The Chickasaw are a relatively small native tribe. They are located in the Southeast United States, and were one of the Five Civilized Tribes. Before they were forced away from their homes during the 1830s, most Chickasaw lived in Mississippi.
The Chickasaw were regarded as fierce warriors. This is probably because they were a small society, and were surrounded by Europeans or other tribes who might pose a threat to them. Many people regarded the Chickasaw as the bravest of the Southeastern Indians. Training for Chickasaw warriors began in childhood. Boys were taught to fight and also to withstand pain without complaining. War chiefs were very respected and had great authority in Chickasaw villages. They also built fortified towns to withstand attacks. The Chickasaw never lost a major battle or war. The word Chickasaw translates to “rebel.” I think the name fits!
For many years, the Chickasaw fought the French in Mississippi. The French were angry that the Chickasaw traded for weapons with the English in the Carolinas. The Chickasaw fought the French in two wars in the 1720s and 1730s. After France was defeated in the French and Indian War, they no longer posed a serious problem for the Chickasaw. Relations with the nearby Choctaw Indians also improved in the 1700s.
When the American Revolution began, the Chickasaw felt that they should support the English. Their good relations with the English had kept them safe for many years. The colony of Virginia wrote the Chickasaw nation and threatened to attack if they supported England. The bold Chickasaw responded by telling them not to bother invading their lands—the Chickasaw would meet them halfway and send them back without their heads! When the Revolution ended, the Chickasaw established relations with the new United States.
The Chickasaw endured the same hardships as many other native societies when white settlers began moving into their lands. Many white settlers moved into Mississippi in the 1820s. During the 1830s, the Chickasaw were forced out of the Southeast along with the rest of the Five Civilized Tribes.
Although the Chickasaw were known for their skill in battle, they also had other many other skills. They were known (and still appreciated) for their beautiful baskets. These were often brightly colored with natural dyes, such as sassafras root.
The Chickasaw were semi-nomadic. This means that they generally stayed in one spot, but might migrate according to the seasons. The Chickasaw built both winter and summer houses. The winter house was the larger of the two. The summer house had two rooms and plenty of ventilation to keep the occupants cool. The Chickasaw also liked to play. In addition to their homes, they usually built a ball field!
Things to remember about the Chickasaw:
- Chickasaw society was matrilineal, which means ancestry was passed through the mother’s side. Women also controlled their own land.
- Most present-day Chickasaw speak English, but there are a very small number who still speak Chickasaw. It’s important to the Chickasaw that their language be preserved.