Muscle Shoals, Alabama
|Died||June 2, 1834
Buzzard Roost, Alabama
|Native name||Itawamba, Itte-wamba Mingo|
|Nickname(s)||"Okolona" ("calm or peaceful") |
|Cause of death||Pneumonia|
|Resting place||Oakwood Cemetery, Tuscumbia, Alabama|
|Spouse(s)||Ishtimmarharlechar, Temusharhoctay 'Dollie' (Schtimmarshashoctay), Mintahoyo House (Minto-Ho-Yo) of Imatapo, Seletia Colbert|
|Children||Sons, Martin, Charles, Alex, Adam, Lemuel, Daugherty, Ebijah, Commodore and Lewis; Daughters, Charity, Mariah, Phalishta and Asa|
|Parents||James Logan Colbert and Sopha Minta Hoye|
|Relatives||Brother, George Colbert, Nephew, Holmes Colbert|
Levi Colbert (1759-1834), also known as Itawamba in Chickasaw, was a leader and chief of the Chickasaw in the American Southeast. Colbert was called Itte-wamba Mingo, meaning bench chief. He and his brother George Colbert were prominent interpreters and negotiators with President Andrew Jackson's appointed negotiators related to Indian Removal; the United States wanted the people to cede its traditional lands and move west of the Mississippi River to extinguish its claims in the Southeast. The US Government Indian Agent with whom Chief Levi Colbert (Itawamba) had the most dealings was John Dabney Terrell, Sr. of Marion County, Alabama.
Early life and education
One of six sons of James Logan Colbert (1721 - 1784), a North Carolinian settler of Scots descent, and his second wife Sopha Minta Hoye, a Chickasaw, Levi Colbert was born in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. He and his mixed-race siblings grew up bilingual and were educated in both Chickasaw and European-American traditions. According to the entry in the Chickasaw Hall of Fame, he was born in the Chickasaw Nation, in what is now Alabama, in 1759. He and his siblings grew up bilingual, educated in both Chickasaw and European-American traditions. When Levi Colbert assumed the title of head chief of the Chickasaw Nation, he was living at that time on the bluff west of the Chickasaw Indian trading post known as Cotton Gin Port, established near the old cotton gin and where there was a large spreading oak known as the council tree.
As the Chickasaw had a matrilineal kinship system of descent and inheritance, children were considered to belong to the mother's clan. They gained their status through her, and hereditary leadership for males was passed through the maternal line.
Levi Colbert and his brother George Colbert were prominent among the negotiators of the Chickasaw when meeting with US government officials related to treaties and removal. In a written report communicated to the US Senate on January 15, 1827 it mentioned how US commissioners assigned to negotiate a treaty with the Chickasaw Nation had met in parley on November 1, 1926 with members of that tribe, and how that Levi Colbert, on behalf of the agents of that nation, remarked that "there was not a man in the nation who would consent to sell either the whole or part of their lands." Although opposed to the Indian Removal Act of 1830, in a treaty meeting with General John Coffee and other United States representatives in November 1832, to keep peace, the Chickasaw chiefs of the council signed a treaty based on the tribe's removal west of the Mississippi River to Indian Territory. This treaty gave them only 25 cents per acre for their land, less than half that which was first promised.
In a long letter to President Andrew Jackson that November, Colbert noted the many complaints the chiefs had with the resulting treaty. He restated their position, and noted their belief that General Coffee had ignored their comments and viewpoints. They had wanted the tribe to keep control of money resulting from sale of their lands, they were not ready to choose land in Indian Territory, they did not want to share a reservation in Indian Territory with "half-breeds", and were dismayed at the way they had been treated by General Coffee. More than 40 chiefs who had attended the treaty council signed the letter with Colbert. They were chiefs of the clans and leading villages.
Colbert had been ill during the meeting and was unable to attend all the sessions. He died in 1834, two years after the final treaty was signed and Chickasaws were preparing to remove to Indian Territory.
Colbert did not want conflict; he wanted peace with the US government, even if it meant giving up his people's land. He wanted to try to preserve his people's rights during negotiations, as they were pressured by increasing conflict with encroaching European-American settlers and governments. He was very concerned that the federal government was treating equally with mixed-race men he called "half-breeds." Although Colbert was of mixed descent, he had grown up identifying with the Chickasaw culture and his mother's clan.
He believed some white men were marrying into the tribe just to try to get control of land. By the 1830s, he felt such men were ignoring traditional practices and the tribe's recognized chiefs in seeking personal gain.
"He married three times. He married Ishtimmarharlechar. She was listed as a resident in the census report in Chickasaw Roll, Chickasaw Nation, MS, 1818. He married Temusharhoctay 'Dollie' (Schtimmarshashoctay) before 1795. Temusharhoctay was born before 1780. She was listed as a resident in the census report in Chickasaw Nation, MS, 1818. He married Mintahoyo House of Imatapo before 1799. Mintahoyo was born before 1799. Mintahoyo died after 1839." Most of the younger children were educated at Charity Hall school, a mile and a half from their home, (also called Bell Indian Mission). It has been described as "a mission school ... established in 1820, near Cotton Gin Port, Mississippi, by Rev. Robert Bell, under the auspices of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, for the education of Chickasaw children."
Several places were named after him:
- Itawamba County, Mississippi 
- Colbert's Spring, Alabama 
- Colbert County, Alabama was named after him and his brother George Colbert.
- Colbert County, Alabama
- George Colbert, his brother
- Holmes Colbert, his nephew and writer of the Chickasaw Constitution
- Trebloc, Mississippi
- "Levi Colbert". Viki's Little Corner of the Web : A Resource for Chickasaw Native American History and Genealogy. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "Natchez Trace to Meriwether Lewis". Natchez Trace Parkway. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- John Mitchell Allman III, The Heritage of Lamar County, Alabama. In a written report communicated to the US Senate on January 15, 1827, which report was dated November 2, 1926 and where it mentions the failed Choctaw negotiations in that month, as well as the Chickasaw negotiations in the previous month, it is written: "The special agent, Colonel John D. Terrell, seems to have been active and zealous in communicating with the chiefs and leading men of the nation, endeavoring to prepare their minds for a cession of their lands. But it seems to have no other effect than to prepare them for an organized opposition to the views of the Government, through the influence before observed..." The report was signed by General Thomas Hinds and General John Coffee.
- "Maj Levi It-a-wam-ba Mingo "Setting King" Colbert (1759 - 1834)". Find A Grave Memorial. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "Levi Colbert b. 1759 Muscle Shoals, Colbert County. Alabama d. 2 JUN 1834 Buzzard Roost Spring, Colbert County. Alabama: Lest Our Past Be Forgotten". Lawrence Stanley Family Genealogy. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "James Logan COLBERT 1721-1784, about 1721 - 7th Jan 1784, Trader, Chickasaw Nation, Mississippi". Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "Sopha Minta HOYA 1721-1836". Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "Levi Colbert", Oklahoma Encyclopedia of History and Culture, accessed 3 Nov 2009
- "Levi Colbert". Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "Chickasaw Chiefs and Prominent Men". Mississippi Genealogical & Historical Research. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- Dr. W.A. Evans, Aberdeen Examiner July 2, 1932 (taken from The Heritage of Lamar County, Alabama, by John Mitchell Allman III)
- "Cotton Gin Port Chickasaw Indians at the Port". Mississippi Crossings. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "History of the Shoals". Roots Web, Lauerdale County, Alabama History. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "Levi Colbert to President Andrew Jackson, 22 NOV 1832", Chickasaw Letters -- 1832, Chickasaw Historical Research Website (Kerry M. Armstrong), accessed 12 December 2011
- "Levi Itawamba Minco Colbert (1759 - 1834)". Geni. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- Carolyn Thomas Foreman. "Charity Hall, an Early Chickasaw School". Chronicles of Oklahoma 11 (3): 912. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "Col George Colbert (1744 - 1839)". Find A Grave Memorial. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "Welcome to Itawamba County!". Itawamba County Mississippi Genealogy & History Network. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- Owen, Thomas McAdory; Owen, Marie (1921). History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography. S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. p. 235.
- McAdory (1921), p. 302
- "Refusal of the Chickasaws and Choctaws to Cede Their Lands in Mississippi: 1826", Avalon Project, Yale University
- Kerry M. Armstrong, compiler, Chickasaw Historical Research Website, includes numerous primary sources, including some dating to before Removal
- Owen, Thomas McAdory; Owen, Marie (1921). History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography. S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. p. 302.
- Levi Colbert Profile and Videos - Chickasaw.TV
- Natchez Trace Parkway - Buzzard Roost Spring, near Cherokee, AL, Home place and site of Inn run by Chickasaw Chieftain Levi Colbert
- Photographs of Buzzard Roost Spring
- Poem about Levi Colbert and his daughter