Subsistence and Commercial Activities. In the latter half of the eighteenth century the Choctaw were among the most accomplished farmers in the Southeast, but this was only an intensification of the basic Southeastern pattern of maize, beans, and squash cultivation supplemented by hunting, fishing, and collecting. The arrival of Europeans brought additional vegetables, cattle, horses, and cotton. During the eighteenth century the trade in deer skins resulted in first an expansion of hunting and then an increase in agriculture and cattle as the deer population declined. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, rural Choctaw remained Subsistence farmers, often in debt to the cotton sharecropping System. Agriculture was supplemented by work in forestry and agricultural day labor. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Mississippi Choctaw successfully established tribal industries Including construction and electronic component and greeting card assembly. Lacking a reservation land base, the Oklahoma Choctaw have been less successful in establishing Economic enterprises and are largely dependent on employment in forestry, seasonal wage work, and governmental assistance.
Industrial Arts. Aboriginal crafts included pottery, carving of wood, stone, and shell, and basket and textile weaving. Today basket weaving continues among the Choctaw, but the number of skilled craftspeople is declining because of limited markets. Making traditional nineteenth-century Choctaw clothing to wear at special events remains important.
Trade. The Choctaw participated in the complex of aboriginal trade linking the shell of the coastal areas with stone and related products of the interior. Competition over the trade for deerskins and guns was a major factor in eighteenth-century Choctaw affairs. By the nineteenth century, the replacement of Indians by African slaves and the decline in deer led to an expansion of peaceful trade in agricultural products and cattle.
Division of Labor. Aboriginally, women and children cared for the crops, while the men cleared fields and helped with planting and harvesting. Women prepared food, made clothes, pottery, and baskets, and cared for the children. Men hunted, built houses, and performed ritual activities. Both women and men practiced medicine. Men became more involved in agriculture with the use of domesticated animals for cultivating crops, but subsistence farming involved both men and women in major shared activities. With the rise of an industrial economy, men and women were able to gain employment outside the home.
Land Tenure. Aboriginally, individual ownership was Limited to use rights for homesites and lands under cultivation or improvement. Although men cleared land and built houses, these were the property of the wife and her female descendants as long as the land and house were being utilized. Those Choctaw remaining after removal had to register land in the name of the male head of household, but most of these land titles were quickly lost, leaving the Mississippi Choctaw largely without land until the establishment of the Choctaw Agency in 1918. The reservation is held by the federal Government as trustee for the Mississippi Choctaw. Individual homesites are allocated by the Tribal Council. In the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, the traditional land use patterns were lost with the abolishment of the Choctaw Nation and allocation of Choctaw lands to individuals by the U.S. government. Most of this land soon passed to White ownership leaving the Oklahoma Choctaw without a reservation land base.