeal set the Choctaw in a new direction and in 1971, the nation held its first popular election of a chief since Oklahoma achieved statehood in 1907. They also established a tribal newspaper, began to enroll more members, and launched a movement to preserve the Choctaw language. Before long, a new Constitution was ratified which provided for an executive, legislative and judicial branch of the government.


The population of the tribe when it first came into relations with the French, about the year 1700, was estimated from 15,000 to 20,000. Their number in 1894 was 18,981 citizens of the Choctaw Nation, 1,639 Mississippi Choctaw, and 5,994 Freedmen. Today, they number nearly 200,000 strong. They operate business ventures, both in Mississippi and
Oklahoma, in Gaming, Electronics, and Hospitality industries, while continuing to practice their language and cultural traditions.

 

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians are the two primary Choctaw associations today, although smaller Choctaw groups are also located in Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas.

 

 

 

More Information:

 

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

P.0. Box 1210
Durant,
Oklahoma 74702-1210

800-522-617

 

Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians

101 Industrial Road
Choctaw, Mississippi 39350
601-656-5251

 

 

 

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated September, 2012.

 

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