Mississippi was first inhabited by three major tribes:
Chickasaws in the north
Choctaws in the central and south
Natchez Indians in the southwest along the Mississippi River.
Other tribes include:
- Bureau of Indian Affairs
- Land and Maps
- Miscellaneous Links
- Research Help
- Suggested Reading
- Choctaw of Bayou Lacomb, St. Tammay Parrish, Louisiana
- Life Among The Choctaw Indians
- Handbook of American Indians
- Native Cemeteries and Forms of Burial East of the Mississippi
- Introduction to the Study of Mortuary Customs Among the North American Indians
- Tribal Migrations East of the Mississippi
- Southern Contacts of the Indians North of the Gulf of Mexico
The soil of what is now known as the State of Mississippi was occupied in whole or in part by the Chickasaws, Choctaws, Natchez, Chokchoomas, Yazoos, Koroas, Tunicas, Pascagoulas, Biloxis, and other less known tribes.
The Indians of Mississippi belonged to the Muskhogean Muscogee) family, except the Natchez, who belonged to the Natchesan family, the Biloxis, who belonged to the Sioux family,2 and the Tunicas (Tonicas), who belonged to a family by itself. The Tensas and Natchez belonged to the same family.3 Generally speaking, the country stretching from the Savannah and the Atlantic to the Mississippi, and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Tennessee river was occupied by the Muskhogean family, except some small portions, occupied by the Natchez, Uchees, “and some small settlements” of the Shawanese.
The northern portions of Mississippi and a part of the present State of Tennessee were the earliest homes of the Chickasaws which history allows one to trace. In the 18th century Pontotoc county was the center of their habitation; later historians report that the Chickasaws had settlements on the Mississippi.
CHICKASAW TRADITIONS, CUSTOMS, ETC.
“They laid the corpse in his tomb in a sitting posture, with his face towards the east, his head anointed with bear’s oil and his face painted red, but not streaked with black, because that is a constant emblem of war and death; he was dressed in his finest apparel, having his gun and pouch and trusty hickory bow, with a young panther’s skin full of arrows, alongside of him, and every other useful thing he had been possessed of, that when he rises again, they may serve him in that tract of land which pleased him best before he went to take his long sleep. His tomb was firm and clean inside. They covered it with thick logs, so as to bear several tiers of cypress bark, and such a quantity of clay, as would confine the putrid smell, and be on a level with the rest of the floor. They often sleep over those tombs, which, with the loud wailing of the women at the dusk of the evening and dawn of the day, on benches close by the tombs, must awake the memory of their relations very often; and if they were killed by an enemy, it helps to irritate and set on such revengeful tempers to retaliate, blood for blood.”
Charles C. Jones, Jr. in his Antiquities of the Southern Indians, Particularly of the Georgia Tribes, says, (referring to Bartram’s Travels and Romans’ Florida):
“The Muscogulgees buried their dead in the earth – a deep pit, about four feet square, being dug under the cabin and couch occupied by the deceased. This grave was carefully lined with cypress bark, and in it the corpse placed in a sifting posture. Such articles of property as he valued most, were deposited with him. The funeral customs of the Chickasaws did not differ materially from those of the Muscogulges. They interred the dead as soon as the breath left the body, and beneath the couch on which the deceased expired.”
Edwin G. Thomas, son of Elisha Thomas, was born near Mt. Pleasant, Maury county, Tenn., July 31, 1810. He moved to Alabama. In 1834 he made a trip through the Indian nation, going first to Cotton Gin, across what was then Indian country. He says that one day, while on this trip and while in the Indian country, “about sun-down in a southeastern direction I heard a wailing noise.
“None of the crowd (those who accompanied Thomas) knew what it was, but a negro told us it was the Indians mourning for their dead. The Indians also came in the house and mourned. We were told that they were buried in the house.
Nation and that he knew that tribe better than he did the Choctaws. Romans described the Chickasaws as a haughty, insolent, fierce, and cruel race, filthy in their discourse, corrupt in their morals, well-made, powerful and lazy, excellent hunters, expert swimmers, and good warriors. The Choctaws he lauded as a nation of agriculturists, inclined to industry and peace. Adair on the other hand lauds the Chickasaws. Claiborne, who had official intercourse with the Choctaws, speaks in glowing terms of them.
“The Choctaws never robbed nor permitted robbers to live with them. Honesty on the part of the men and chastity of the women were characteristics of the Choctaw people.”
CHICKASAW MARRIAGE CUSTOMS
The following statement from Cyrus Harris, a mixed-breed Chickasaw, relates to Chickasaw marriage customs:
“When a man found a girl that suited his fancy, he would send his mother or sister with perhaps calico enough to make one or more dresses, tied up in a shawl or handkerchief, with instructions to ask the father and mother of the girl to give their approval of the intention of the sender. If they gave their consent, the bundle was handed to the girl. If she took the bundle, it was considered a bargain made. The mother or sister brings back news of her errand. The maji then hunts up his clothes and dresses himself from head to foot, paints his face with vermilion and other paints, and starts for the residence of his intended. On reaching the place he is invited to take a seat on a cowhide or the hide of any ‘varmint’ generally used for seats in those days. After the general topics of the day are talked over, supper is announced. The visitor and the intended father-in-law, in the absence of any other visitor, take supper, unaccompanied by the intended wife or her mother. Some time after supper, a bed commonly occupied by the girl is prepared for their accommodation, the girl getting in bed first, previous to the man’s entering the bedroom. The man comes in and occupies the front side of the bed. This makes them man and wife, and, at any time, either one of them getting dissatisfied with the other, by jealousy or otherwise, they separate mutually. This, sir, was ancient marriage ceremony among the Chickasaws.”
sources: Claiborne’s Miss. Cyrus Harris to author, “June 18th, 1881″
Before the year 1834, the Chickasaws had but few laws; one law was life for life.
Adair’s History North American Indians.
Jones’ Antiquity of the Southern Indians.
Narrative of Edwin G. Thomas, May 10, 1880. Mr. Thomas moved to Fulton in the fall of 1837.
Fulton was first named Jacinto.
“she was killed by the relatives of the slain. If the murderer could not be found, it was lawful
to put to death the brother of the one who had done the killing, which made an end of the difficulty.”
The property of deceased persons went to brothers and sisters, the husband, or wife and children not
being entitled to any part of the estate.
Children were not regarded as related to their father, but were closely related to their mother, they being of the same house-name. The husband and father were of a different house-name, or clan, as it is called. A man and woman of the same house-name were not allowed to marry, hence they considered the children related only to the mother and not to the father. If a man married a woman who had several sisters, he had a perfect right to marry them all, and live with them all at the same time. A man who died, leaving a widow, gave his brother a sort of lien on her ;28 and the surviving brother could marry her, if he wished.
A person who stole a horse was whipped by order of the king, but it was a rare thing for a Chickasaw to steal at all. One of the light-horsemen who generally gave the lash, went by the name of Ish-yah-kah-py. His English name was “Big Legs”; he lived eight miles southeast of Pontotoc, on a creek called Punk-a-tuckah-ly, a name which signifies “Hanging Grapes,” now called Pontotoc creek.
Cyrus Harris to author.