Searching for the Bright Path: The Mississippi Choctaws from Prehistory to Removal

Searching for the Bright Path: The Mississippi Choctaws from Prehistory to Removal

Searching for the Bright Path: The Mississippi Choctaws from Prehistory to Removal

Searching for the Bright Path: The Mississippi Choctaws from Prehistory to Removal

Synopsis

Blending an engaging narrative style with broader theoretical considerations, James Taylor Carson offers the most complete history to date of the Mississippi Choctaws. Tracing the Choctaws from their origins in the Mississippian cultures of late prehistory to the early nineteenth century, Carson shows how the Choctaws struggled to adapt to life in a New World altered radically by contact while retaining their sense of identity and place. Despite changes in subsistence practices and material culture, the Choctaws made every effort to retain certain core cultural beliefs and sensibilities, a strategy they conceived of as following "the straight bright path." This work also makes a significant theoretical contribution to ethnohistory as Carson confronts common problems in the historical analysis of Native peoples.

Excerpt

I love the whites—I was always a friend to the whites. I believe I love their laws
better than my own. Loblolly Jack laughed at me because I loved the whites,
and wanted our people to live like them. But I am of no use now.
I can love them no more. My people say that I must die. How can I live?
OAKATIBÉ, quoted in William Gilmore Simms, The Wigwam and the Cabin

OAKATIBBÉ stood out among the forty or so Choctaws who picked cotton on Colonel Harris's plantation. Not only was he a full head taller than the rest, but of the three men who stooped among the long rows of fluffy white bolls, he was the only one who was neither aged nor infirm. Choctaw men and women regarded agricultural labor as women's work, a task inappropriate for healthy male hunters and warriors, and for his efforts Oakatibbé earned a measure of scorn to go along with the few dollars he collected at the end of the working day.

One Saturday evening Oakatibbé and the other workers lugged their bulging baskets of cotton up to Colonel Harris's cabin to be weighed. While the planter dutifully noted who had picked how many pounds, a locally prominent Choctaw man named Loblolly Jack expressed his displeasure with the colonel's scales and attempted to tip the balance in his wife's favor. Oakatibbé spotted Loblolly Jack's trick and accused the “rascal dog” of being a cheat. The two men drew their knives, only to be stopped by the colonel, who sent one of his slaves to fetch his shotgun.

Oakatibbé and Loblolly Jack had a long history of personal enmity, and when they resumed the argument in a local tavern just down the road from the plantation, their heated words escalated to blows. The brawl spilled out of the dramshop and onto the street, and at some point in the fray . . .

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