Choctaws, Or Chalitas, an extensive nation of North American Indians, who, with the Ali-bamons, Timuquas, and kindred tribes, and the Muskogees, occupied nearly all the territory on the gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi to the Atlantic. They claimed to have come out of a cave in a hill, which they regarded as sacred. The Chahtas, or Choctaws proper, comprising three divisions or fires, occupied a rectangular territory south of the Chickasaws and west of the Muskogees, comprising what is now central and southern Mississippi and western Alabama. They cultivated the soil and subsisted chiefly by agriculture. They were raw-boned, active, and deceitful. From the practice of flattening the foreheads of their children with bags of sand, they obtained from the French the name of Flatheads. De Soto was the first to enter their territory, seizing the cacique of Coosa, and fighting a bloody battle with them at Mavilla in 1540. The next Spanish force, under Tristan de Luna, in 1560 aided them in a war with the Natchez. When the French settied Louisiana the Chahtas became their allies, and missions and forts were established among them. At this time they comprised 40 villages and more than 2,500 warriors.
They aided the French materially in the war against the Natchez, whom they signally defeated, and also against the Chickasaws. The English, however, began to seek their alliance, and won over a part of them, the chief lied Shoes becoming their fast friend. They acknowledged the sovereignty of the United States at the treaty of Hopewell in January, 1786, and were guaranteed peaceable possession of their lands. But as early as 1800 numbers emigrated beyond the Mississippi, and in 1803 it was estimated that 5()0 families had departed. The whole nation would have followed but for the opposition of the Spaniards and some of the western tribes. They did good service in the war with England and in the Creek war, and in 1820, by the treaty of Doak's Stand, ceded to the United States a part of their territory for lands west of Arkansas. Georgia finally extended the state jurisdiction over the whole of the old Choctaw territory, and gave the Indians the rights of citizens. Preferring however to remove, they ceded the rest of their lands by the treaty of Dancing Rabbit creek in 1830, and with the Chickasaws, who had joined them, removed west of Arkansas, between the Arkansas and Canadian rivers on the north and the Red river on the south.
They ceded in all 19,000,000 acres, and received 20,000,000, with $2,225,000 in money and goods. The missionaries of the American board of commissioners for foreign missions had begun their labors among them in 1818, and were followed by the Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists. The Choctaws were making rapid progress in agriculture and the mechanic arts. They are governed by a written constitution adopted in 1838, and amended a few years after so as to harmonize more with state governments. They elect their chief for four years, and have a national council of 40 members and a regular judiciary, with trial by jury. Under this government they advanced rapidly, increasing in numbers, wealth, intelligence, and civilization, and in 1801 had a population, including the Chickasaws, of 25,000, with 5,000 negro slaves. The superintendent and agents appointed by the United States took sides with the seceding states, and led the Choctaws to break with the United States government. Though their territory was not the scene of hostilities, the schools were closed, and the buildings, occupied by confederate troops, became a total loss, while the population was reduced to 17,000, of whom 12,500 were Choctaws. After the war, the government held that, by revolting and making treaties with the Confederate States, they had forfeited all their rights.
New treaties were made in 1866, by which slavery was abolished, and part of their lands ceded for other tribes which the government wished to remove. A sort of territorial government was formed, with the superintendent as governor, and the powers of the council defined. The negroes were either to have lands set apart for them in severalty, or $300,000 in the hands of government was to be taken for their use. Up to 1872 this point remained unadjusted, the Choctaws refusing to divide their lands among themselves in severalty, and being still more reluctant to give separate allotments to the negroes. - The Choctaw language lacks the verb "to be," and in many nouns, verbs, and adjectives, a plural form. It has many irregular forms, abounds in particles, both prefixes and suffixes, repeats the pronouns, and has many fragmentary pronouns, the article-pronouns involving great difficulty. A grammar by the late Rev. C. Byington (Philadelphia, 1870) gives a very clear view of the language; his dictionary has not yet appeared.
The labors of the missionaries for more than half a century, giving them nearly the whole Bible, with spellers, definers, tracts, and hymn books, printed from 1820 to the present time, have made these works standard.