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What is the Choctaw Nation?

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  • Written By: Jason C. Chavis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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The Choctaw Nation is a group of Native Americans located in the state of Oklahoma. Like many other American Indians, it is an autonomous society operating as a protectorate of the United States on land supplied via treaty. The Choctaw Nation has its own government segmented into 12 distinct tribal districts. According to statistics from the US Census Bureau, a quarter million people live in the Choctaw Nation, with 70,000 of those being federally-recognized members. A total of eight Oklahoma counties, as well as portions of five others, constitute the 11,000 square miles (about 28,000 square km) of the nation's total land area.

Durant, Oklahoma, is the capitol of the Choctaw Nation. On 9 June 1984, the nation established a constitution that defines the governmental organization. Like the US federal government, it is structured with three branches of government: an executive, legislature and judicial system. The executive branch is headed by a chief and assistant chief, elected for a four-year term. Legislative actions are managed by the Tribal Council, a 12-person commission representing each tribal district. The Choctaw also use a Court of General Jurisdiction, a four-judge system using the Court of Federal Regulations rules and overseen by the US Supreme Court, as its judicial system.

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Traditionally speaking a derivative of the Muskogean language, the Choctaw people descend from the Hopewellians, a Native American culture in the Southeast, particularly along the Mississippi River. During the early days of European contact, the Choctaw were noted for adopting Spanish technology earlier than their neighbors. Before missionaries converted much of the culture to Christianity, the Choctaw believed in a good spirit in the form of the sun and an evil spirit that took the shape of a shadow person. They also believed in little people that lived in the woods and played tricks.

After supporting the American Revolution, the Choctaw were targeted for removal from their lands. A large section of the tribe walked the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma in 1830, while many stayed and became American citizens. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is still recognized by the federal government today. During the American Civil War, the Choctaw joined the Confederacy, offering support in both manpower and health care.

In modern times, the Choctaw Nation garnered national attention during World War II when the tribes were essential to the war effort, providing codetalkers to the military. The language could not be broken by the Axis Powers. Today, the nation operates extensive industries in their area of Oklahoma. They are heavily successful in the electronics market, producing American-made products. A concerted effort has also been made since the late 20th century to preserve the language and culture for posterity.

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