The Chickasaw are a Muskogean-speaking American Indian group whose aboriginal homeland was located in present-day northeastern Mississippi. The Chickasaw, one of the socalled Five Civilized Tribes, numbered about five thousand in 1600 and about seven thousand in 1980.
By the nineteenth century the expansion of White settlement and resulting pressure on land and animal resources had forced the Chickasaw to abandon hunting and take up farming on a full-time basis. Continued White expansion and desire for the Chickasaws' land slowly pushed the group to give up their lands and migrate to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), a process that was completed by 1832. In 1906 the tribal governments of the Chickasaw and the other Civilized Tribes were dissolved by the federal government. In the 1980s the descendents of the Chickasaw located in Oklahoma numbered approximately seven thousand, and their tribal affairs were overseen by a tribal governor and ten-member advisory council.
The Chickasaw subsisted through a combination of hunting, fishing, gathering, and agriculture. Bison, deer, and bear were the most prized game animals, and hunting expeditions often took the Chickasaw men on long excursions throughout the Mississippi valley region.
Chickasaw society was characterized by a moiety organization, each half of which was divided into a number of exogamous matrilineal clans. Each moiety was headed by a priest whose primary responsibility was to oversee religious Ceremonies. Political leadership was vested in a head chief whose position was inherited within the leading clan and who was advised by a council of clan leaders and elders. At the bottom of Chickasaw society was a class of slaves taken in battles with neighboring tribes.
The supreme deity of the Chickasaw was Ababinili, beneath whom there were numerous lesser deities, witches, and evil spirits. The Chickasaw believed that after death those who had led a good life found reward in the heavens, and those who were evil wandered endlessly in a land of witches.
Gibson, Arrell M. (1971). The Chickasaws. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Kniffen, Fred B., Hiram F. Gregory, and George A. Stokes (1987). The Historic Indian Tribes of Louisiana: From 1542 to the Present. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.