Identification. The Choctaw are an American Indian group who lived aboriginally in Mississippi. "Chahta," the Choctaw's name for themselves, is probably a term of native origin derived from Hacha Hatak, "River People."
Location. In the eighteenth century, the Choctaw population was centered in central and southern Mississippi. Most Choctaw now live in Oklahoma and Mississippi.
Demography. Historically, the Choctaw were one of the largest tribes in the Southeast. In spite of major population losses through warfare and disease in the early historical period, the population in 1831 was 19,554. In 1980, there were 6,000 Choctaw in Mississippi and 10,000 in Oklahoma. Over 100,000 people in Oklahoma claim some Choctaw ancestry, however. Small numbers of Choctaw have migrated to urban areas in Texas, California, and Illinois.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Choctaw language belongs to the Muskogean family, which also includes Creek and Chickasaw.