From ancestral migration to the Homeland, which encompasses parts of present-day Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee, to the purchase of the new homeland in south-central Oklahoma in the mid-1800s, Chickasaw culture and identity have remained resilient and strong.
Chickasaws were revered in ancient times by early European historians as "Spartans of the Lower Mississippi Valley." In December 1540, we faced Hernando de Soto and his Spanish conquistadors. After several months of continued disrespect and destruction from the Spaniards, our Chickasaw warriors launched a surprise night attack on the unsuspecting conquistadors, forcing them out of Chickasaw territory.
We conducted a successful trade business with other Southeastern Indians, and with the French and English nations, and lived an agrarian lifestyle. However, Chickasaws were quick to go to battle if necessary. We allied with the English during the French and Indian War (also known as the Seven Years’ War). Some early European historians credit the Chickasaw Nation’s victories over the French as the force behind the English prevailing in the French and Indian War, resulting in the United States being an English-speaking country.
Our Chickasaw people were removed to Indian Territory during the "Great Removal" or “Chickasaw Removal,” on what is commonly referred to as the "Trail of Tears." Other tribes forced from their Southeastern homelands were the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole. Chickasaws were one of the last tribes to be removed from our Homeland, because we negotiated our own removal terms. In 1837, the Treaty of Doaksville called for the resettlement of Chickasaws among the Choctaw Nation in Indian Territory. In 1856, the Chickasaws, in order to restore direct authority over our governmental affairs, separated from the Choctaws, formed our own government and elected our first governor—Cyrus Harris.
Tribal leaders established the capital at Tishomingo, adopted a constitution and organized executive, legislative and judicial departments of government, with the offices filled by popular election. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the Chickasaw Nation signed an alliance with the South and provided Chickasaw warriors to fight with the Confederacy. The respected Choctaw/Chickasaw Mounted Regiment, headquartered at Fort Washita, fought some of the last battles of the Civil War.
Although suffering hardships after the defeat of the Confederacy, we regained prosperity. Many of our people became successful farmers and ranchers as we once were in our Southeastern Homeland. We built many of the first schools, banks and businesses in Indian Territory.
After Oklahoma statehood in 1907, the president of the United States appointed the representative of the Chickasaw Nation. In 1970, Congress enacted legislation allowing the Five Tribes to elect their principal officers, and Governor Overton James was the first-elected governor of the Chickasaw Nation.
In 1983, a new Chickasaw constitution was adopted.