Choctaw - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Choctaw social organization was based on two geographic units: the three districts and ninety towns, and three social units: moieties, clans, and locality groups. The relationships among these units are not completely clear. Early descriptions of the Choctaw show a confusion of names of geographic division, moieties, clans, and locality groups. At all levels, leadership was by older proven warriers called "beloved" men.

Political Organization. The two matrilineal exogamous moieties of the Choctaw resemble the White, or peace, Moiety and the Red, or war, moiety of other Southeastern tribes. The moiety and clan divisions were basic to kinship, Ceremony, and political affairs. The heads of respective clans were responsible for adjudicating disputes. If the principal men in two divisions could not agree on the outcome of a case, it was referred to the leading men of the next larger divisions. Major officials within a town were selected from the leaders of the local groups within the town. Each town had a chief who, with his spokesman, supervised civil affairs and ceremonies. A war chief and his assistants led the men in time of war. The leadership pattern at the town level was duplicated at the District level. Early in the eighteenth century there may have been a central district and head chief for the tribe as a whole, but if so this had been abandoned by midcentury as a result of civil strife. The primary means of achieving consensus on major courses of action was the council. District councils were called by the district chief, and national councils were called by the three district chiefs acting jointly. In 1834, the Choctaw adopted a constitution for the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma that was in force until the Choctaw Nation was abolished as a territorial government by the U.S. Congress in 1906. Nevertheless, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma continues to exist as a nonterritorial organization conducting activities and enterprises for the Choctaw there. The remaining Mississippi Choctaw did not adopt a constitution until 1945, but since then they have operated a tribal government with jurisdiction over the reservation lands in Mississippi.

Social Control. Avoiding direct conflict, gossip, and avoidance have been important forms of social control. Witchcraft declined in importance in the eighteenth century. Tribal judicial authority was ended in Mississippi with removal, and in Oklahoma with the abolishment of the Choctaw Nation in 1906. But local judicial control under Tribal courts was reestablished on the Mississippi Choctaw Reservations in 1978 through a ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Conflict. In the eighteenth century the Choctaw were Divided over the proper relationship with European powers. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the expansion of the money economy resulted in conflicts over participation in the White-dominated market economy. While this social class discord involved conflict between mixed-bloods and full-bloods in Mississippi prior to removal and later in Oklahoma, the same dissension exists among the predominantly full-blood Mississippi Choctaw. For the latter a major external conflict arose from the acute racism of surrounding White Society, which did not noticeably improve until the 1970s.

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