The Choctaw – Part 2
Any attempt to understand Indian removal must include the role of Indian leaders such as Choctaw Chief Mushulatubbee. Even though other Choctaws made their voices heard, chiefs negotiated with the United States government and signed the removal treaty. The reasons they agreed to such a drastic measure tells us much about their priorities and about their reactions to a rapidly changing world.
During his career, Mushulatubbee, a leading chief of the Choctaw eastern division, supported three treaties that yielded Choctaw lands to the United States. From at least the eighteenth century there existed among the Choctaws three principal geographic and political divisions: the western, eastern, and Six Towns (or southern) divisions. The western division villages were scattered around the upper Pearl River watershed, the eastern division towns were located around the upper Chickasawhay River and lower Tombigbee River watersheds, and the Six Towns were distributed along the upper Leaf River and mid-Chickasawhay River watersheds.
These divisions reflected the diverse ethnic origins and makeup of the Choctaws. Originally, the Choctaws were separate societies located throughout east-central Mississippi and west-central Alabama. These independent societies first joined together sometime after 1540 (when Hernando de Soto’s expedition ravaged the Southeast with disease) and before 1699 (when the French arrived on the Gulf Coast). Each district maintained its own group of chiefs and other leaders well into the nineteenth century.
Mushulatubbee had become a chief after the death of his maternal uncle Mingo Homastubby in 1809. Mushulatubbee had earned the right to represent the eastern division as a chief by following the traditional Choctaw route to male success: he had distinguished himself in the spiritual realm by becoming an accomplished warrior and war leader, particularly during fighting against the Osage and Caddo Indians west of the Mississippi River.