Chickasaw Information Sheet
Official Website of the Chickasaw: https://www.chickasaw.net/
Historical Information About the Culture
The Chickasaw tribe had territory in southeastern United States in present-day northern Mississippi, northwestern Alabama, western Tennessee, and western Kentucky. Evidence indicates that the Chickasaw and their neighbors, the Choctaw, migrated as one people to southeastern United States, and after growing they split into two separate tribes but retained the same basic language and practices .
Although the Chickasaw were small in number (never exceeding 5,000), they maintained a large amount of territory through their fierce defense of their land and persistent offense on neighboring tribes . Like many tribes of the South, the Chickasaw would conduct a sudden raid by small war parties; these were often done in retaliation to a previous raid, so the Chickasaw were often in a state of war . The purpose of war was not to conquer and take over tribes, but was more of a ritual for young men to prove themselves and become warriors and for other warriors to practice their skills .
The Chickasaw tribe itself was split into two major groups, the Imosaktca and Intcukwalipa . These were further split into blood-related clans which ranged in history from seven to fifteen . Members of the tribe could only marry those outside of their clan in which descent was matrilineal; membership of a clan was always obtained from mothers [1, 3].
Each Chickasaw household had separate dwellings for summer and winter. The summer houses were long and rectangular with sloping gabled roofs made of split saplings or bundled cane [1, 4]. The walls consisted of wooden frames covered by loosely woven mats of bark or grass to allow for air circulation . The winter houses were circular in shape and were framed with heavy pine logs . The conical roof was covered in clay, bark and grass, and the walls were covered in a plaster of clay, grass and sometimes crushed shells [1, 4].
Religion was very important to the Chickasaw as it often explained the mysteries of the natural world, like thunder and lightning . They believed that their god Ababinili created them out of dust and his power is derived from the sun; for this reason, each village kept a sacred fire lit year-round . At the Busk Festival held in the spring, the community’s sacred fire was put out, which was then renewed by the holy men using the sun’s rays . Chickasaw women would then carry the sanctified coals to rekindle the previously extinguished cooking fire within the household; in this way they could symbolically have the sun in their homes, and therefore the power of Ababinili .
Not only did the Busk Festival renew the sacred fire, but the Chickasaw themselves. They would fast for two days after which they drank boiled snakeroot; this caused them to vomit in order to purge all of the evil from their bodies . Remarkable warriors would be honored, and criminals, except murders, would be granted pardon . Games, such as toli, were also played during the festival; toli is similar to the modern game of lacrosse except each player had two sticks instead of one .
 Hale, D.K. & Gibson, A.M. (1991). Indians of North America: The Chickasaw. New York: Chelsea House Publishers
 Pounds Brown, V. & Owens, L. (1983). The World of the Southern Indians. Birmingham, AL: Beechwood Books.
 Gibson, A.M. (1971). The Chickasaws. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.
 The Chickasaw Nation (2014). Summer House. Retrieved from: https://www.chickasaw.net/Our-Nation/Culture/Housing/Summer-House.aspx
 The Chickasaw Nation (2013). Winter House. Retrieved from: https://www.chickasaw.net/Our-Nation/Culture/Housing/Winter-House.aspx
Colonial Experience of the Culture
EUROPEAN ENCOUNTERS AND WARFARE
The Chickasaw did not have many notable early encounters with Europeans, which was largely attributed to the tribe's well-known ferocity and war culture (2). The first contact with Europeans occurred in 1540-1 (1, 3) when Hernando de Soto led the Spanish into Missississippi to set up camp in an abandoned Chickasaw village (2). The relationship between the troops and the Chickasaw was uneasy, but the Spaniards were allowed to remain in the encampment for three months until de Soto demanded Chickasaw labor and the tribe subsequently attacked the Spanish, forcing them to move on (2). The Chickasaw did not see many more Europeans because of this until 1670 when the English colony of Carolina began to trade with the tribe (2, 3). With this new trading partnership, the Chickasaw took advantage of the nearby Choctaw starting a long era of intermittent warfare between the tribes (3). In 1699, the French began to supply the Choctaw with weapons and goods, creating an alliance which would hold throughout the Chickasaw-French wars in 1720-1725 and 1733-1743 (3). The French attacks on the Chickasaw usually resulted in failure, ceasing altogether after their loss of the Seven Years War to Britain in 1763 (3). During the American Revolution, the Chickasaw ultimately sided with the British but only participated in the battle at George Roger Clark's Fort Jefferson in 1780 (1, 3).
TREATIES AND REMOVAL
Towards the end of the 18th century, the Chickasaw established trade with both Spain and the United States, signing treaties in 1784, 1792, and 1793 with Spain and in 1786, 1801, 1805, 1816, 1818, and 1826 with the United States, effectively preventing either nation from making a significant advance on tribal territory (3). The Treaty of San Lorenzo in 1795, however, ceded Spanish claim to Chickasaw lands, placing them withing the boundaries of the United States and under increased pressure from the U.S. (3). Missionaries arrived on Chickasaw lands around this time, teaching Christianity and "civilized" life (3). Even though many Chickasaw adopted these new lifeways, the new residents of Missississippi pushed for their removal so that they could acquire Chickasaw lands for agriculture (3, 6). Chickasaw leaders forsaw this and attempted to negotiate their terms for removal, eventually agreeing on a treaty in 1832 which sold Chickasaw lands to the government in exchange for timely removal and land in the west (3, 4, 5). The careful negotiations during this period resulted in a considerably less amount of suffering than other tribes during the "Great Removal" (5, 6). The 1837 Treaty of Doaksville with the Choctaws, leased land for settlement in southeastern Oklahoma (4, 5). In 1856, the new Chickasaw Nation was able to separate from the Choctaws and create their own constitution (4, 5). After the loss of the Civil War, the Chickasaw struggled to maintain their autonomy but were eventually able to renew their government and establish a new constitution in 1983 (4).
Contemporary Developments or Issues
Health and Wellness Initiatives
The Chickasaw provide various types of health care for all of the varying age groups in their tribe. The tribal government has funded various medication, sexual education, nutrition, and fitness programs both independently and with aid from the US government (1). Additionally, counseling and safety initiatives are widely offered in the community, such as marriage and family therapy (2) and domestic violence refuge (3). A large portion of the available programs are dedicated to nutrition and wellness. This could be largely due to the increased poverty rates in the areas of Oklahoma in and surrounding the Chickasaw (4). Nearly 1-in-4 students in Oklahoma are on a free or reduced lunch program, which is a program that is unavailable during the summer. The Chickasaw provide summer lunches for their resident children (5) and are extremely involved in helping their community members get obtain a WIC for the farmers market, which helps the economy in the area (6). Despite a lagging economy in their area of Oklahoma, the Chickasaw manage to offer their residents many beneficial programs.
Education and Employment Initiatives
The Chickasaw have many unique educational initiatives. Many of the programs are heavily focused on the arts, an unusual trend among communities that have a weaker economy. Stage acting (1), guitar school (2), and choir programs (3) are among the list of arts promotion initiatives. However, the programs are not limited to the arts. There is a strong movement to bring science and literacy into the community, including a space camp (4) and free books for young children (5). The Chickasaw excel in providing educational incentives and scholarships. One of the scholarships is available to people beyond their community (6), which greatly aids in the advocacy for the tribe and establishes great relationships with the surrounding areas. The Chickasaw also have many programs designed to help their residents gain employment. Aside from the programs that help the general public achieve employment in private and public sectors, the tribe also has individualized programs to help those who have difficulties becoming employed. Such programs include a re-entry into the workforce [for those whose barriers may include incarceration or parole] (7) and vocational rehabilitation for those who have disabilities (8). The tribe also helps out their communitie' business people with different centers for consultation and aid (9).
Preserving the Culture
The tribe certainly is not lacking in cultural preservation. There is an abundance of events, clubs, classes, and many other ways people can actively participate in the well-maintained culture. The Historical Preservation committee (1) works with federal agencies to ensure that the sacred areas and traditions are maintained and freely practiced. Meanwhile, the Chickasaw Historical Society (2) works internally and promotes different arts, traditions, and other cultural aspects. They host many of the events and classes that teach about Chickasaw culture. Their traditions are kept vividly alive through different acting clubs, art contests and classes, and language preservation (3). The most important initiative is the language one, as that is the area of the culture that is subpar. There no longer exist any monolingual Chickasaw speakers, and very few people who are bilingual in Chickasaw and English (the majority are monolingual English speakers) (4). Therefore, the Chickasaw have promoted and maintained many classes to familiarize their people with the language (5). The Chickasaw make strong efforts to preserve the language and their efforts are evident.