Chickasaws, a nation of American Indians, residing when first known to the whites about 160 m. E. of the Mississippi, between lat. 34° and 35° N. According to their own tradition, they came from west of the Mississippi with the Creeks and Choctaws. When about to start eastward, they were provided with a large dog as a guard and a pole as a guide. As they marched they planted the pole in the ground every night, and in the morning looked at it and went in the way it leaned. They crossed the Mississippi, in which their guardian dog was drowned, and arrived on the Alabama, where their pole, after being unsettled for several days, at length pointed southwest. They proceeded in that direction to what is known as the Chickasaw old fields, where the pole remained perfectly upright. In 1540 De Soto reached Chicaca, one of their towns in what is now the northern part of the state of Mississippi, and wintered there. But when in the spring he wished to force them to supply men to carry his baggage, they fired their town and attacked him, causing great loss. When the French settled Louisiana the Chickasaws had already been visited by traders from the English colonies, and thus came into the struggle of the rival nations.
They had at one time, it is said, 10,000 warriors, but in 1720 numbered only 450, in four large contiguous settlements, Yaneka and Chookka Pharaah (Long House) being the most important. They were divided into five clans or families, Minko, Showa, Coishto, Oushpehne, Minne, and Huscona, and recognized a king or mico as head of the nation. They began hostilities against the French in 1722, killing a sergeant and his wife near the Yazoo post. In 1732 they cut to pieces a war party of the Iroquois who invaded their territory, but in 1746 were cooperating with that confederacy against the French. By advice of English traders' they urged the Natchez to cut off the French, and after the overthrow of that nation gave a refuge to the remnant who escaped from the vengeance of the French. They then took up arms openly, cut off all trade on the Mississippi river, and joined the desperate Natchez in their raids. They killed the chief of the Tonicas by treachery, and besieged Denys at Fort Nachitoches, but were repulsed there with loss.
This led to a war, and in 1736 the French attempted to crush them by a simultaneous attack from the south under Bienville and from Illinois under D'Artaguette. The former retired; the latter took several of the Chickasaw towns, but was defeated and taken at Amalahta with Vincennes, Pere Senat, and others, all of whom were put to death. In 1739 a very formidable expedition ascended the Mississippi under Bienville and De Noail-les, but they halted near Chickasaw Bluff, and after some skirmishes made a hollow peace with the Chickasaw envoys in August, 1740, though hostilities were kept up in a desultory way for the next ten years. The Chickasaws entered into friendly relations with Gen. Oglethorpe, and seem to have maintained them. In 1765 their head men and warriors, with those of the Choctaws, met Gov. George Johnstone of West Florida in a general congress at Mobile, and established a regular tariff of trade; but troubles were soon caused by grasping traders who had settled among the Chickasaws. After the revolution the United States made a treaty at Hopewell in 1786 with Pio Mico and other chiefs, fixing their territory at the Ohio on the north, and running down into what is now Mississippi. They were then estimated at from 800 to 1,200 warriors, but as their territory was remote from settlements there had been no encroachments or collisions.
When the Creeks drove them to war in 1793, they joined the whites in operations against the Creeks, remaining constantly friendly to the settlers, although surrounded by hostile tribes. In 1805, 1816, and 1818 Chenubbe Mico and other chiefs ceded all their lands north of Mississippi for Certain specified annual payments; the Colberts, influential men of the tribe, aware of the value of the lands, securing better terms than usual. The scarcity of game and the narrowing of their hunting grounds had led some of the tribe to emigrate to the Arkansas about the beginning of the present century. In 1822 those remaining in Mississippi comprised 3,625 souls in eight towns, advancing in civilization, owning slaves, and selling cattle and hogs to the whites. When the United States adopted the plan of removing all Indians west of the Mississippi, the Chickasaws, by the treaties of Pontotoc Creek, Oct. 20, 1832, and Washington, May 24, 1834, ceded to the United States all their remaining lands in Mississippi, amounting to 6,442,400 acres, for which they received $3,646,000. They had determined to settle on lands already assigned to the Choctaws, who speak the same language.
By a convention, Jan. 17, 1837, they paid the Choctaws $530,000 for a district on the Red west and south of the Washita, to be held by them as a tribe and in common, and inalienable except with the consent of the Choctaws. They were also to abandon their government by a king and form part of the Choctaw nation, governed under its constitution, with equal representation. During the emigration smallpox broke out, carrying off 500 or 600 of the tribe. They did not all settle on their new tract, but scattered through the Choctaw country as they found lands to suit them, some wealthy men like Col. Colbert taking up large tracts for cotton, and employing numerous slaves in its culture. As a body they did not advance as rapidly as the Choctaws, their large annuity ($60,000 among about 4,200) encouraging idleness. They were harassed by some neighboring tribes, and had no schools till an academy was opened in 1851. Their political condition also caused discontent, as, instead of equal representation as they expected, they were allowed only in proportion to population, and were a powerless minority.
They appealed to the President of the United States, and on paying $150,000 to the Choctaws obtained by treaty of June 22, 1855, a political separation from them and a complete title to the Chickasaw district. Here they organized a new government of their own, and have since been recognized as a distinct tribe. Their progress after this was rapid, but the civil war was a severe blow to them. Like the Choctaws, the Chickasaws first joined the south, led by their agents; and though there were no military operations in their district or contest in the tribe, they lost nearly one fourth of their population, much stock, and of course their slaves. By the treaty of Fort Smith, September, 1865, the Chickasaws with other tribes, held to have forfeited all their rights by rebellion, were restored on certain conditions and new treaties made. By another treaty, April 28, 1866, the United States government reaffirmed all the old treaty stipulations, and the Chickasaws gave up nearly 7,000,000 acres of land at 4 1/2 cents an acre, the money to go to their late slaves unless within two years they accepted them as members of the tribe.
The Chickasaws were very loath to lose the money or adopt the negroes, but finally accepted the latter alternative, Jan. 10, 1873. Since the war they have recovered greatly; they have 14 schools and about 500 pupils. Their government consists of a governor, senate, and house of representatives. The lands are still held in common, though by act of Sept. 28, 1872, steps were taken to divide it among the members of the tribe. Their stock has always been individual property. In 1871 they owned 4,500 horses, 15,000 sheep, and 25,000 swine; they had 14,500 acres under cultivation, raising 300 bales of cotton and 380,000 bushels of corn. They receive a perpetual annuity of $3,000, and have in the hands of government nearly $1,200,000 in bonds, of which they receive the annual interest.