Yowani Choctaws

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The Mississippian culture was a mound-building Native American culture that flourished in the Mississippi River valley before the arrival of Europeans.

Yowani (probably from the word for caterpillar) ('Yguanes/Yugani/Iguanes-Spanish') is a branch of the Choctaw tribe ".[1] The Yowani were named for their village, the reason for the founding of a trading post and what became the European-American town of Shubuta, Mississippi nearby.[2] The Yowani continued to expand their holdings, eventually venturing into Louisiana, where they established close ties with the Caddo and adopted many of the Caddo customs.[3] When Louisiana became part of the United States under the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, many of the Indian tribes in the territory wanted to emigrate to less hostile environs. Spain agreed to allow the Yowanis and the Alabama-Coushatta to move to Spanish Texas. In 1824, a second group of Yowani received permission from Mexico to establish villages in Texas.[4] The Yowani gradually abandoned their original Mississippi homelands, and by 1850 most Yowani lived in Texas, Indian Territory, or in Rapides Parish, Louisiana.[5]

During the Texas Revolution in 1836, the Yowani were a party to a peace treaty with the provisional government of Texas.[6] Following Texas's independence and the creation of the Republic of Texas, relations between Indian tribes and English-speaking settlers deteriorated. Under President Mirabeau B. Lamar, the Texas Army drove most of the Cherokee Indians out of Texas.[7] After a confrontation between a group of Indians and a few of the residents of Nacogdoches, which resulted in the deaths of at least three white men, a vigilante group set out after the offending Indians. Unable to catch the perpetrators, the mob sought revenge by attacking the peaceful and unsuspecting Choctaw village, where they murdered eleven.[8] The survivors split up, with most leaving Texas, at least temporarily. They believed Texas was a dangerous place for any Indian in 1840.[9]

Between 1840 and 1843, elements of the Mexican Militia, led by Vicente Cordova, fought a guerrilla war [10] utilizing remnant groups of displaced tribes, primarily Cherokee but including some Yowani Choctaw. The conflict culminated in the Battle of San Antonio in September 1842.[11] There, both Indian and Mexican regulars were involved in the Dawson Massacre[12] and the Battle of Salado Creek.[13] This was soon followed by the departure of Mexican troops from Texas soil.

For the remnant tribes, peace would come the following year with Sam Houston as Texas President. The Treaty of Birds Fort[14] brought an end to hostilities, especially for the Cherokee under Chief Chicken Trotter. Although only a few Choctaw were involved with the Cordova/Chicken Trotter group, the peace would have long-lasting effects on the Yowanis. Following the end of the Texas-Indian Wars, some of the Yowani returned to East Texas, where they settled with members of Chicken Trotter Cherokee and a few tribes to form the Mount Tabor Indian Community.[15] Most of the male members of the community served in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. In the early 20th century, several members of the Yowani Choctaw, led by William Clyde Thompson of Texas,[16] relocated to the Chickasaw Nation to be included in the Dawes Commission Final Rolls as citizens by blood of the Choctaw Nation.[17] A long political struggle ensued between 1898 and 1909. In 1905 all the Yowani were stricken from the Final Rolls of the Choctaw Nation.[18] Thompson appealed the matter to the United States Supreme Court.[19] After a favorable response[20] the families were included on a 1909 Choctaw reinstatement list giving them citizenship in the Choctaw Nation.[21]


The Yowani Choctaws gained their name from the town in which they lived. The Choctaw people had established a town named Yowani, near what is now the town of Shubuta, Mississippi along the Chickasawhay River.[22] Over time, this group expanded its holdings westward to the eastern dividing ridge of Bogue Homa, then northward as far as present day Pachuta Creek. From this position the territory ran south to the confluence of the Chickasawhay and Buckatunna Rivers.[22] To the east, its lands ran into whate are now Greene and Choctaw Counties in Alabama, bordering on the Muscogee-Creek Nation.

By 1764, a group of Yowani had moved to Louisiana and established contact with the Caddo. Over time, the Yowani adopted Caddo customs. The groups became very interlinked, and anthropologist James Mooney later listed the Yowani as one of the thirteen divisions of the Caddo Confederacy.[3]

Moving westward[edit]

At the time that the Yowanis ventured into Louisiana, the territory was under Spanish control. In 1800, Spain traded Louisiana to France, and the following year the United States purchased the land. Many residents of Louisiana, including many of the Indian tribes, did not wish to be under the authority of the United States. Spain agreed to allow several Indian tribes, including the Yowani Choctaw and the Alabama-Coushatta, to relocate to the neighboring Spanish province of Texas.[4] Other Indian tribes later emigrated to Texas to avoid the Americans; this included the Cherokee, Muscogee-Creek, Seminole, Shawnee, Delaware, Quapaw, Kickapoo and Miami Indians.[23] Following the Mexican War of Independence, Mexico assumed control of Texas. In 1824, another group of Yowani, led by Atahobia, petitioned the Mexican government to settle within the province of Texas.[4] They were given permission to establish several villages east of the Trinity River and west of the border with Louisiana.

During the period between 1810 and 1836, many of the relocated tribes, including the Yowani Choctaw, were often subject to attacks from the Comanche who roamed the western part of Texas, as well as the Lipan Apache, who were located in the southern part of the province.[23] The Yowani often joined forces with the English-speaking settlers against the nomadic tribes.

By 1832, all but two families had left the traditional Yowani lands in Mississippi to migrate west.[24] Although some settled briefly in what is now Rapides Parish, Louisiana, by 1850 many of the Yowani had settled in the Chickasaw Nation in Indian Territory.[24] A small number did remain in Louisiana and established a close bond with the Coushatta.[25]

Texas Indian Wars 1835–1843[edit]

In 1835, English-speaking settlers and some anti-Santa Anna Tejanos in Texas launched the Texas Revolution to gain independence from Mexico.[26] The provisional Texas government sent Sam Houston, a man much respected by the Cherokee tribe, to negotiate a treaty with the Indians living in East Texas. A treaty was concluded at Bowles Village on February 23, 1836, between the Cherokees and Twelve Associated Tribes and the provisional Texas government. This treaty was the first in an attempt to form an intertribal community in which the Choctaw were fully involved.[27]

In March 1836, the Republic of Texas was established and won its full independence from Mexico the following month.[26] Elected the first president of the Republic, Houston continued to negotiate peace with the various Indian tribes. After 1837, the Yowani villages were combined to form a single village on Attoyac Bayou in extreme southeastern Rusk County.[28] An 1837 census of Indians in the Republic of Texas noted that 70 Yowani Choctaw lived in this village, along with several Chickasaw. The census also stated that these people were peaceable.[28]

The Texas Legislature refused to ratify many of Houston's treaties. The second president of the Republic, Mirabeau Lamar,[29] did not share Houston's respect for the native tribes, and refused to honor Houston's treaties.[30] New settlers to the region often settled on lands that had been granted to Indian tribes, and some tribes retaliated against them.[31] In the summer of 1839, Lamar ordered the Texian Army to attack the Cherokee villages.[32] The Americans eventually drove the Cherokee out of Texas and into Indian Territory.

Several small Cherokee bands escaped detection and were not forcibly removed from their homes. One small band, led by Chicken Trotter, also known as Devireaux Jarrett Bell, attempted to regain some of their lands in 1840.[33] While his petition was pending in the Republic legislature, Bell and several other Cherokees were involved in an altercation with three white men near Nacogdoches. The resulting scuffle led to the deaths of the three whites. Knowing the state of Indian–white relations, Bell led his group to Mexico.

Angry at the death of the three white men, a vigilante group formed in Nacogdoches. Unable to catch up to Bell and his group, the vigilantes decided to extract vengeance from the nearby Yowani village where they murdered some eleven Choctaw men, women, and children.[34] After the attack, the Yowani Choctaws abandoned their village. Some returned to Mississippi and others moved to Indian Territory to join the Choctaw Nation.[35] A third group joined the Caddo at the Brazos Reservation[36] further west and eventually accompanied the Caddo to a reservation in what is now Oklahoma. A fourth group, led by Woody Jones, chose to remain in East Texas, moving further into the piney woods to avoid detection.

Throughout Lamar's term as president, fighting persisted between the Republic of Texas and various groups of Indians, including those under Chicken Trotter/Bell, who launched a guerrilla campaign against Texans. When Lamar's term expired, Sam Houston was elected to a second term as president. Houston began treaty negotiations with the tribes, culminating in the Treaty of Birds Fort, which was concluded on September 29, 1843. This treaty ended most hostilities in Texas with the immigrant tribes. Although the Yowani were not a direct party to it, they had several ties to those in attendance. Many of the displaced tribes, including some Yowani Choctaw, formed a new community, Mount Tabor Indian Community. Many Yowani continued to live under the authority of Woody Jones in Houston County near the border with Trinity County.[37]

Mount Tabor Indian Community[edit]

The Mount Tabor Indian Community formed following the purchase of 10,000 acres of land in Rusk County, by Benjamin Franklin Thompson in the spring of 1844. Thompson was a non-Indian married to Annie Martin,daughter of Judge John Martin, first Chief Justice of the Cherokee Nation. These Cherokees were joined by those that had been a part of the original Texas Cherokee Nation who had removed to Monclova, Tamaulipas, Mexico, [38] following the Cherokee War The community continued to grow after Texas joined the United States in 1845. President James K. Polk in 1844 granted permission to the Ridge Party and Old Settlers of the Cherokees to relocate there from Indian Territory to Rusk County.[39] The community was named by John Adair Bell a signer of the Treaty of New Echota [40] More Yowani Choctaws, led by Atahobia's grandson Archibald Thompson and Nashoba's grandson Jeremiah Jones, relocated to the Mount Tabor Indian Community before 1850.[41]. These were followed by McIntosh Creek Indians, led by William Berryhill also before 1850.[42] Today the remaining Yowani that did not relocate to Indian Territory during the Dawes Commission,[43] are an integral part of the Mount Tabor Indian Community.

The Civil War[edit]

When the American Civil War erupted, almost all of the people living at Mount Tabor supported the Confederacy. Many enlisted in the Confederate Army as part of the Cherokee Mounted Rifles under Stand Watie. During the war, two other Cherokee communities formed in Texas. These were mainly for the protection of Confederate soldiers families. Besides Rusk County, there was a small community near present-day Waco and later as an offshoot to the Rusk County group, another formed in Wood County near Quitman. Of the Waco group, there is no information that indicates this was anything but a Cherokee community. However, the Wood County group consisted of both Cherokees and Choctaws.

While a few of the Yowani Choctaw enlisted with the Cherokee Mounted Rifles, most became part of the Texas 14th Cavalry. The war took a heavy toll on the community as nearly one-quarter of all male residents were dead by the end of the war.

Dawes Commission[edit]

Between 1866 and the close of the Dawes Commission Final Rolls, 80% of the Cherokees left Mount Tabor to return north to the Cherokee Nation. Most Choctaws remained in Texas, with a few relocating in the Chickasaw Nation. Only during the period of the Dawes Commission did a number of Choctaws take the opportunities available and move north.

From this just a handful moved to Atoka in the Choctaw Nation and only one family moved to Tuskahoma. The majority moved into Pickens County in the Chickasaw Nation near present-day Marlow, Oklahoma.

Many of the Yowani Choctaws from Texas sought on the Final Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes as Citizens by Blood in the Choctaw Nation. In 1906, 70 members of the Yowani Choctaws who lived in Texas were stricken from the membership rolls of the Choctaw Nation. William C. Thompson and his cousin John Thurston Thompson, Jr., sued. In 1909, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Texas Choctaws should be reinstated.

Recent years[edit]

Throughout the twentieth century there have been a number strong leaders among the Texas Choctaw community within the overall Mount Tabor Indian Community. The most recognizable would be William Clyde Thompson[44] and Martin Luther Thompson and their contributions to assisting those that sought Citizenship by Blood in the Choctaw Nation as well as keeping the community that remained in Texas viable. However, all deferred to the Cherokees for overall leadership. No Choctaw had ever became Chairman of the Executive Committee before 1988. Following the clear separation from the Cherokee Nation caused by the adoption of the 1975 constitution, which led to the Texas Cherokees and Associate Bands not being included as a band or affiliate of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma [45] as they had been throughout the 20th century, all descendants who remained in Texas were no longer recognized as Native Americans by the Federal Government. In 1972 Judge Foster T. Bean,[46] an original enrollee on the Guion Miller Roll, [47] took over for W. W. (Bill) Keeler, who had served as Chairman of the Texas Cherokees and Associate Bands since the death of Claude Muskrat, in that Keeler was now to become Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Judge Bean continued served in that capacity until retiring from it in 1988. He was replaced by J.C. Thompson,[48] who, although Cherokee through the Hicks family, was one-eighth Choctaw and one-thirty-second Chickasaw.[49] Thompson held the position for eleven years until Terry Easterly took over in 1989. Terry was descended from Arthur Thompson, brother of William Clyde Thompson. Terry was the first woman to hold the position and the first to have no Cherokee blood. Terry was Choctaw, Chickasaw and Muscogee-Creek, making her the first person of Creek blood to head the community. In 2001, she was replaced by Peggy Dean-Atwood, Choctaw, Chickasaw and a descendant of Archibald Thompson. Again in 2002, J.C. Thompson was selected as Chairman and remains in that capacity as of 2017. He has been assisted by Deputy Chairman William Ellis Bean following the death of Ras Pool in 2015. Bean is the great grandson of Nathaniel Brandenstein Bean. [50]

The Community is currently seeking Federal Acknowledgment as an American Indian Tribe. On May 10, 2017, Texas Governor Greg Abbot signed into law CRR 25, recognizing the Mount Tabor Indian Community in Texas.[51] The community adopted a new constitution in 2017 [52] making a major change by establishing a three tier government made up of the five member Executive Committee; a seven member Tribal Council and a three member Tribal Court. There are presently sightly over 500 enrolled members, with offices in both Kilgore and Troup, Texas. The Community also supports the Mount Tabor Indian Heritage Center [53]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Louisiana Historical Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 4. October, 1935
  2. ^ Frederick Webb Hodge, ed., Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1907, 1910, rpt., New York: Pageant, 1959)
  3. ^ a b William B. Glover, "A History of the Caddo Indians", The Louisiana Historical Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 4. October, 1935
  4. ^ a b c Correspondence Between General Manuel Mier y Terán and Texas 1828-1832
  5. ^ Texas Indian Papers 1837, census of tribes in the Republic, attitudes of the Yowani Choctaws and allied Chickasaws of Attoyac Bayou, Nacogdoches District
  6. ^ Treaty of Bowles Village, Cherokees and Twelve Assiciated Tribes and the Republic of Texas February 23, 1836
  7. ^ "Expulsion of the Cherokees", Texas State Library and Archives Commission
  8. ^ The Handbook of Texas Online: Indians; Republics of Mexico and Texas, George Klos
  9. ^ "Indian Relations in Texas", Texas State Library and Archives Commission
  10. ^ "Vicente Cordova", by Robert Bruce Blake, Handbook of Texas Online,
  11. ^ Handbook of Texas Online, Adrian Woll
  12. ^ Handbook of Texas Online, Dawson Massacre, by Thomas W. Cutrer
  13. ^ Handbook of Texas Online, Salado Creek, Battle of, by Thomas W. Cutrer
  14. ^ Treaty of Birds Fort, September 29, 1843, Texas State Library and Archives, Austin, Texas
  15. ^ 1850 United States Census, Canton Beat EU
  16. ^ Kent Carter, The Dawes Commission and the Allotment of the Five Civilized Tribes, 1893-1914, Ancestry Publishing 1999, ISBN 0-916489-85-X, 13:978-0916489854
  17. ^ William C. Thompson, et al. vs. Choctaw Nation, MCR File 341, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Muskogee, Oklahoma
  18. ^ Letter of April 4, 1905 from Thomas Ryan, First Assistant Secretary Indian Affairs to Commissioner to the Five Civilized Tribes, Muskogee, Indian Territory, re: Willian C. Thompson et al. MCR 341, MCR 7124, MCR 581 and MCR 458.
  19. ^ Dr. Douglas Hale,William C. Thompson and the Choctaw-Chickasaw Paper Chase, Norman, OK: Oklahoma State University
  20. ^ United States Department of the Interior, Secretary of the Interior-Choctaw Citizenship Cases, #4 William C. Thompson et al., pgs 151-157
  21. ^ Choctaw Re-instatement list, correspondence from the Department of the Interior to the Commissioner of the Five Civilized Tribes, February 20, 1909
  22. ^ a b Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico By Frederick Webb Hodge, Smithsonian Institution American Ethnology, Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1907, pgs 1001-1002, ISBN 0-313-21281-3; 13:978-0313212819
  23. ^ a b "Texas Indian Papers 1825-1845", Texas State Library and Archives, Austin, Texas
  24. ^ a b Frederick Webb Hodge, ed., Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1907, 1910, rpt., New York: Pageant, 1959
  25. ^ Kathy LaCombe-Tell, "Coushatta heritage reaches deep into the past of Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana", Lafayette (LA) Daily Advertiser, June 2004
  26. ^ a b Eugene C. Barker and James W. Pohl, "Texas Revolution", Handbook of Texas Online
  27. ^ Treaty of Bowles Village February 23, 1836, Texas State Library and Archives, Austin, Texas
  28. ^ a b Texas Indian Papers, Census of Tribes, Texas State library and Archives, Austin, Texas
  29. ^ Herbert Gambrell, "Mirabeau Bonaparte Lamar", Handbook of Texas Online,
  30. ^ Thomas H. Kreneck, "Samuel Houston", Handbook of Texas Online
  31. ^ Killough Massacre, by Christopher Long, Handbook of Texas Online,
  32. ^ Handbook of Texas online, Cherokee War
  33. ^ The 1840 Census of the Republic of Texas, 1966 Pemberton Press, Austin, Texas, Edited by Gifford White, Nacogdoches County
  34. ^ Handbook of Texas Online, Indians, Texas and Mexican Republics, by George Klos
  35. ^ Some East Texas Native Families: Texas Cherokees and Associate Bands Genealogy Project: Rootsweb Global Search: Familyties
  36. ^ "Caddo, Twenty Years Without A Home", Texas Beyond History
  37. ^ Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs correspondence between A. C. Tonner, Acting Commissioner for the Dawes Commission, and the Secretary of the Interior, April 29, 1904; ref. Land 25846-1904, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City
  38. ^ <Grant Foreman, History of the Five Civilized Tribes>
  39. ^ Texas Indian Papers 1835-1845, Texas State Archives, Austin, Texas
  40. ^ Cherokee Cavaliers by Litton and Dale, page 80
  41. ^ 1850 United States Census, State of Texas, Canton Beat Enumeration District, Smith County
  42. ^ 1850 United States Census, State of Texas, Rusk County
  43. ^ William C. Thompson et al vs Choctaw Nation
  44. ^ United States Department of the Interior, Secretary of the Interior-Choctaw Citizenship Cases, #4 William C. Thompson et al., pgs 151-157
  45. ^ 1973 Proposed Constitution of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
  46. ^ Minutes to meeting TCAB Executive Committee, March 3, 1972, Bartlesville, Oklahoma
  47. ^ John Starr Bean, Guion Miller Roll: Kilgore, TX, ap # 23615, roll# 4489
  48. ^ Minutes to meeting TCAB September 10, 1988, Kilgore Country Club, Kilgore, Gregg County, Texas,
  49. ^ Sally McCoy 1818 Chickasaw Annuity Roll
  50. ^ Guion Miller roll: Kilgore, TX, ap # 23616, roll# 4522
  51. ^ http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Actions.aspx?LegSess=85R&Bill=SCR25
  52. ^ 2017 Constitution of the Mount Tabor Indian Community
  53. ^ http://www.nonprofitfacts.com/TX/Mount-Tabor-Indian-Heritage-Center.html


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