Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Choctaw Indians

Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Choctaw Indians

Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Choctaw Indians

Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Choctaw Indians

Synopsis

Long considered the undisputed authority on the Indians of the southern United States, anthropologist John Swanton published this history as the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) Bulletin 103 in 1931. Swanton's descriptions are drawn from earlier records-including those of DuPratz and Romans-and from Choctaw informants. His long association with the Choctaws is evident in the thorough detailing of their customs and way of life and in his sensitivity to the presentation of their native culture. Included are descriptions of such subjects as clans, division of labor between sexes, games, religion, war customs, and burial rites. The Choctaws were, in general, peaceful farmers living in Mississippi and southwestern Alabama until they were moved to Oklahoma in successive waves beginning in 1830, after the treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. This edition includes a new foreword by Kenneth Carleton placing Swanton's work in the context of his times. The continued value of Swanton's original research makes Source Material the most comprehensive book ever published on the Choctaw people.

Excerpt

By John R. Swanton

Each of the larger tribes which formerly occupied portions of the Gulf region of our country had its own peculiar characteristics, and this was as true of those known to have belonged to the same linguistic stock as of tribes alien to one another in this respect. One associates with the Natchez a developed solar worship with a temple and perpetual fire, absolutism in government, and tragic funeral rites; with the Creeks a highly developed clan system, a confederate organization second in North America above Mexico to the Iroquois only, striking annual ceremonies, and prowess in war; with the Chickasaw warlike prowess of a still higher order, second to none except perhaps that exhibited by the Iroquois, and a social organization reminiscent of both Creeks and Choctaw. the feeling of a student for the Choctaw, however, might be described as of a powerful indefiniteness. Although during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the disparity in numbers between this tribe and the Creeks was probably not so great as it later became, the Choctaw were always, it is believed, the more populous and they appear to have been six or eight times as numerous as the Chickasaw. They lived as near to the French as the Creeks did to the English and much nearer than the Chickasaw. the important relation they bore to French colonial dominion, since they covered the flank of the Louisiana colony and the mouth of the Mississippi, was well recognized, and relations between them and the French, Spaniards, and Americans in succession were constant and intimate. Friends and foes alike testify to their courage, and a modified form of their language had become a trade medium which extended throughout most of the territory of the present States of Mississippi and Louisiana and along the whole of the lower Mississippi River. Yet how poorly press agented were the Choctaw is shown by the fact that this trade language received its name either from the Chickasaw or the little Mobile tribe. the fact of the matter is there were few customs observable among them sufficiently striking to attract the attention of European travelers -- little "copy stuff," in other words, such as would interest officers of . . .

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