The Choctaw Nation at one time occupied most of Mississippi and the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana, Alabama and the panhandle of Florida. They were a nation of several matriarchal clans. Cushman, who relates a great respect for the Choctaw, (although I find him a tad bit prejudiced in favor of those who chose Christianity for my taste), relates that it was common practice if the Choctaw could afford to do so, to set aside a certain number of livestock at the birth of a child. These were never sold, and became the property of the child when he or she reached adulthood and married. The Choctaw were also, by all accounts I have read, very successful farmers, with corn being prominent amongst their crops. I have read that they often sold their excess produce to white settlers, and their mastery of agriculture was far past those of their white counterparts. While "fear" of being attacked in their sleep seems prevalent as one of the reasons the whites in Mississippi wanted the Choctaw removed from their homes, I wonder how much of it as not also jealousy of not only the volume of land the Choctaw possessed, but their ability to do a better job farming it.
Anthropologist and early Native American historians suggest the Choctaw tribe became so around 1700, and were a conglomeration of many smaller tribes who came together as one tribe when the Europeans arrived. This merging of cultures produced the two Moieties, the western and eastern. Although traditionally women did remain within their own village, basket and pottery patterns show that in fact at least some women did move to their husband’s village, and the evolution of the Choctaw traditions and language evolved. The Civil Wars of the earliest Choctaw histories result often from these tribal differences, and were often prodded by the French, Spanish and British, who had factions of loyalty within the different districts.
The earliest intermarriages between the Choctaw and their European neighbors aren’t recorded, yet we know that Moshulatubee had one mixed blood wife who was said to be only ¼ Choctaw, given her age, it is evident that marriages did exist far earlier than the mixed blood progeny so clearly documented. The documented connections between the mixed blood progeny and some of the Chiefs show a pattern. European men who married and lived among the Choctaw married the female relatives (sisters and nieces) of the Mingos and various headmen within the villages. While some leadership positions were considered hereditary, the accomplishments and fitness to perform the role was always considered first. First and foremost was always their ability as a warrior. When looking at succession as inherited, I suspect, the eldest nephew was always considered first. We see several leadership positions among the Choctaw, each with a particular role, and title. These were Hopaii Imataha (also seen as Payomingo), the war prophet, Hatak Anumpli, the Chiefs speaker, Hatak Holitopa, beloved man, Tisho Mingo, assistant war chief (often village chiefs), Ishatahullos, holy men, and Shulustamasabe, Red Shoes who were War leaders.
The status categories among the Choctaw can be divided into these levels, the top was the Mingos and War chiefs, next were the beloved men, followed by the warriors, and last men who had not killed an enemy. Once an individual held the title, he was also called by that title, which is difficult in tracing family ties. There are several cases in the Armstrong rolls, and later, in which an individual was recorded by their title. The roles or positions were considered to be among the highest within the village and districts, and all were considered leaders. A class system did clearly exist, it is evident from testimonies, that the families associated with these leaders intermarried, and produced an elite level. All of the documented mixed bloods (whose Choctaw mother’s family is known), prior to 1832 come from this elite level, but their full blood kin also continued this practice. Perhaps some of the clearest evidence of these connections is found in1875 testimonies in Blue County. An individual born to the elite class was more likely to attain power and leadership roles, but they still had to prove their worth. White men who married into the nation married into this elite class.
It was against their belief to marry within their own clan, and the children of the clan were more under the control of their matriarchal uncle than their father. The succession of leadership was not always hereditary, although often the nephew (son of the sister) of the preceding Chief did assume leadership. I have not found a complete listing of all the Clans, but the districts were: Okla Hannalli (people of Six towns), Okla Tannap (people from the other side), and Oklafayala (People who are widely dispersed). Within the nation were two distinct Moieties, Imoklashas, the elder and Inhulalatas1, the younger. Each moiety had several clans, known as Iskas, It is estimated there were about 12 Iska’s altogether. It is speculated that it wasn’t marrying within your own Moiety that was considered taboo, but rather within your own Iska. Each village consisted of at least two groups, and ceremonies were separated by the clan and status level. The burial of an individual within one Iska was performed by the other. Children belonged to the Iska of their mother. Identity was established first by Moiety and Iska, so a Choctaw identified himself first as Imoklasha or Inhulata and second as Choctaw.
It is important when doing any kind of genealogical research to consider the clan system, although, after the exposure to the white man, several families of mixed bloods did marry their cousins, often tracing lineage will require careful consideration of where the family lived, and the time frame. Prior to 1830, marriage of two individuals within their own Iska among the Choctaw was rare, if it happened at all. I have found several instances of the same name used across multiple generations, and often several times within a generation, so it is useful to remember that even after removal, the Choctaw settled into areas closely related to the clans they originated from in Mississippi, even though they may have lived in a separate district than the one they came from. Children of white men tend to be known only by their European names, and the existence of a Choctaw name is not generally documented. After the missionaries arrived, the advent of European names to full blood is evident.
From what I have read over the years, the matriarchal society is common within most of the American Indian nations, and perhaps the white man may wonder why. For me, I find the explanation partly in something my philosophy teacher tried to teach my class over 15 years ago. (Keep in mind, this was before DNA testing.) He used a common statement, made for eons that you always know who your mother is, but you never truly know who your father is. While philosophy is not my intent of these pages, I believe that because women were the givers of life, and with the belief system that most of the American Indian cultures had in regards to a masculine and feminine creator, the matriarchal system makes sense. While duties and roles were clearly defined, women had councils and were as influential as their male counterparts in the American Indian society. When a man married, he ended his affiliation with his birth clan, and became part of his wife's clan. That is a profound difference from that of white society in the late 18th and 19th centuries.
After removal, and the advent of the missionaries, we see a shift of the government of the tribe to a patriarchal society, however, if you read testimonies of the Choctaw even as late as the Dawes Rolls, you will see that the maternal link still exists. For example, a Choctaw man with an illegitimate son whose mother was a white woman legally adopted his son after she died. Among the Choctaw even in the 1880’s the adoption was necessary so that his son could be recognized as a Choctaw. His testimony in 1904 stated that children were affiliated by the tribe of their mother. The 1899 census cards show the matrilineal connection as well, orphaned children are often with their mother’s family, sometimes even distant cousins, and rarely with their father’s family. It is perhaps for this reason we have one family with what is termed freedman connections with an individual on the Freedman roll, and his children on the Choctaw Rolls. Jack Riddle’s mother was a former slave, his father was Choctaw, he is on the Freedman roll, but his children, whose mother was a full blood Choctaw, are on the Dawes as Choctaw. Many of the Choctaw Freedman indeed are Choctaw, but they are the offspring of a Choctaw Man and his slave, thus they aren’t Choctaw, and even those with a Choctaw mother were not looked upon favorably among the Choctaw. Racial prejudice did exist.
The Choctaw had multiple wives, and the practice was not outlawed until the late 1830's. I haven't seen any documentation to verify the fact, but marrying sisters, or close female relatives seems to have been common. Chief Pushmataha explained the fact that he had 2 wives when asked by replying that there were more women than there were men, and that it was unfair for a woman to go without a man just to keep to having one wife. Personally, I find this answer a little humorous. In 1838, Robert Cole’s testimony gave some insights into family relationships. His half brother was in fact his cousin, son of his mother’s sister. His son could also be his nephew, son of his sister. A son in law would be a man married to either his niece or his daughter. One other term, found in testimonies, is “kind of brother”, and it isn’t clear, what it means, I suspect, it may in fact mean children of the same father, but of a different mother’s (probably not siblings), or perhaps children of their maternal Uncle.
The Choctaw didn't keep track of ages, and the white man's preoccupation with it must have been hard to fathom. I read an account that stated since at the time, their was no written language, when the rolls of 1831 were done, marks were made on sticks to represent each household, and they had a system of making additional marks, and tying on smaller sticks to represent older male children, and younger children, and that these were done with great care. When all the sticks were done, they were taken to be counted. Apparently, when some tried this with Col. William Ward to attempt to stay in Mississippi under Article 14, of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, it was less successful. Many of the claimants under article 14, were never written down by Ward, and thus we have the Net Proceeds case which took decades to settle. Testimonies from three distinct time frames can illuminate the claimants, and their families. It is perhaps most difficult for a researcher to trace the Mississippi Choctaw, who while never leaving Mississippi, are not found on any census, while their brethren in the new nation are at least documented in 1856, 1885, and 1896. Testimony was taken in 1838, 1844 and 1875 from claimants and their heirs. A two volume book, found in Washington, D.C, and in the Oklahoma Historical society has transcriptions of these testimonies. Also, there are land testimonies, a separate entity that also discusses some of the earliest family records that existed within Mississippi. Often these testimonies are overlooked by genealogists and historian’s alike, and erroneous connections have been made and published that contradict these testimonies. Often the source is an oral tradition 40 or more years removed from those that testified.
Another common fallacy is that each native name is unique. Names were phonetically spelled, especially in the earliest documents, and thus are spelled a variety of ways. Also, words in the Choctaw language at times can be very close in sound, so we don’t know for sure any name is the absolutely correct one, and census documents of 1856 in the Choctaw Nation and on the Armstrong Rolls will show individuals with identical or very similar names. Names were not unique, we don’t suspect two people named Jane or John are the same because they have the same name, and researching the Choctaw, or any native tribe requires the same principal.
Historians tend to emphasize the breakdown of the hereditary leadership after the treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek of 1832 however, research of the genealogy of the families yields enlightening information. The class system, and preferential treatment for leadership roles has not disappeared, it is in fact still evident as late as 1900. What has changed by the mid 1850’s is a political system of two parties, one made primarily of full bloods, the other of mixed, and the elected terms of leadership. The prerequisite of education also tends to add weight to the merit of the elected Chiefs, yet Coleman Cole, who was chief during the settlement of the Net Proceeds case could neither read nor speak English.
A look at the Choctaw politics from 1805-1832 brings to mind three chiefs, often called the last hereditary chiefs of the Choctaw. Although the matrilineal system was slowly eroded away to a political machine, the Choctaws who were prominent tended to come from mixed blood families, many of whom we know had ties to those last three. The following is a look at the districts. From 1800-1900, we have a total of 45 Chiefs, from the separate districts, and from when the nation combined to one individual acting as principle chief of the whole nation. After 1834, terms for the Chiefs were generally 4 year terms, as the Choctaw had created their own system of government modeled after the United States. Of these 45 Chiefs, only 13, were full bloods, and we have 7 linked directly to Chief Pushmataha, and his nephews, 10 who descend from the same lines as Moshulatubee, and 10 who descend from Shumaka, and are presumed to share a lineage with Apuckshunnubbee. Of the remaining 18, 6 are full bloods, and the 12 mixed bloods have a dead end, where we can’t trace the female relative to its end. A historian of Choctaw history will be aware that in the period before 1832, especially before 1800, the white men who married into the nation married the female relatives of the local and district Mingos and leading men. Testimonies from the court of claims cases show the full blood and mixed blood kinfolk knew their lineages and relatives, but in the pursuing years, most families have lost that history.
Each town had its own Mingo under a matrilineal system, and each district had what the United States referred to as a Principal or District Chief. Prior to 1805, the chiefs were distinguished by the French, English, and American’s and Spanish by medals, given to the Mingos the government parlayed with. A Great Medal Chief was the equivalent of the District Chief. In 1786, the towns which the Mingos come from is mentioned, but historical records show that many of these men were not usually representatives in this sort of parlay, but had been sent there by Franchimastubbee while he attended a treaty with the Spanish. Among the attendee’s of 1786 were, Yockenahoma Great medal chief of Soonacha, Yoke Hoopie, Mingo of Boktuklo, Mingo Hoopie of Hashooqua, Tobaca, great medal Chief of Congeto (Oklafayala district), Pushmastubbe of Senyazo (Gorget Captian, not a Mingo), and 13 small medal Mingos with 12 other Captains. It is suspected, as he mentions meeting George Washington, that Pushmataha was among the Captains.
In 1801 a treaty is signed by Tuskona Hopaii, (lower towns) Toota Humma, Homo Mastubby,(six towns) Oak Chume, (upper towns) Poos Coos, (lived near Chickasawhay 2 he signs a treaty in 1803 giving land to the U. S. near this river) and several of their captains.
In the treaty of 1802 we see a clearer picture of the system by which the districts were represented. Signing for the lower towns and Chickasawhay are Mingo Tuska Hopaii, Pushmataha, and Mingo Poos Coos 1st and 2nd, signing for Six Towns was Tuskahoma, Homomastubby, Latalahomma, and Mooklahoosoopoieh. The Upper towns were represented by Oak Chume, and TuskeMaiby.
It isn’t until 1805 we see the three best known Chiefs for the districts, Oklafayala (western) is Apuckshunnubbee, Oklahannali (Six Towns) is Pushmataha, and Okla Tannap (Eastern) is Homo Mastubby, father of Moshulatubee. It is also evident, that Mingo Poos Coos, who had represented that district, is no longer Chief, having likely died.
Okla Hannalli, seen commonly to refer only as to the Six Towns, was geographically the lower district of the Choctaw Nation. Among the towns in the district were Koosa or Kunsha and Chunkee. Its present day counties include Jasper, Newton, Lauderdale in Mississippi and part of Washington County in Alabama. The best known mixed blood families from this area were the Garland and Juzan families.
Thus we have known Okla Hannalli Chiefs from 1801 until the three district system was abolished during the civil war. Many of the historical accounts of the Choctaw give an incomplete listing of these chiefs, and virtually none of the historians have researched the genealogy of the tribe.
Key to colors
Blue-Pushmataha relative Red-Moshulatubee Relative Purple- Apuckshunnubbee relative
Old Nation, (Mississippi)
1801-1805 TUSKONA HOPIA, MINGO PUSH COOS (KUNSHA)
DEC 1824-JUNE 1825 OKA LAH HOMMA, nephew of Pushmataha3
JUNE 1825 TO SEPTEMBER 1828 TAPPENAHOMA, Another nephew of Pushmataha
SEPT 1828 TO 1834 JOHN GARLAND Nephew of Pushmataha
NITAKECHI ** Presumed Nephew, may be from male sibling
**1829 through 1832 was a time of turmoil within the nation. The US government was pushing for emigration as agreed in 1820, and the Choctaw, mostly the full bloods, were trying to avoid any further treaties that ceded land. The politics at one point were so volatile that the Choctaws were on the brink of a Civil war. Nitakechi and his followers refused to recognize leadership of Garland, so from 1830-1832 it depends on the viewpoint in some cases on who was actually the Chief. Primarily among the full bloods, Nitakechi was acknowledged, but among the mixed bloods, and from the government John Garland was recognized for part of this time frame. By 1832, it is clear that Nitakechi is Chief as he places his nephews in charge of emigration of his towns, and emigrates with them.
New Nation, Pushmataha District
1834-1838 NITAKECHI nephew of Pushmataha
1838-1841 PIERRE JUZAN4 nephew of Nitakechi
1841-1844 NITAKECHI nephew of Pushmataha unproven
1844-1846 ISAAC FOLSOM son of Nathaniel Folsom, related to Moshulatubee
1846-1850 SILAS FISHER5
1850-1854 GEORGE FOLSOM, brother of Isaac Folsom, related to Moshulatubee
1854-1857 NICHOLAS COCHNAUER, unknown lineage
Oklafayala district, the western towns has a clearer lineage of the Mingo’s for a longer time frame. Franchimastubbee, with his second in hand Tobaca, are among the most influential Chiefs from the close of the Choctaw Civil war in the 1750’s until the mid 1790’s. Turner Brashears, and the brother’s Michael and Louis Leflore, and their large families are from this district.
Old Nation, Mississippi
1760’S THRU 1795 FRANCHIMASTUBBEE6
Tobaca was his brother in law.
Simon Favre married one daughter in mid 1770’s
1805-1824 APUKSHUNNUBBE son of Peyahuma suspected he is a nephew of Franchimastubbee, as the hand picked successors, sons of Tobaca didn’t replace him.
1824-1828 or 1829 ROBERT COLE, again, suspected to be nephew of Apuckshunnubbee, his mother Shumaka was of Shokihumma descent.7
1828-1832 GREENWOOD LEFLORE, great nephew of Cole, Shumaka descendant
New Nation, Apuckshunnubbee District
1834-1838 THOMAS LEFLORE, son of Michael Leflore, unknown lineage
1838-1842 JAMES FLETCHER, unknown lineage
1842-1850 THOMAS LEFLORE
1850-1857 GEORGE HARKINS, Shumaka descendant
This district which lied close to the Chickasaw nation and into Sumter and Choctaw counties of Alabama included the Tombigbee River. Many of the families within this district have ties to the Chickasaw nation. Many of the mixed bloods who were prominent among the Choctaw also resided here, their father’s being, Noah Wall, Benjamin James, an Unknown Gardner, William Riddle, John Walker, and the three Folsom’s, Nathaniel, Ebenezer and Edmond.
Chief Homomastubby, also seen as Mushulatubee, or Moshulatubee the first is the first clear district Chief. Mingo Poos Coos was from Kunsha which is in the southern district, and could not be district chief of this district. Cushman gives an unclear historical account, but we know that Nathaniel Folsom married two nieces or sisters of either Poos Coos, or Homomastubbee. I suspect, given the antagonistic relationship between David Folsom and Moshulatubee, that David Folsom was not a first cousin of Moshulatubee, but likely of his father. In 1805 Edmond Folsom, David’s older brother was taking part as a second in command, but then all of a sudden, in 1820, after he agreed to work for the US to encourage emigration to the new lands, he disappears from a leadership role. His brother David is active in the politics by 1824. Interestingly enough, we have several mixed blood families, from the same town in the old nation, and there are confirmed relationships to Chief Moshulatubee among some of them. I suspect, that Nikita, wife of Ebenezer Folsom, and the wife of Edmond Folsom, (who lives in the same village), were daughters of one of the local Mingos or headmen.
Old Nation, Mississippi
? to 1805 unclear
1805-1816 Homomastubby/Moshulatubee I presumed nephew of Poos Coos
1816-1832 Moshulatubee II son of Homomastubbee
1829-1832 DAVID FOLSOM Nephew of Homomastubbee8
1834-1836 MOSHULATUBBEE II
1836-1838 JOSEPH KINCAID Nephew of Moshulatubee
1838-1842 JOHN McKINNEY , unknown lineage, wife was a daughter of Daniel McCurtain
1842-1846 NATHANIEL FOLSOM, Nephew of Homomastubby
1846-1850 PETER FOLSOM, son of Edmond Folsom, unknown lineage
1850-1854 CORNELIUS McCURTAIN, nephew of Robert Cole, Shumaka descendant
1854-1857 DAVID McCOY, unknown lineage
COMBINED DISTRICTS (1857-1860 were called Governors)
1857-1858 ALFRED WADE unknown lineage
1858-1859 TANDY WALKER, great nephew of Moshulatubbee
1859-1860 BRAZIL LEFLORE, brother to Greenwood, Shumaka descendant
1860-1862 GEORGE HUDSON, mixed blood, unknown lineage
1862-1864 SAMUEL GARLAND, son of John Garland
1864-1866 PETER PITCHLYNN son of John Pitchlynn, great nephew of Moshulatubbee
1866-1870 ALFRED WRIGHT, full blood
1870-1874 WILLIAM BRYANT, lineage unknown
1874-1878 COLEMAN COLE, son of Robert Cole, Shumaka descendant
1878-1880 ISAAC GARVIN, Father Henry Garvin, unknown Choctaw lineage
1880-1884 JACK McCURTAIN, Shumaka descendant
1884-1886 EDMUND McCURTAIN, Shumaka descendant
1886-1888 THOMPSON McKINNEY, full blood
1888-1890 BENJAMIN SMALLWOOD, Shumaka descendant
1890-1894 WILSON JONES, son of Nat Jones, Unknown lineage
1894-1896 JEFFERSON GARDNER9, Unknown lineage
1896-1900 GREEN McCURTAIN, Shumaka descendant
1 According to a court of claims testimony of Robert Cole these were not the two moieties or clans, but instead they were tokinholitta to which he belonged and cushapoglea the other. Could not marry within own clan. Children belong to clan of mother. Every person's clan is known, attend to each other's funerals. Captains and officers are selected from most suitble. Each clan takes care of their own poor and infirm. Before Doaks stand if married within an uncle would take woman away from husband and whip her.
2Recent found that he was chief of Kunsha (Koosa).
3 I doubt he was ever chief but he does testify in 1844 that he is the brother of Tappenahoma and the nephew of Pushmataha
4 Pierre is the great nephew of Pushmataha, and was the nephew of Oka Lah Homma, and Tappenahoma. It is presumed he is also a nephew of Nitakechi, or a relative by most historians, but there is doubt as to this relationship.
5 Silas Fisher is presumed to be the son of Joseph Fisher and Elizabeth Brashears, her mother is supposedly the daughter of Apuckshunnubbee by most researchers, I tend to believe she was a relative rather of Franchimastubbee, and also of Apuckshunnubbee.
6R. Turner Brashears had close ties to him, and it is suspected his wife was Apuckshunnubbee’s daughter or his niece, one historian suggests his wife was a daughter of Franchimastubbee. I think most likely given the time frame his first wife was a relative of Franchimastubbee.
7A recent find of a letter of Coleman Cole has me doubting this at this time
8 The family relationships of Poos Coos and the Folsoms come from Cushman and as we learn more, it is becoming more clear that there is room for doubt that David Folsom was a relative.
9 Although I can’t link Jefferson to a line of the three Chiefs, he is a descendant of Michael Leflore of Oklafayala district, and James Gardner of the Moshulatubee district in the Old Nation. Given the time frame, it is likely he descends from some Mingo lines.