What are the Different Aspects of the Choctaw Tribe?

Kevin P. Hanson

The Choctaw tribe is an American Indian Nation indigenous to the southeastern region of the United States, including parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama. Today, many members of the tribe live in Oklahoma and Mississippi. The Choctaw tribe is ethnically and linguistically linked to the Muskogean family. When Europeans formed settlements in this area near the Mississippi River in the 16th century, the Choctaw were relying upon agriculture and hunting for their survival.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Historical accounts differ about the origin of the Choctaw tribe's name. Some propose its derivation to be from Hacha hatak, which in the Muskogean dialect used by the Choctaw means "river people." Another theory is that it is an altered form of chato, the Spanish word meaning "flat" or "flattened." This refers to the custom of flattening the head, which was said to be a practice of the Choctaw tribe. An additional supposition is that "Choctaw" was the name of a leader of the tribe.

Religious beliefs and practices play a large role in the culture of the Choctaw tribe. These sacred and spiritual convictions revolve around the devout faith that humans and other living beings are inherently linked to forces in the supernatural world. Choctaws hold harmony with nature, people, and the supernatural as fundamental beliefs. Another important aspect of the Choctaw tribe that might be considered as religious beliefs is their myth of emergence. They believe that the Choctaws and some other tribes sprung forth from a mound of earth in Mississippi named Nanih Waiya or "Productive Mountain."

It was customary for the Choctaw tribe to cleanse the bones of the dead prior to placing them in "bone-houses." This work was typically done by elders within the tribe who grew their nails long specifically for this ritual. The tribe is also said to have observed the tradition of raising poles in the vicinity of newly dug graves. These poles were subsequently adorned with wreaths and other ornaments believed to assist the spirit in its ascent.

In 1830, many members of the Choctaw tribe were moved from their southwestern homelands to Oklahoma, which was called "Indian Territory" at the time. Relocated along with the Choctaws were members of the Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole tribes. This massive compulsory migration proved to be fatal for many members of each tribe. Disease, famine, and violent attacks from white men and hostile American Indians were some of the hardships that ultimately overwhelmed the procession, which has become known as the "Trail of Tears."

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The Choctaw tribe is headquartered in Durant Oklahoma, and spans a 10 and 1/2 county area. There are no reservations in Oklahoma, since at one time it was Indian territory. We live all over Oklahoma and the United States. The Choctaw tribe is doing very well and thriving under the direction of our Chief Gregory Pyle. The tribe has it's own health care, and hospitals, operates casinos and businesses.


I feel like when history is written about native american tribes much is ignored about their culture and the aspects written about them concerning themselves as a tribe only concerns their interaction with the white man, explorers, or their role in wars after white migration to their lands.

I study history for a living and feel like there is not a lot of emphasis put into studying and teaching the importance of Indian culture in the United States as well as their long lasting influence on the country that is still seen today.

I also feel like whenever history is written concerning native americans in the United States it only concerns how their relations to the white man and whether or not they served in a particular war. About the only things mentioned in schools about native american culture concern the roles indians played in American wars as well as when the fought the white settlers invading their territory. Maybe it is just bias throughout history and I have recently seen a trend to further study the aspects of the particular tribe's cultures, but much more needs to be done to give native americans their just place in the history of the United States.


I know that the Choctaw have a rich history in the United States and that they were one of the five major Indian tribes in the South but the question I have is how the tribe is doing today?

I hear a lot about native american tribes and how many of them have been virtually wiped out or the remaining members of their tribe confided to reservations, but I do not hear much about how the Choctaw tribe is doing.

I am wondering because whenever I read about American history in the early 1800's I find a lot written about the Choctaw and how they were involved with the Trail of Tears. I feel like this tribe is a lot more famous than many other native american tribes and that there should be a lot mentioned about them today. Does anyone know the state of the tribe or where their reservations are located today?

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