Native American Tribes
in the Southwest Mississippi Territory, 
and Surrounding Southern States

The Strange Woman - A Choctaw Legend
Pushmatahaw - Great Chief of the Choctaw Nation


Microsoft Encarta;  Microsoft Corporation, Copyright 1993;  Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
Multimedia Encyclopedia;  Grolier, Inc.; Copyright 1992;  The Software Toolbox, Inc.

Prepared for Early SW MS Territory by Ellen Pack


The ancient Cherokee inhabited the area of northern Mexico and Texas before migrating north to the Great Lake area.  They were forced back south after being defeated by the Iroquois and Delaware tribes, where they became the largest and most powerful Native American tribe in the areas of the western Carolinas, northern Georgia, and eastern Tennessee.  They were an Iroquoian-speaking people.

The Cherokee were first encountered by white man when Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto traveled across the southern area of the "new world" in 1540.  Later, in 1715, the Cherokee numbers were greatly reduced by a smallpox epidemic.

The Cherokee sided with the British during the Revolutionary War, and did not end their hostilities against the Americans until 1794.  By that time, under heavy white influence, the Cherokee became farmers and ranchers.  They also became slave holders, and were involved in the cotton and wool industries.  Some were dissatisfied with the new agreement, and between the years of 1790 to 1815, about 3,000 members migrated  west of the Mississippi River.  This group became known as the Western Band of Cherokee.  Most members, however, chose to remain behind.

In 1827, the Cherokee established a constitutional form of government patterned after that of the United States.  Meanwhile. gold had been discovered on Cherokee land, resulting in the state of Georgia entering into a series of fraudulent land-acquiring treaties in an attempt to remove the Cherokee, and confiscate their lands.  By 1835, with the Treaty of New Echota, the Cherokee were given three years to relocated west of the Mississippi River.   The Cherokee reputed the treaty, refusing to leave.  Beginning in 1839, the nation was forced to march to what is today Oklahoma.   Although several hundred escaped and fled into the mountain areas of North Carolina and Tennessee, most were drive west.  This enforced march, under the direction of Gen. Winfield Scott, resulted in the death of over 4,0000 Cherokee, and is today known as the Trail of Tears.

In Oklahoma, the Cherokee joined membership as one of the Five Civilized Tribes.  Today they are one of the largest tribes in America.  Those who escaped the Trail of Tears were the ancestors of the present-day Eastern Band.

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The Choctaw Indians were an agricultural and cattle-raising people who lived in central and southern Mississippi, as well as Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana, during the 18th century.  The Choctaw were also known as Flatheads, because they compressed the heads of their babies into a peak using a V-shaped wicker device.

The Choctaw lived in mud and bark houses with thatched roofs, and were considered quite able farmers.  Using simple tools, they raised a variety of crops that included tobacco, corn, beans, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins.   Frequently they raised an abundance of these crops, and were able to use the excess produce as trade.  They also fished, and hunted with blowguns and bow and arrow.

In  1729 the Mississippi Choctaw sided with the French in driving out the Natchez Indians after the massacre at Fort Rosalie, in Natchez.  However, some of the Natchez Indians later joined the Choctaw nation, so that today many Choctaw descendants are also descendants of the now-extinct Natchez Indians.

The Choctaw supported the British during the Revolutionary War, but became bitter when the war ended, complaining that the British had sold out their interest to the newly formed United States.

For a number of years, the Choctaw resisted the white encroachment into their land.  Hostility finally ended in 1830 with the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, but the entire Choctaw were forced to move across the Mississippi River into Oklahoma where they joined the Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Siminole in Oklahoma, and eventually became one of the Five Civilized Tribes.

The Choctaw fought on the Confederate side during the War Between the States, and were later instrumental in having Oklahoma admitted as a state, in 1907.

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The Creek occupied most of what are now Alabama and Georgia, and were the second most powerful grouping of Indians south of New York, after the Cherokee.  At one time their number reached about 30,000.

The Creek were an agricultural tribe who's villages were situated along creeks and rivers, which accounts for their name, given to them by early traders.  They were an orderly society, arranging their log houses in a rectangle around a central space reserved for public ceremonies.  Some villages were designed for war ceremonies, other for peace ceremonies.

The Creek men accomplished the hunting, and the women planted and harvested crops of corn, squash, and beans.  Tribal members, like other Native Americans of the southeast, were heavily tattooed and ornamented.

The Creek supported the British during the American Revolution, but signed a peace treated with the United States in 1790.  However, in 1813, still under the influence of the British, the Creek declared war against the United States.  They attacked Fort Mims in southern Alabama, and for several months war ensued.  After a few months they were soundly defeated by General Andrew Jackson, and forced to give up more than half of their territory.    Eventually, after being forced to cede more land to the Americans, they agreed to relocated in Oklahoma, where they became a member of the Five Civilized Tribes.  Only a few remained behind.

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The Natchez tribe was established in the area of southeast Mississippi before the Spanish and French entered the area. They were the largest and most unified tribe of the immediate area, and numbered about 5,000.

For more information on the Natchez Tribe, click HERE.  Use the "Back" button on your browser to return to this page.

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