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Chickasaw Constitution

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The Chickasaw clan system, as a social and government structure, had been disintegrating slowly since the mid 1700s with European contact. By the time of Removal in 1837, the Chickasaw people had developed and were operating under a code of written laws. These laws were abandoned when the Chickasaw Nation was placed as a district within the government of the Choctaws in Indian Territory. Unhappy with this arrangement, Chickasaw leadership campaigned for separation. This was granted with a treaty agreement signed in 1855.

In 1856, the Chickasaw people gathered at Good Spring on Pennington Creek in Tishomingo to draft their own constitution. It provided for a three-department system of government—executive, legislative and judicial. With minor changes over the years, the document served the Chickasaw people well until its dissolution in 1906 in preparation for Oklahoma statehood.

From 1906 until 1971, through federal legislation, U.S. presidents appointed Chickasaw Nation governors. These governors were charged with the oversight of tribal land and the closing out of remaining business interests. Once accomplished, it was the goal of federal officials to completely absorb the Chickasaw Nation into the national purpose. During this time, Chickasaw people resisted these assimilation policies by embracing their unique social and cultural differences within their individual communities.

With the self-determination policies of the Nixon administration, Chickasaws were allowed to hold official tribal elections in 1971. This was the beginning of the exciting and sometimes painful process of reestablishing Chickasaw Nation government. In 1979, a draft of a new constitution was developed based on the old 1856 version. In the four years that followed, tribal officials worked tirelessly to revise, update and formulate a constitution to fit the needs of a modern Chickasaw society. This was accomplished with the ratification of an official tribal constitution in 1983. Like before, the new constitution established a three-department system of government. Once again, tribal sovereignty and the Chickasaw Nation Constitution are in place, as they should be, serving their people well.

Last Updated: 06/25/2018