The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
The Choctaw, and their ancestors, have called the region now known as the Southeast home for centuries. The first mention of the Choctaw name in modern history was recorded in 1675 by a Spanish priest in Florida. He warned early settlers against traveling too far to the west lest they meet the fearsome “Chahta.” This name is still what the Choctaw call themselves today.
The United States and the Choctaw signed a number of treaties through the years that laid the course for the Choctaw’s future. The first, in 1786, reaffirmed the boundaries of Tribal land and reaffirmed Choctaw sovereignty. However, from 1801 to 1830, the Choctaw signed a series of treaties with the United States, which eventually led to the loss of all territory east of the Mississippi, some 32 million acres of land, and a move to present-day Oklahoma.
Fortunately for the Choctaw, the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek allowed Choctaw who did not want to go to the new territory to stay. Some 4,000 Choctaw chose not to leave, despite a great deal of coercion. Those who remained in Mississippi survived the rest of the 19th century by living off the land or becoming tenant farmers and sharecroppers on land that had once been theirs.
In the early 20th century, the poor conditions the Choctaw were living in brought the attention of the federal government. During the 1920s, the Bureau of Indian Affairs established elementary schools in the main Choctaw communities as well as the Choctaw Agency and a hospital in Philadelphia, MS.
Using procedures authorized under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians’ Constitution was ratified in 1945 and officially recognized by the federal government. The first Tribal Council was little more than an advisory committee, set up to approve BIA decisions. As time went on, the council gained more authority and expertise, and eventually took over the direct administration of the Choctaw Reservation and its many programs.
The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is the state’s only federally recognized Indian Tribe. Today, enrolled membership in the Tribe exceeds 11,000 individuals, all of whom have at least a 50 percent degree of Mississippi Choctaw blood. Two-thirds of the Tribal population is under the age of 25.
The Choctaw Indian Reservation contains more than 33,000 acres situated throughout 10 counties in east central Mississippi and one in Tennessee. Most of this land is held in trust for the Tribe by the federal government.
During the past four decades, the Tribe has experienced an outstanding social, economic and educational rebirth. A strong and stable Tribal government continues to make extraordinary differences in the lives of its Choctaw citizens.
Since 1979, with the first stages of economic development being established, the Tribal government has grown into a large and complex organization. The Tribe is well known and highly respected for its successful exercise of Choctaw Self-Determination and its serious-minded approach to good government and good business.