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Story Archives: Life of the Choctaws when U.S. arrived Natchez in 1798
|Life of the Choctaws when U.S. arrived Natchez in 1798|
(12th in a series)
When the government of Spain handed possession of Natchez and what became the Mississippi Territory over to the United States in 1798, no group of people watched more intently than the American Indians.
For decades their way of life had been under assault by Europeans. As a consequence, some Indian tribes began to farm and ranch as a means of survival and to continue trade.
The deal between the U.S. and Spain for the region -- sealed in the Treaty of San Lorenzo -- contained one article that dealt with the Indians. It said both countries were to "maintain peace and harmony" with the Indian nations within the treaty boundaries. This treaty paved the way for American expansion and the belief of Manifest Destiny.
One Indian nation affected by the deal was the Choctaw Nation, which in 1798 had a population in the present day state of Mississippi of about 17,000. They had always been hunters, and although they continued to hunt into the 1790s, many farmed and raised livestock.
Historian Jim Barnett of Natchez, Historic Properties Director for the Mississippi Department of Archives & History, writes about the Native Americans of Mississippi in a new book to be published by University Press in May. The book is called, "Mississippi's American Indians," and covers the archaeology of the first Indian residents of the state through the removal of the tribes to Indian territory in Oklahoma in the 1830s.
In an interview last week, Barnett answered these questions:
QUESTION: What was the state of the Choctaw Nation on the arrival of the American government in 1798?
BARNETT: In the late 18th Century, the Choctaw confederacies were represented by three separate tribal groups. They were never united under one leader until after they were removed to Indian territory out west in Oklahoma.
The western division was a region known as the "upper towns," around the headwaters of Pearl River in present day Winston, Neshoba and Leake counties.
The eastern division was called the "lower towns" centered in the drainage area of the Sucarnoochee River into the lower Tombigbee River valley in what is now Kemper, Noxabee and Lauderdale counties.
The southern division was called the "six towns" and was clustered around the upper drainage of the Chickasawhay River in southeast Mississippi.
The confederacy divisions were in the upper reaches of these rivers when first contacted by the Europeans at the beginning of the 18th Century.
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