The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is one of three Federally recognized tribes of Choctaw Indians. On April 20, 1945, this band organized under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Also in 1945 the Choctaw Indian Reservation was created in Neshoba and surrounding counties in Mississippi. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is the only Federally recognized Indian tribe in the state.
By a deed dated August 18, 2008, the state returned Nanih Waiya to the Choctaw. The ancient earthwork mound and site, built about 1 CE-300 CE, has been venerated since the 17th century as a place of origin of the Choctaw ancestors. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw have made August 18 a tribal holiday to celebrate.
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (commonly referred to as the Choctaw Nation) is a federally recognized Native American tribe with a tribal jurisdictional area comprising twelve tribal districts. The Choctaw Nation maintains a special relationship with both the United States and Oklahoma governments. As of 2011, the tribe has 223,279 enrolled members, of which 84,670 live within the state of Oklahoma. The tribal jurisdictional area is 10,864 square miles (28,140 km2), a total of 233,126 people live within these boundaries, the majority of whom are not Choctaw.
The chief of the Choctaw Nation is Gary Batton, who took office on April 29, 2014 after the resignation of Gregory E. Pyle. The Choctaw Nation Headquarters is located in Durant, Oklahoma, though the Choctaw Capitol Building is in Tuskahoma, Oklahoma; it is now the Choctaw Museum and home to the Judicial Department Court System.
The Choctaw Nation is one of three Choctaw tribes; the others are the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians and Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Those are descendants of Choctaw who resisted the forced relocation to Indian Territory. The Mississippi Choctaw preserved much of their culture in small communities and reorganized as a tribal government under new laws after the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.
Those Choctaw who removed to the Indian Territory, a process that went on into the early 20th century, are federally recognized as the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The removals became known as the “Trail of Tears.”
“I like living in this community, and I like being Choctaw, but that’s all there is to it.
Just because I don’t want to be a white man doesn’t mean
I want to be some kind of mystical Indian either.
Just a real human being.”
Beasley Denson, Secretary/Treasurer
of the Choctaw Tribal Council, 1988
(Creation story of the
Choctaw People of Tennessee and Mississippi)
The Choctaw People say that when the People first came-up out of the ground, People were encased in cocoons, their eyes closed, their limbs folded tightly to their bodies. And this was true of all People, the Bird People, the Animal People, the Insect People, and the Human People. The Great Spirit took pity on them and sent down someone to unfold their limbs, dry them off, and open their eyes. But the opened eyes saw nothing, because the world was dark, no sun, no moon, not even any stars. All the People moved around by touch, and if they found something that didn’t eat them first, they ate it raw, for they had no fire to cook it.
All the People met in a great Pow-wow, with the Animal and Bird People taking the lead, and the Human People hanging back. The Animal and Bird People decided that dark was not good, but cold and miserable. A solution must be found!!! Someone spoke from the dark, “I have heard that the people in the East have fire”. This caused a stir of wonder, “What could fire be”!!! There was a general discussion, and it was decided that if, as-rumor-had-it, fire was warm and gave light, they should have it too. Another voice said, “But the people of the East are too greedy to share with us”. So it was decided that the Bird and Animal People should steal what they needed, the fire!!!
But, who should have the honor!!! Grandmother Spider volunteered, “I can do it!!! Let me try”!!! But at the same time, Opossum began to speak. “I, Opossum, am a great Chief of the animals. I will go to the East and since I am a great hunter, I will take the fire and hide it in the bushy hair on my tail”. It was well know that Opossum had the furriest tail of all the animals, so he was selected.
When Opossum came to the East… he soon found the beautiful-red-fire jealously guarded by the people of the East. But Opossum got closer and closer until he picked up a small piece of burning wood, and stuck it in the hair of his tail, which promptly began to smoke, then flame. The people of the East said, “Look, that Opossum has stolen our fire”!!! They took it and put it back where it came from and drove Opossum away. Poor Opossum!!! Every bit of hair had burned from his tail, and to this day, Opossums have no hair at all on their tails.
Once again, the Pow-wow had to find a volunteer Chief. Grandmother Spider again said, “Let me go!!! I can do it”!!! But this time a bird was elected, Buzzard. Buzzard was very proud. “I can succeed where Opossum has failed. I will fly to the East on my great wings, then hide the stolen fire in the beautiful long feathers on my head”. The birds and animals still did not understand the nature of fire. So Buzzard flew to the East on his powerful wings, swooped past those defending the fire, picked up a small piece of burning ember, and hid it in his head feathers. Buzzard’s head began to smoke and flame even faster!!! The people of the East said, “Look!!! Buzzard has stolen the fire”!!! And they took it and put it back where it came from. Poor Buzzard!!! His head was now bare of feathers, red and blistered looking. And to this day, buzzards have naked heads that are bright-red and blistered.
The Pow-wow now sent Crow to look the situation over, for Crow was very clever. Crow at-that-time was pure white, and had the sweetest singing voice of all the birds. But he took so long standing over the fire, trying to find the perfect piece to steal that his white feathers were smoked black. And he breathed so much smoke that when he tried to sing, out came a harsh, Caw!!! Caw!!!
The Council said, “Opossum has failed. Buzzard and Crow have failed. Who shall we send”!!!
Tiny Grandmother Spider shouted with all her might, “LET ME TRY IT PLEASE”!!! Though the council members thought Grandmother Spider had little chance of success, it was agreed that she should have her turn. Grandmother Spider looked-then like she looks-now, she had a small torso suspended by two sets of legs that turned the other way. She walked on all of her wonderful legs toward a stream where she had found clay. With those legs, she made a tiny clay container and a lid that fit perfectly with a tiny notch for air in the corner of the lid. Then she put the container on her back, spun-a-web all the way to the East, and walked tip-toe until she came to the fire. She was so small, the people from the East took no notice. She took a tiny piece of fire, put it in the container, and covered it with the lid. Then she walked back on tip-toe along the web until she came to the People. Since they couldn’t see any fire, they said, “Grandmother Spider has failed”!!!
“Oh No”, she said, “I have the fire”!!! She lifted the pot from her back, and the lid from the pot, and the fire flamed up into its friend, the air. All the Birds and Animal People began to decide who would get this wonderful warmth. Bear said, “I’ll take it”!!! but then he burned his paws on it and decided fire was not for animals… for look what happened to Opossum!!!
The Birds wanted no part of it, as Buzzard and Crow were still nursing their wounds. The insects thought it was pretty, but they too, stayed far away from the fire.
Then a small voice said, “We will take it, if Grandmother Spider will help”. The timid humans, whom none of the animals or birds thought much of, were volunteering!!!
So Grandmother Spider taught the Human People how to feed the fire with sticks and wood to keep it from dying, how to keep the fire safe in a circle-of-stone so it couldn’t escape and hurt them or their homes. While she was at it, she taught the humans about pottery made of clay and fire, and about weaving and spinning, at which Grandmother Spider was an expert.
The Choctaw remembered!!!
They made a beautiful design to decorate their homes, a picture of Grandmother Spider, two sets of legs up, two down, with a fire-symbol on her back.
This is so their children never forget to honor
Grandmother Spider: Fire-bringer!!!
Walk in Peace
Contributed by: Three Feathers
Articles From the Choctaw newspaper Bishinik.