Chickasaw Nation

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The Chickasaw Nation
Flag of the Chickasaw Nation.PNG
Seal of the Chickasaw Nation
Total population
Regions with significant populations
United States United States (Oklahoma Oklahoma)
English, Chickasaw language
Traditional tribal religion, Protestantism (Baptist, Methodist)[2]
Related ethnic groups

The Chickasaw Nation is a federally recognized Native American nation, with its headquarters located in Ada, Oklahoma in the United States. Currently, the nation's jurisdictional territory[3] includes about 7,648 square miles of south-central Oklahoma, including the Bryan, Carter, Coal, Garvin, Grady, Jefferson, Johnston, Love, McClain, Marshall, Murray, Pontotoc, and Stephens counties. The Chickasaw Nation originated in its homeland of the American Southeast, with territory in what is defined as modern-day Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, European Americans knew the Chickasaw as one of the historic Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole nations),[4] all of whom were based in what became the Southeastern United States. The term "civilized" was used for these five Southeastern nations because they appeared to be adopting many Anglo-American practices and norms, and to differentiate them from the "wild" and "uncultured" Indigenous tribes that the Europeans encountered that did not adopt European societal and cultural practices. The assimilation of the Five Civilized Tribes ranged from adopting practices such as having centralized governments with written constitutions, intermarriages with the white settlers, literacy, widespread Christianity, market participation, and even slaveholding.


The Chickasaw people were a tribe a great hunters and warriors whose homes were located near the Tombigbee River in Northern Mississippi. Their territories ranged far and wide over the entire Mississippi Valley region. With a population of about 5,000 in 1600, the Chickasaw were significantly less in number population wise in comparison to their neighbors, the Cherokee and the Choctaw, which both had populations well over 20,000. However, despite being less populous, the Chickasaw were still able to hold vast hunting grounds in the region, including western Kentucky and Tennessee, northern Alabama and Mississippi.

According to tribal traditions, the Chickasaw and Choctaw people were once one tribe, with further confirmation of this due to the close similarities of their Muskogean languages. There were two divisions of the Chickasaw, which in turn turned into numerous clans. One would inherit membership of his mother's clan and was forbidden to marry within that clan. The High Minko, or head chief, was selected from the Minko clan and had leadership assistance from a council of advisers consisting of clan leaders as well as tribal elders. The two head priests, the hopaye, one from each division of the tribe, provided other leadership. These leaders presided at all religious ceremonies.

The Chickasaw believed in an afterlife in which the good would be rewarded somewhere in the heavens while the evildoers would wander forever in the land of the witches. When one passed, their face would be painted red and a grave would be dug under a house in which the body is placed in a sitting position facing west (the path to judgment lay in this direction) surrounded by his worldly possessions. The supreme deity of the Chickasaw was Ababinili, a composite of the Four Beloved Things Above: the Sun, Clouds, Clear Sky, and He That Lives in the Clear Sky. There were also a number of other lesser deities, including an entire range of evil spirits and witches.[5]

The Chickasaw had great success in warfare, and as a result often had help with work from slaves takes as captives in battles. Chickasaw villages were rather compact in times of war, but spread out in times of peace, with a council house in the central area for meetings and ceremonies and council ground for gatherings and ball games. Men in the society were tasked with hunting, fishing, house building, boat building, tool making, etc. while the women were responsible for food gathering, household chores, and agriculture. Their main item of dress was the breech clout, in addition to deerskin shirts or robes or colder weather and high deerskin boots for hunting.

However, in the winter of 1540-41, the Chickasaw people had an unwelcome visit by an expedition of Spanish treasure seekers led by Hernando de Soto. Hernando de Soto is credited as being the first European to contact the Chickasaw, during his travels of 1540. He discovered them to have an agrarian society with a sophisticated governmental system, complete with their own laws and religion. The Chickasaw people were well aware of Soto's dangerous nature, as the Spanish had slaughtered thousands of Native Indians in a battle just an autumn before. After an uneasy truce regarding letting the Spanish stay in their camps, the Chickasaws planted a surprise night attack, burning the entire camp, and successfully sent a defiant message to their European enemies to not return to their land. As a result, 150 years passed before the Chickasaw received another European exploitation party.[6]

During the colonial period, some Chickasaw towns traded with French colonists from La Louisiane, including their settlements at Biloxi, or Mobile. They were also reached by Scots or English traders coming west from Georgia or the Carolinas.

After the American Revolutionary War, the new state of Georgia was trying to strengthen its claim to western lands, which it said went to the Mississippi River under its colonial charter. It also wanted to satisfy a great demand by planters for land to develop, and the state government, including the governor, made deals to favor political insiders. Various development companies formed to speculate in land sales. After a scandal in the late 1780s, another developed in the 1790s. In what was referred to as the Yazoo land scandal of January 1795, the state of Georgia sold 22 million acres of its western lands to four land companies, although this territory was occupied by the Chickasaw and other tribes, and there were other European nations with some sovereignty in the area.[7] This was the second Yazoo land sale, which generated outrage when the details were publicized. Reformers passed a state law forcing the annulment of this sale in February 1796.[8] But the Georgia-Mississippi Company had already sold part of its holdings to the New England Mississippi Company, and it had sold portions to settlers. Conflicts arose as settlers tried to claim and develop these lands. Georgia finally ceded its claim to the US in 1810, but the issues took nearly another decade to resolve.

Abraham Bishop of New Haven, Connecticut, wrote a 1797 pamphlet to address the land speculation initiated by the Georgia-Mississippi Company. Within this discussion, he wrote about the Chickasaw and their territory in what became Mississippi:

The Chickasaws are a nation of Indians who inhabit the country on the east side of the Mississippi, on the head branches of the Tombeckbe (sic), Mobille (sic) and Yazoo rivers. Their country is an extensive plain, tolerably well watered from springs, and a pretty good soil. They have seven towns, and their number of fighting men is estimated at 575.[9]

The Chickasaw sold a section of their lands with the Treaty of Tuscaloosa, resulting in the loss of what became known as the Jackson Purchase, in 1818. This area included western Kentucky and western Tennessee, both areas not heavily populated by members of the tribe. They remained in their primary homeland of northern Mississippi and northwest Alabama until the 1830s. After decades of increasing pressure by federal and state governments to cede their land, as European Americans were eager to move into their territory and had already begun to do so as squatters or under fraudulent land sales, the Chickasaw finally agreed to cede their remaining Mississippi Homeland to the U.S. under the Treaty of Pontotoc Creek and relocate west of the Mississippi River to Indian Territory.

Map of Chickasaw Nation, 1891

The Chickasaw removal is one of the most traumatic episodes in the history of the nation. As a result of the Indian Removal Act, the Chickasaw nation was forced to move to Indian territory. However, due to the negotiating skills of the Chickasaw leaders, they were led to favorable sales of their land in Mississippi. Of the Five Civilized Tribes, the Chickasaw were one of the last ones to move. In 1837, the Chickasaw and Choctaw signed the Treaty of Doaksville, by which the Chickasaw purchased the western lands of the Choctaw Nation in Indian Territory. Their area in the western area of the nation was called the Chickasaw District. It consisted of what are now Panola, Wichita, Caddo, and Perry counties.

Although originally the western boundary of the Choctaw Nation extended to the 100th meridian, virtually no Chickasaw lived west of the Cross Timbers, due to continual raiding by the Plains Indians of the southern region. The United States eventually leased the area between the 100th and 98th meridians for the use of the Plains tribes. The area was referred to as the "Leased District".[10]

The division of the Choctaw Nation was ratified by the Choctaw–Chickasaw Treaty of 1854. The Chickasaw constitution, establishing the nation as separate from the Choctaw, was signed August 30, 1856, in their new capital of Tishomingo (now Tishomingo, Oklahoma). The first Chickasaw governor was Cyrus Harris. The nation consisted of four divisions; Tishomingo County, Pontotoc County, Pickens County, and Panola County. Law enforcement in the nation was provided by the Chickasaw Lighthorsemen. Non-Indians fell under the jurisdiction of the Federal court at Fort Smith.

Following the Civil War, the United States forced the Chickasaw Nation into a new peace treaty due to their support for the Confederacy. Under the new treaty, the Chickasaw (and Choctaw) ceded the "Leased District" to the United States.

20th century to present[edit]

In 1907, when Oklahoma entered the union as the 46th state, the role of tribal governments in Indian Territories ceased, and as a result, the Chickasaw people were then granted United States citizenship. For decades, the United States appointed representatives for the Chickasaw Nation until 1971. Douglas H. Johnston was the first man to serve in this capacity. Governor Johnston served the Chickasaw Nation from 1906 until his death in 1939 at age 83. Though it may have seemed like the federal government finally achieved their goal of completely assimilating the Chickasaw Nation into the mainstream American life, year after year however, the Chickasaw people continued to practice traditional activities and gather together socially with the beliefs that community involvement would sustain their culture, language, and core beliefs and values. This gave rise to the movement towards which the Chickasaw would govern themselves.

During the 1960s and the period of the civil rights movement, Native American Indian activism was also on the rise. A group of Chickasaw met at Seeley Chapel, a small country church near Connerville, Oklahoma, to work toward the reestablishment of its government. With the passage of Public Law 91-495, their tribal government was recognized by the United States. In 1971, the people held their first tribal election since 1904. They elected Overton James by a landslide as governor of the Chickasaw Nation. Thus, the Chickasaw communities became even closer in support one for another for the greater good of the Chickasaw peoples.

Since the 1980s, tribal government has focused on building an economically diverse base to generate funds that will support programs and services to Indian people.

Government and politics[edit]

The Chickasaw Nation is headquartered in Ada, Oklahoma. Their tribal jurisdictional area is in Bryan, Carter, Coal, Garvin, Grady, Jefferson, Johnston, Love, McClain, Marshall, Murray, Pontotoc, and Stephens counties in Oklahoma. The tribal governor is Bill Anoatubby.[1] Bill Anoatubby was elected governor in 1987, and at the time, the tribe had a larger budget than funds. Anoatubby's effective management gradually led the tribe toward progress, as tribal operations and funding have increased exponentially. Governor Anoatubby also lists some of his primary goals as meeting the needs and desires of the Chickasaw people by providing opportunities for employment, higher education, as well as health care services.

The Chickasaw Nation’s current three-department system of government was established with the ratification of the 1983 Chickasaw Nation Constitution. The tribal government, modeled after the federal government of the United States, is a democratic republic. The governor and the lieutenant governor are both elected for four year terms and similar to the United States president and vice president, they also run as a team. The Chickasaw government also has an executive branch, legislative branch, and judicial department. In addition to electing a governor along with a lieutenant governor, voters also select thirteen members to make up the tribal legislature (with three year terms), and three justices to make up the tribal supreme court. The elected officials provided for in the Constitution believe in a unified commitment, whereby government policy serves the common good of all Chickasaw citizens. This common good extends to future generations as well as today’s citizens.

The structure of the current government encourages and supports infrastructure for strong business ventures and an advanced tribal economy. The use of new technologies and dynamic business strategies in a global market are also encouraged.

Monies generated in business are divided between investments for further diversification of enterprises and support of tribal government operations, programs and services for Indian people. This unique system is key to the Chickasaw Nation’s efforts to pursue self-sufficiency and self-determination, which helps ensure that Chickasaws stay a united and thriving people.

Revenues generated by Chickasaw Nation tribal business endeavors fund more than 200 programs and services. These programs cover education, health care, youth, aging, housing and more, all of which directly benefit Chickasaw families, Oklahomans and their communities.

Governor Bill Anoatubby appointed Charles W. Blackwell as the Chickasaw Nation's first Ambassador to the United States in 1995.[11] (Blackwell had previously served as the Chickasaw delegate to the United States from 1990 to 1995).[11] At the time of his appointment in 1995, Blackwell became the first Native American tribal ambassador to the United States government.[11] Blackwell served in Washington as ambassador from 1995 until his death on January 3, 2013.[11] Governor Bill Anoatubby named Neal McCaleb ambassador-at-large in 2013, a role similar to that of the late Charles Blackwell.


The Chickasaw Nation operates more than 100 diversified businesses in a variety of services and industries, including manufacturing, energy, health care, media, technology, hospitality, retail and tourism. Among these are Bedré Fine Chocolate in Davis, Lazer Zone Family Fun Center and the McSwain Theatre in Ada; The Artesian Hotel in Sulphur; Chickasaw Nation Industries in Norman, Oklahoma; Global Gaming Solutions, LLC; KADA (AM), KADA-FM, KCNP, KTLS, KXFC, and KYKC radio stations in Ada; and Treasure Valley Inn and Suites in Davis. In 1987, with funding from the US federal government, the Chickasaw Nation operated just over thirty programs in hopes of eventually reaching the state of being in a firm financial base. Today, the nation has more than two hundred tribally funded programs as well as more than sixty federally funded programs providing services from housing, education, entertainment, employment, healthcare, and more.

Governor Anoatubby highly prioritizes the services available to the Chickasaw people. Two health clinics (in Tishomingo and Ardmore) as well as the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center was established in Ada, Oklahoma in 1987. Not long after, many more health clinics and facilities have opened as well, with even a convenient housing facility on the campus of the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center designed to relieve families and patients of travel and lodging costs if traveling far from home. Increases in higher education funding and scholarships have enabled many students to pursue higher education, with funding increasing from $200,000 thirty years ago to students receiving more than $15.6 million in scholarships, grants, and other educational support. The Chickasaw Nation is also contributing heavily to the tourism industry in Oklahoma. In 2010, the Chickasaw Cultural Center opened, attracting more than 200,000 visitors from around the world as well as providing hundreds of employment opportunities to local residents.[12] In this year alone, the Chickasaw Nation also opened a Welcome Center, Artesian Hotel, Chickasaw Travel Shop, Chickasaw Conference Center and Retreat, Bedré Fine Chocolate Factory, and the Salt Creek Casino. In 2002, the Chickasaw Nation purchased Bank2 with headquarters in Oklahoma City. It was renamed Chickasaw Community Bank in January of 2020. It started with $7.5 million in assets and has grown to $135 million in assets today.[13] The Chickasaw Nation also operates many historical sites and museums, including the Chickasaw Nation Capitols, and Kullihoma Grounds, as well as a number of casinos. Their casinos include Ada Gaming Center, Artesian Casino, Black Gold Casino, Border Casino, Chisholm Trail Casino, Gold Mountain Casino, Goldsby Gaming Center, Jet Stream Casino, Madill Gaming Center, Newcastle Casino, Newcastle Travel Gaming, RiverStar Casino, Riverwind Casino, Treasure Valley Casino, Texoma Casino, SaltCreek Casino, Washita Casino and WinStar World Casino. They also own Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas and Remington Park Casino in Oklahoma City. The estimated annual tribal economic impact in the region from all sources is more than $3.18 billion.[1]

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ a b c 2011 Oklahoma Indian Nations Pocket Pictorial Directory. Archived April 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission. 2011: 8. Retrieved January 2, 2012.
  2. ^ Pritzker, 373
  3. ^ "Geographic Information | Chickasaw Nation". Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  4. ^ "Five Civilized Tribes | The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture". Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  5. ^ "The Chickasaw People". Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  6. ^ " | Hernando de Soto". Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  7. ^ Lamplugh, George R. (2010). "James Gunn: Georgia Federalist, 1789-1801". Georgia Historical Quarterly. 94 (3): 313.
  8. ^ George R. Lamplugh (1986). Politics on the Periphery: Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806. University of Delaware Press. pp. 148–. ISBN 978-0-87413-288-5.
  9. ^ Bishop, Abraham (1797), Georgia Speculation Unveiled; In Two Numbers, New Haven: Elisha Babcock, p. 42
  10. ^ Arrell Morgan Gibson (1981). "The Federal Government in Oklahoma". Oklahoma: A History of Five Centuries. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 112. ISBN 0-8061-1758-3.
  11. ^ a b c d "Chickasaw Nation Ambassador Charles W. Blackwell – a Man of Vision". KXII. January 4, 2013. Archived from the original on January 8, 2013. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  12. ^ "Press Release | Chickasaw Nation". Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ "Native American Data for Jay J Fox". RootsWeb. Retrieved June 10, 2015.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ "Carter, Charles David (1868–1929)." Archived November 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  16. ^ "Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame - Eula Pearl Carter Scott". Archived from the original on August 8, 2016. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  17. ^ oklahoma state senate staff. "Oklahoma State Senate - News". Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  18. ^ "TE ATA (1895-1995)". Archived from the original on November 24, 2013. Retrieved November 7, 2012.

Chickasaw Community Bank


  • The Chickasaw People,
  • Pritzker, Barry M. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1.
  • “Chickasaw Nation.” SPTHB, 24 June 2017,
  • Rolater, Fred S. “Treaties.” Tennessee Encyclopedia, Tennessee Historical Society, 1 Mar. 2018,
  • “Removal.” Chickasaw Nation,
  • “Government.” Chickasaw Nation,
  • “Chickasaw: The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture.” Chickasaw | The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture,
  • Ellis, Randy. “Business Is Booming for Chickasaw Nation.”, Oklahoman, 7 Dec. 2017,
  • “Turn of the Century.” Chickasaw Nation,
  • “Language.” Chickasaw Nation,
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]