Mississippi's American Indians

Mississippi's American Indians

James F. Barnett
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 272
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    Mississippi's American Indians
    Book Description:

    At the beginning of the eighteenth century, over twenty different American Indian tribal groups inhabited present-day Mississippi. Today, Mississippi is home to only one tribe, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. In Mississippi's American Indians, author James F. Barnett Jr. explores the historical forces and processes that led to this sweeping change in the diversity of the state's native peoples.

    The book begins with a chapter on Mississippi's approximately 12,000-year prehistory, from early hunter-gatherer societies through the powerful mound building civilizations encountered by the first European expeditions. With the coming of the Spanish, French, and English to the New World, native societies in the Mississippi region connected with the Atlantic market economy, a source for guns, blankets, and many other trade items. Europeans offered these trade materials in exchange for Indian slaves and deerskins, currencies that radically altered the relationships between tribal groups. Smallpox and other diseases followed along the trading paths. Colonial competition between the French and English helped to spark the Natchez rebellion, the Chickasaw-French wars, the Choctaw civil war, and a half-century of client warfare between the Choctaws and Chickasaws. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 forced Mississippi's pro-French tribes to move west of the Mississippi River. The Diaspora included the Tunicas, Houmas, Pascagoulas, Biloxis, and a portion of the Choctaw confederacy. In the early nineteenth century, Mississippi's remaining Choctaws and Chickasaws faced a series of treaties with the United States government that ended in destitution and removal. Despite the intense pressures of European invasion, the Mississippi tribes survived by adapting and contributing to their rapidly evolving world.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-246-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-2)
    (pp. 3-12)

    When I began work on this Heritage of Mississippi Series volume, I was completing a book about the history of the Natchez Indians (The Natchez Indians: A History to 1735). In my Natchez study, I made use of recent reevaluations of Natchez political structure suggested by anthropologists Marvin T. Smith and Karl G. Lorenz, which depict the Natchez as a confederation of three, and possibly four, different ethnic groups. It seemed that the “confederacy” model better explained the documented interaction between the Natchez and other tribes and Europeans. In the early history of the American Southeast, one does not have...

    (pp. 13-45)

    The intriguing story of Mississippi’s native people before historic contact is the hard-won result of a century of archaeological investigations. The amount of information that has been compiled about the state’s prehistory is truly remarkable given the widespread destruction of archaeological sites from agricultural and urban development. Archaeologists have found that Mississippi was home to a succession of prehistoric American Indian cultures stretching back at least 12,000 years.

    Mississippi’s diversity of physiographic regions and its network of rivers and streams influenced prehistoric settlement patterns, resulting in three distinct centers of cultural development within the state: the Mississippi River valley, the...

  6. Chapter 2. 1540–1684: EARLY EUROPEAN CONTACT
    (pp. 46-66)

    The interval between Columbus’s voyage and the founding of French Louisiana, a span of 190 years, has become known among archaeologists and historians as the Protohistoric period. During this period, Mississippi’s American Indians had only sporadic contact with the Europeans—principally Spanish—probing this hemisphere in search of opportunities for wealth and empire. The Protohistoric period ended with the commencement of permanent European occupation following La Salle’s 1682 Mississippi River expedition.

    The Protohistoric period was a time of profound change for the native people in Mississippi and throughout the Southeast. Over the course of these two centuries, mound building ceased,...

  7. Chapter 3. 1685–1715: THE ERA OF THE INDIAN SLAVE TRADE
    (pp. 67-106)

    For more than thirty years the native people in the Mississippi region lived with the specter of the Indian slave trade. It was a time when bands of Indian slave catchers, sometimes led by English agents and sometimes numbering in the hundreds, ranged across the Tombigbee River valley to the Mississippi River and beyond, and from the Tennessee River down to the Gulf Coast. Driving this chronic violence was the burgeoning Atlantic market economy that connected the southeastern Indians through the Carolina English to a trade network linking merchants in Europe and West Africa with their counterparts in the Americas....

    (pp. 107-144)

    By ridding the Southeast of the Carolina traders, the Yamasee War opened a window of opportunity for commerce and alliances that neither of England’s colonial rivals managed to exploit. Although the Spanish at Pensacola made tenuous alliances with the nearby Lower Creek villages, Spain’s declining imperial capabilities prevented the Florida colony from establishing a wider trade network.¹ For the French, the timing was bad. The French Crown’s decision to lease its Louisiana holding to a private enterprise, first to the financier Antoine Crozat and then to John Law’s Company of the West, resulted in a debilitating turnover in leadership at...

    (pp. 145-163)

    Fighting elsewhere in the French and Indian War overshadowed the intermittent violence in Mississippi, and battles won and lost in Canada and the Caribbean Islands determined the future of the Mississippi tribes. The terms of the 1763 Treaty of Paris divided French Louisiana between England and Spain, with the land east of the Mississippi River falling to the English while the Spanish received title to New Orleans and the land west of the river. In November 1763 the Choctaws and Chickasaws confronted the new reality at treaty conferences in Augusta, Georgia, and Mobile. In the changed political landscape, the Chickasaws...

  10. Chapter 6. 1801–1837: TREATIES AND REMOVAL
    (pp. 164-207)

    In the fall of 1801 a delegation of Chickasaw chiefs and warriors led by King Chinubbee gathered at Chickasaw Bluffs (present-day Memphis, Tennessee) to negotiate a right-of-access treaty with the United States (Treaty of Chickasaw Bluffs, signed October 24, 1801). Fifteen years had passed since the first U.S. treaties with the Chickasaws and Choctaws at Hopewell, South Carolina. Now, President Thomas Jefferson needed the Chickasaws’ assurance of safe passage for travelers and mail delivery between Nashville and the Natchez District. With the land west of the Mississippi River and the region below the thirty-first parallel under foreign control, Jefferson also...

    (pp. 208-213)

    If anything, Greenwood Leflore personified the type of Choctaw that Eaton and Coffee had in mind when they drafted Article 14 of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. In the best southern planter tradition, the mixed-blood chief skillfully managed his holdings in Carroll County, and by the 1850s his Malmaison cotton plantation comprised some 15,000 acres worked by over 400 slaves.¹ But Leflore was hardly representative of the approximately 5,000 Choctaws that remained in Mississippi after removal. Choctaw historian Clara Sue Kidwell has characterized the majority of those who stayed behind as traditionalists who clung to their “core identity, language,...

    (pp. 214-224)
    (pp. 225-236)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 237-273)
    (pp. 274-307)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 308-317)