Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians

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Mississippi Band of
Choctaw Indians
Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Flag.png
Total population
ca. 9,770
Regions with significant populations
United States United States (Mississippi Mississippi)
Languages
Chahta, English
Religion
Roman Catholicism,[citation needed] traditional beliefs
Related ethnic groups
Other Choctaw tribes,
Muscogee Creek, Chickasaw

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is one of three federally recognized tribes of Choctaw Indians. On April 20, 1945, the tribe organized under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Also in 1945 the Choctaw Indian Reservation was created in Neshoba and surrounding counties. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is the only federally recognized Indian tribe in Mississippi.

By a deed dated August 18, 2008, the state returned Nanih Waiya to the Choctaw. The ancient earthwork mound, built about 1 CE-300 CE, has been venerated since the 17th century as a place of origin of the Choctaw, and they have made August 18 a tribal holiday to celebrate.

History[edit]

Removal era[edit]

The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was ratified by the U.S. Senate on February 25, 1831, and U.S. President Andrew Jackson was anxious to make it a model of Indian removal to territory west of the Mississippi River. After ceding close to 11 million acres (45,000 km2), the Choctaw were to emigrate in three stages; the first in the fall of 1831, the second in 1832, and the last in 1833.[1] Although the removals continued into the early 20th century, some Choctaws remained in Mississippi. They continued to live on their ancient homeland. Nearly 5000 Choctaws remained in Mississippi to become citizens of the state.[2]

For the next ten years, they were objects of increasing legal conflict, harassment, and intimidation. The Choctaws described their situation in 1849, "we have had our habitations torn down and burned, our fences destroyed, cattle turned into our fields and we ourselves have been scourged, manacled, fettered and otherwise personally abused, until by such treatment some of our best men have died." [2] Racism was rampant. Joseph B. Cobb, who moved to Mississippi from Georgia, described Choctaws as having "no nobility or virtue at all, and in some respect he found blacks, especially native Africans, more interesting and admirable, the red man's superior in every way. The Choctaw and Chickasaw, the tribes he knew best, were beneath contempt, that is, even worse than black slaves." [3]

Conditions declined for the Choctaw after the American Civil War and Reconstruction, as in the Democrats' effort to restore white supremacy, they passed a new constitution in 1890 that effectively disfranchised all blacks and people of color.[4] In addition, under racial segregation and Jim Crow laws, the whites included all people of color in the category of "other" or black, and restricted their use of public facilities. This situation lasted until the middle of the twentieth century.

Reorganization[edit]

A European American and Mississippi Choctaws stand in front of their cabin in 1909, Smithsonian Museum.

During the Great Depression and the Roosevelt Administration, officials began numerous initiatives to alleviate some of the social and economic conditions in the South. The 1933 Special Narrative Report described the dismal state of welfare of Mississippi Choctaw, whose population by 1930 had declined to 1,665 people.[5] John Collier, the US Commissioner for Indian Affairs (now BIA), used the report as instrumental support in a proposal to re-organize the civilized Mississippi Choctaw as the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. This enabled them to establish their own tribal government, as well as to have a beneficial relationship with the federal government.

In 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the Indian Reorganization Act. This law proved critical for survival of the Mississippi Choctaw. Baxter York, Emmett York, and Joe Chitto worked on gaining recognition for the Choctaw.[6] They realized that the only way to gain recognition was to adopt a constitution.[6] A rival organization, the Mississippi Choctaw Indian Federation, opposed tribal recognition because of fears of dominance by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). They disbanded after leaders of the opposition were moved to another jurisdiction.[6] The first Tribal Council members were Baxter and Emmett York with Joe Chitto as the first chairperson.[6]

With the tribe's adoption of government, in 1944 the Secretary of the Interior declared that 18,000 acres (73 km2) would be held in trust for the Choctaw of Mississippi. Lands in Neshoba and surrounding counties were set aside as a federal Indian reservation. Eight communities were included in the reservation land: Bogue Chitto, Bogue Homa, Conehatta, Crystal Ridge, Pearl River, Red Water, Tucker, and Standing Pine.[citation needed]

Under the Indian Reorganization Act, the Mississippi Choctaws re-organized on April 20, 1945 as the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. This gave them independence from the state government, which continued with its system of racial segregation under the Democratic Party.

Post-Reorganization[edit]

A Choctaw family in traditional clothing, 1908

The Choctaw people continued to struggle economically due to bigotry, cultural isolation, and lack of jobs. With reorganization and establishment of tribal government, however, over the next decades they took control of "schools, health care facilities, legal and judicial systems, and social service programs."[7]

In the 1950s, successive Republican administrations (supported by conservative Democrats in the South, still a one-party region) became impatient with gradual assimilation of Native Americans. They settled on a policy to terminate tribes as quickly as possible. Out of concern for the isolation of many Native Americans in rural areas, the federal government created relocation programs to cities to try to expand job and cultural opportunities for American Indians. Indian policy experts hoped to expedite assimilation of Native Americans to the larger American society, which was becoming increasingly urbanized.[citation needed]

Democratic President John F. Kennedy decided against implementing additional terminations. He did enact some of the last terminations in process, such as with the Ponca. Both presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon repudiated termination of the federal government's relationship with Native American tribes. In 1959, the Choctaw Termination Act was passed.[8] Unless repealed by the federal government, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma would effectively be terminated as a sovereign nation as of August 25, 1970.[8]

We must affirm the right of the first Americans to remain Indians while exercising their rights as Americans. We must affirm their rights to freedom of choice and self-determination.

—- President Lyndon Johnson.[citation needed]

Forced termination is wrong, in my judgment, for a number of reasons. First, the premises on which it rests are wrong.... The second reason for rejecting forced termination is that the practical results have been clearly harmful in the few instances in which termination actually has been tried.... The third argument I would make against forced termination concerns the effect it has had upon the overwhelming majority of tribes which still enjoy a special relationship with the Federal government.... The recommendations of this administration represent an historic step forward in Indian policy. We are proposing to break sharply with past approaches to Indian problems.

—- President Richard Nixon, Special Message on Indian Affairs, July 8, 1970.[9]

Phillip Martin, who had served in the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II, returned to visit his former Neshoba County, Mississippi home. After seeing the poverty of his people, he decided to stay to help.[10] Martin served as chairperson in various Choctaw committees up until 1977. Martin was then elected as Chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. He served a total of 30 years, being re-elected until 2007.[11] Will Campbell, a Baptist minister and Civil Rights activist, witnessed the destitution of the Choctaw. He would later write, "the thing I remember the most ... was the depressing sight of the Choctaws, their shanties along the country roads, grown men lounging on the dirt streets of their villages in demeaning idleness, sometimes drinking from a common bottle, sharing a roll-your-own cigarette, their half-clad children a picture of hurting that would never end."[10]

Group of eight Choctaw and two white men in 1909.

The Choctaw witnessed the social forces that brought Freedom Summer to their ancient homeland. The Civil Rights Era produced significant social change for the Choctaw in Mississippi, as their civil rights were also enhanced. Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, most jobs were given to whites, then blacks.[10]

The Choctaw, who for 150 years had been neither white nor black, were "left where they had always been"—in poverty.[10] Donna Ladd wrote that a Choctaw, now in her 40s, remembers "as a little girl, she thought that a 'white only' sign in a local store meant she could only order white, or vanilla, ice cream. It was a small story, but one that shows how a third race can easily get left out of the attempts for understanding."[12] The end of legalized racial segregation permitted the Choctaw to participate in public institutions and facilities that had been reserved exclusively for white patrons.

20th century[edit]

In the social changes around the Civil Rights era, between 1965 and 1982, Native Americans renewed their commitments to the value of their ancient heritage. Working to celebrate their own strengths and exercise appropriate rights, they dramatically reversed the trend toward abandonment of Indian culture and tradition.[13] During the 1960s, Community Action programs connected with Native Americans were based on citizen participation. In the 1970s, the Choctaw repudiated the extremes of Indian activism. The Mississippi Choctaw would lay the foundations of business ventures. Policy continued toward the ideology of Self-Determination.[citation needed]

Soon after this, Congress passed the landmark Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, completing a 15-year period of federal policy reform with regard to American Indian tribes. The legislation included means by which tribes could negotiate contracts with the BIA to manage more of their own education and social service programs. In addition, it provided direct grants to help tribes develop plans for assuming responsibility. It also provided for Indian parents' involvement on school boards.[14]

Economic development[edit]

Beginning in 1979, the tribal council worked on a variety of economic development initiatives, first geared toward attracting industry to the reservation. They had many people available to work, natural resources and no taxes. Industries have included automotive parts, greeting cards, direct mail and printing, and plastic-molding. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is one of the state's largest employers, running 19 businesses and employing 7,800 people.[15]

Starting with New Hampshire in 1963, numerous state governments began to operate lotteries and other gambling to raise money for government services. In 1987 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that federally recognized tribes could operate gaming facilities on reservation land free from state regulation. In 1988 the U.S. Congress enacted the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). It set the terms for Native American tribes to operate casinos.[14]

After years of waiting under the Ray Mabus administration, Mississippi Governor Kirk Fordice in 1992 gave permission for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw to develop Class III gaming. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI) has one of the largest casino resorts in the nation; it is located in Choctaw, Mississippi. The Silver Star Casino opened its doors in 1994. The Golden Moon Casino opened in 2002. The casinos are collectively known as the Pearl River Resort.[citation needed]

Purporting to represent Native Americans before Congress and state governments in this new field, Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon used fraudulent means to gain profits of $15 million in payment from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Congressional hearings were held and charges were brought against Abramoff and Scanlon.[16] In an e-mail sent January 29, 2002, Abramoff tells Scanlon "I have to meet with the monkeys from the Choctaw tribal council."[17]

Nanih Waiya[edit]

After nearly two hundred years, the Choctaw have retaken control of the ancient site of Nanih Waiya. For years protected as a Mississippi state park, Nanih Waiya was returned to the Choctaw in 2006, under Mississippi Legislature State Bill 2803.[18] The deed was signed in August 2008, which the Choctaw have made a tribal holiday. They have celebrated the day since, and made it an occasion for telling and performances of dances and stories of their origin and history.[19]

Government[edit]

The current Miko or tribal chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is Phyliss J. Anderson. She was elected in September 2011 and is the first female chief of the tribe.[20]

In July 2007, Beasley Denson was elected to replace the previous Chief Philip Martin. Martin had been democratically elected for seven consecutive terms. Under Denson, the title of Chief was changed to Miko, the Choctaw name for the tribe's leader.

Martin brought the tribe from a 70% unemployment rate in 1997 to less than 3% unemployment in 2007. During his tenure, he led the tribe to become the third largest employer in Mississippi. Denson served until 2011.

Locations[edit]

Old Choctaw country in Mississippi before removal.

Old Choctaw country included dozens of towns like Lukfata, Koweh Chito, Oka Hullo, Pante, Osapa Chito, Oka Cooply, and Yanni Achukma located in and around Neshoba and Kemper counties.

Choctaws regularly traveled hundreds of miles from their homes for long periods of time. They set out early in the fall and returned to their reserved lands at the opening of spring to plant their gardens. At that time they visited the Europeans at Columbus, Miss., Macon, Brooksville, and Crawford, and the region where Yazoo City now is located.

Presently, the Mississippi Choctaw Indian Reservation has eight communities.

These communities are located in parts of nine counties throughout the state, although the largest concentration of land is in Neshoba County, at 32°48′56″N 89°14′46″W / 32.81556°N 89.24611°W / 32.81556; -89.24611, which comprises more than two-thirds of the reservation's land area and over 62 percent of its population as of the 2000 census. The total land area is 84.282 km² (32.541 sq mi), and its official total resident population was 5,190 persons. The nine counties are Neshoba, Newton, Leake, Kemper, Jones, Winston, Attala, Jackson, and Scott Counties.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Remini, Robert. "Brothers, Listen ... You Must Submit". Andrew Jackson. History Book Club. 
  2. ^ a b Walter, Williams (1979). "Three Efforts at Development among the Choctaws of Mississippi". Southeastern Indians: Since the Removal Era. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press. 
  3. ^ Hudson, Charles (1971). "The Ante-Bellum Elite". Red, White, and Black; Symposium on Indians in the Old South. University of Georgia Press. 
  4. ^ Michael Perman.Struggle for Mastery: Disfranchisement in the South, 1888-1908. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001, Introduction
  5. ^ Swanton, John (1931). "Choctaw Social and Ceremonial Life". Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Choctaw Indians. The University of Alabama Press. p. 5. ISBN 0-8173-1109-2. 
  6. ^ a b c d Brescia, William (Bill) (1982). "Chapter 3, Treaties and the Choctaw People". Tribal Government, A New Era. Philadelphia, Mississippi: Choctaw Heritage Press. pp. 21–22. 
  7. ^ Deborah Boykin, "Choctaw Heritage of Louisiana and Mississippi", Louisiana Folklife Program, 2000, accessed 26 Mar 2009
  8. ^ a b "U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 108, 83rd Congress, 1953. (U.S. Statutes at Large, 67: B132.)". Digital History. Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  9. ^ "President Nixon, Special Message on Indian Affairs" (PDF). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 2008-03-19. 
  10. ^ a b c d Campbell, Will (1992). "Chapter 13". Providence. Atlanta, Georgia: Long Street Press. p. 243. ISBN 1-56352-024-9. 
  11. ^ "Beasley Denson: Sworn in as Chief of Mississippi Band, Denson assumes title of Miko". Tanasi Journal. 2007-08-14. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  12. ^ Donna Ladd (2005-06-22). "After Killen: What's Next For Mississippi?". Jackson Free Press. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  13. ^ James H. Howard; Victoria Lindsay Levine (1990). "Introduction". Choctaw Music and Dance. The University of Oklahoma Press. xxi. 
  14. ^ a b William C. Canby, Jr., American Indian Law in a Nut Shell, St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co., pp. 23–33
  15. ^ Deborah Boykin, "Choctaw Indians in the 21st Century", Mississippi History Now, accessed 25 Mar 2009
  16. ^ ""Gimme Five"—Investigation of Tribal Lobbying Matters" (PDF). Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. 2006-06-22. Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  17. ^ U.S. Congress – Committee on Indian Affairs (2004-09-29). "Oversight Hearing In re Tribal Lobbying Matters, et al.". U.S. Senate. Archived from the original on 2007-12-01. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  18. ^ Senator Williamson. "Senate Bill 2803", Mississippi Legislature, 2006 (retrieved 24 September 2011)
  19. ^ DEBBIE BURT MYERS, "Nanih Waiya Day includes traditional Choctaw dance, food", The Neshoba Democrat, 18 August 2010, accessed 11 October 2011
  20. ^ Meyers, Debbie Burt. "Anderson unseats Denson", The Neshoba Democrat, 7 Sept 2011 (retrieved 24 Sept 2011)

External links[edit]