Living in the Land of Death
The Choctaw Nation, 1830-1860
Publication Year: 2004
With the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Choctaw people began their journey over the Trail of Tears from their homelands in Mississippi to the new lands of the Choctaw Nation. Suffering a death rate of nearly 20 percent due to exposure, disease, mismanagement, and fraud, they limped into Indian Territory, or, as they knew it, the Land of the Dead (the route taken by the souls of Choctaw people after death on their way to the Choctaw afterlife). Their first few years in the new nation affirmed their name for the land, as hundreds more died from whooping cough, floods, starvation, cholera, and smallpox.
Living in the Land of the Dead depicts the story of Choctaw survival, and the evolution of the Choctaw people in their new environment. Culturally, over time, their adaptation was one of homesteads and agriculture, eventually making them self-sufficient in the rich new lands of Indian Territory. Along the Red River and other major waterways several Choctaw families of mixed heritage built plantations, and imported large crews of slave labor to work cotton fields. They developed a sub-economy based on interaction with the world market. However, the vast majority of Choctaws continued with their traditional subsistence economy that was easily adapted to their new environment.
The immigrant Choctaws did not, however, move into land that was vacant. The U.S. government, through many questionable and some outright corrupt extralegal maneuvers, chose to believe it had gained title through negotiations with some of the peoples whose homelands and hunting grounds formed Indian Territory. Many of these indigenous peoples reacted furiously to the incursion of the Choctaws onto their rightful lands. They threatened and attacked the Choctaws and other immigrant Indian Nations for years. Intruding on others’ rightful homelands, the farming-based Choctaws, through occupation and economics, disrupted the traditional hunting economy practiced by the Southern Plains Indians, and contributed to the demise of the Plains ways of life.
Published by: Michigan State University Press
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...would especially like to thank my family and friends of the Choc-taw Nation, Clifford E. Trafzer (Wyandot) and William T. Hagan, respect-ed mentors and friends. The Oklahoma Historical Society’s pricelesscollections of archives and the staff at the Society helped immeasurably inthe research and editing phases of this manuscript. I would like to thank...
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Andrew Jackson implemented a policy called “Indian Removal.”It was, perhaps, a time in American history that modern histori-ans would love to make disappear. Not only was this policy a disaster forthe Indian people affected, it was one of the most disgraceful events inU.S. history. “Indian Removal” was a deliberate, thinly veiled confiscation...
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...people is very thin, and most is written from the perspective ofpeople exclude sources written in Choctaw, and do not examine theChoctaw language from a sociolinguistic perspective. Scholars almostinvariably omit from consideration oral traditions and Choctaw history asresearchers neglect these significant and valuable sources. Because of this...
Ch. 1 - A Brief History of the Choctaw People to 1817
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...to a place and time that no one else could see. Asked to tell ofLong ago, in a place near the setting sun, the Choctaw Nation was in tur-moil. Threats from enemies caused the people to have to flee theirhomeland. Gathering the bones of the ancestors and placing them inpacks on their backs, the Okla Chahta moved out in long columns of old...
Ch. 2 - History, Change, and Tradition
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...“It is our duty to make new efforts for the preservation, improvement,and civilization of the native inhabitants. The hunter state can exist onlyin the vast uncultivated desert. It yields to the more dense and compactform and greater force of civilized population; and of right it ought toyield, for the earth was given to mankind to support the greatest num-...
Ch. 3 - The Physical and Spiritual World of the Choctaw People
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...tures, people, and spirits. The physical and spiritual worlds overlappedmore extensively in the native conceptualization of the world than in thatof western Euro-Americans. For example, native people believed that spir-its were literally all around them, that they heard and monitored thebehavior of men, and that they actively affected their lives. They believed...
Ch. 4 - After Doak’s Stand: Indian Territory in the 1820s
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...mataha was correct when he pointed out to Andrew Jackson during thetreaty negotiations that hundreds and hundreds of Euro-Americans werealready living within in the area the United States proposed that theChoctaw Nation in the West during the first decades of the nineteenthcentury. They did not scruple about titles. There were no land offices for...
Ch. 5 - A Perfect Picture of Chaos
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...each strategizing ways in which to deal with the U.S. government.All of these Choctaw factions knew that southern and western Americanswould settle for nothing less than the confiscation of the Indian nation’slands, but still they fought to rouse the conscience of Americans throughactive alliance with the whites, living primarily on the East Coast, who...
Ch. 6 - A New Life in the Land of Death: Decade of Despair
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...build a new life. They had little choice but to put the horrors oftrauma of the past decade, the children still got hungry, crops and ani-mals still had to be tended, water still had to be drawn—life had to go on.For some, anger and bitterness persisted. Others were in shock; theirlives, their families, their loved ones—everything had been disrupted. As...
Ch. 7 - Making Death Literal
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...issues were interrelated, and derived from their subjugation by theUnited States, and the Americans’ efforts to increase their hegemony.First, the whole nation seemed to be erupting into a state of anarchy.Serious crimes occurred daily, and “who was killed this week” became anSecond, conflict escalated with American encroachments on Choctaw...
Ch. 8 - Cultural Continuity and Change
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...the disintegration of traditional male gender roles, white intrud-Choctaws, the importation of alcohol, and the growing anxiety over slav-ery and the coming Civil War in the U.S. was explored. The Choctaws hadanother major crisis in their government and political system that exacer-In the 1850s, two oppositional forces continued to wreak havoc with-...
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...teenth and early twentieth centuries. The most damaging aspect of thisonslaught has been the American construction of natives as savages andEuro-Americans as civilized. Many generations of Choctaws were affectedby these teachings, which engendered a sense of self-loathing. The inter-nalization of the norms of white people and of their scorn for native cul-...
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Many Choctaws attended schools like this one, which was built in 1877 in Skullyville,Choctaw Nation. Courtesy of the Research Division of the Oklahoma Historical Society,A Choctaw grave house. Courtesy of the Research Division of the Oklahoma HistoricalA black Choctaw family and their home. Courtesy of the Research Division of theThe home of Thomas LeFlore, twice chief of the Choctaw Nation, was built in 1831....
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Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2004
Series Title: American Indian Studies
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth