According to the Chickasaw, their history began with a migration, perhaps from Mexico. Each day, the people would erect a sacred leaning pole. They moved in the direction the pole indicated until it no longer leaned, and then they settled across a wide swath of what is now the southeastern United States. In colonial times, Chickasaw territory stretched over parts of present-day Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
The Chickasaw, who numbered perhaps 4,500 at the time of European contact, are ethnically related to the more numerous Choctaw, who numbered 20, 000 at about the same time.
Chickasaw Gallery Photos
The Choctaw and Chickasaw languages are very similar and can be considered dialects of a single tongue. By the end of the seventeenth century, Chickasaws lived in seven towns, mainly along the Tombigbee River; the tribal capital was at Chukafalaya.
Chickasaw population and settlement patterns are not that easy to trace. During times of peace with other Native Americans and Europeans, Chickasaws settled widely, ranging far to the east and west. In fact, two Chickasaw villages could be found on the Savannah River between South Carolina and Georgia.
When Chickasaws were at war with Europeans or other Native Americans, however, they restricted their movements to the Tombigbee. Further complicating the picture is the fact that Chickasaw often adopted captives and accepted refugees from other tribes. Chickasaw ethnicity seems to have been remarkably fluid in the colonial period.
Chickasaw society was organized along clan lines. The clans were exogamous, meaning that clan members had to marry outside of their particular clan, and Chickasaw society was matrilineal, meaning that descent was traced through the female line. Clans and towns were mainly self-governing, though larger councils could be called in times of crisis.
Chickasaws earned the reputation among other Native Americans and Europeans of being particularly aggressive, both in going to war and in individual acts of bravery in battle. Chickasaws first met Europeans during Hernando de Soto's trek across the Southeast in 1540. De Soto captured several Chickasaws and forced the chiefs to provide his soldiers with shelter and food for the winter.
The Chickasaw saw the benefits of an alliance with the Spanish and even planned a joint attack on a neighboring tribe. Relations between the Chickasaw and Spanish soured, however, when de Soto demanded that 200 warriors carry his party's baggage. The Chickasaw viewed this as an insult and attacked the Spanish, burning their camp and killing twelve men and fifty-seven horses.
For the next century and a half, the Chickasaw did not have much contact with Europeans. In 1673, the Jolliet-Marquette party passed through Chickasaw country, as did La Salle's in 1682. In fact, the Chickasaw territory was right in the middle of an area contested by the increasingly aggressive empires of England and France.
Although actual European settlement in Chickasaw territory still lay in the future, increasing numbers of traders, missionaries, and soldiers began to filter into Chickasaw lands. Initially, most Chickasaws sided with the French, mainly because they resented unscrupulous English traders. By 1720, though, most Chickasaw villages had allied themselves with the English because they feared a French-Choctaw alliance.
The Chickasaw found themselves a part of the booming colonial trade in skins, cloth, and firearms. They also earned a reputation as fierce slave catchers and ranged far from the Tombigbee to raid tribes for slaves. Between 1720 and 1763, the Chickasaw fended off assaults by the French and allied tribes (including the Miami, Iroquois, and Illinois).
The removal of France from North America, which devastated many tribes, did not affect the Chickasaw; they had proven themselves staunch and valuable allies to the British. The end of the French and Indian War brought administrative changes to Chickasaw country. They came increasingly under the purview of British colonial policies.
White settlers moved into Chickasaw territory, and a fairly large mixed-blood contingent began to make its presence known in tribal affairs. During the American Revolution, the Chickasaw, like most Native American groups, sided with their longtime allies, the British. When Thomas Jefferson, then governor of Virginia, ordered a fort to be constructed south of the Ohio River, the Chickasaw responded by surrounding the fort and burning the settlers' houses.
After the war, the Chickasaw negotiated treaties with Virginia and Spain. Eventually, the United States would force 4,900 Chickasaws and 1,100 African American and mixed African-Native Americans west to Indian Territory along the Trail of Tears. Matthew Jennings See also: Native American-European Conflict; Native American-European Relations; Native Americans.
Bibliography Gibson, Arrell M.The Chickasaws. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971.
Hudson, Charles. The Southeastern Indians. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1976.
White Deer, Gary.“Chickasaw. ” In Encyclopedia of North American Indians, edited by Frederick E.Hoxie.
New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Child Rearing Child rearing, which may be defined as providing the physical care, education, training, and socialization of children, took place primarily within the nuclear family in colonial America. Parents were largely guided by the values and teachings of Protestant Christianity.
Religious and secular institutions reinforced parental authority, but local governments also could place children in other households as servants or apprentices if the parents were judged unfit or too poor. Children also were included in some indenture arrangements, in which case, they might live separately from their parents. Most seventeenth-century families were patriarchal in structure, with the father seen as wielding ultimate authority, authority that had been given to him by God.
Protestant religious traditions supported this view, and ministers often preached sermons emphasizing the parents' duty to train the child properly, as well as the child's duty to obey. This religious influence was strongest in New England, with its many Calvinist ministers, but it existed throughout the American colonies. Over time, parents began to turn from religious traditions to books by such Enlightenment writers as John Locke for advice on how to raise their children.
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