The Chickasaw territory proper was in northern Mississippi, at a considerable distance from South Carolina, but about 1753 a body of Chickasaw Indians settled on the South Carolina side of Savannah River, to be near the English trading posts and to keep in contact with the English, who were their allies.
Before 1757, most of them moved over to the immediate neighborhood of Augusta, Georgia and remained there until the period of the American Revolution. In that war they sided against the colonists and their lands were confiscated in 1783.
The meaning of the name Chickasaw is unknown, though the ending suggests that it might have been a place name. Also called:
Ani'-Tsl'ksfl, Cherokee name.
Linguistically, the Chickasaw were closely connected with the Choctaw and one of the principal tribes of the Muskhogean group.
In northern Mississippi, principally in Pontotoc and Union Counties. Also in South Carolina and North Carolina, as well as several other states.
Aside from some incorporated tribes such as the Napochi and Chakchiuma, no major subdivisions other than towns are mentioned until late in Chickasaw history when we hear of three such subdivisions: those of Tishomingo, Sealy, and McGilvery, named after their chiefs. These, however, were probably superficial and temporary.
All of the above, with one or two exceptions noted, were close to one another in the general location given above.
Like most of the other Muskhogean peoples, the Chickasaw believed they had come from the west. They thought that they had settled for a time at a spot in northern Alabama on the north side of the Tennessee River long known as Chickasaw Old Fields. There is little doubt that Chickasaw had once lived at that place whether or not the whole tribe was so located.
The first Europeans to become acquainted with the tribe were the Spaniards under Hernando De Soto, who spent the months of January, February, and March of 1541 in the Chickasaw country, and in the latter month were attacked by the tribe with such fury that they were nearly destroyed.
Little is heard of the Chickasaw from this time until French explorers and colonists arrived, at the end of the seventeenth century. They found the tribe in approximately the position in which De Soto had encountered them, and they found them as warlike as before. Although the French tried to make peace with them, English traders had effected establishments in their country even before the settlement of Louisiana, and they remained consistent allies of England while England and France were fighting for the possession of North America.
In the south, their alliance meant much the same to the English as Iroquois friendship meant to them in the north.
As practically all of the surrounding peoples were devoted to the French, and the Chickasaw were not numerous, they were obliged to maintain a very unequal struggle until the final victory of England in 1763, and they suffered severely in consequence.
They supported the Natchez Indians when they revolted in 1729, and when French expeditions from the north and south were hurled upon them simultaneously in 1736, they beat both off with heavy losses.
In 1740, a gigantic attempt was made to conquer them, but the greater part of the force assembled dissolved without accomplishing anything. A small French expedition under Celoron succeeded in obtaining a treaty of peace advantageous to the French but this soon became a dead letter, and French communications up and down the Mississippi River were constantly threatened and French voyageurs constantly attacked in the period following.
In 1752 and 1753, the French commanders Benoist and Reggio were defeated by the Chickasaw. At an earlier period, shortly before 1715, they and the Cherokee together drove the Shawnee from their settlements on the Cumberland, and in 1745 they expelled another Shawnee band from the same region.
In 1769, they utterly routed the Cherokee on the site of the Chickasaw Old Fields.
In 1793-95, war broke out with the Creeks, who invaded their territories with 1,000 men, but while they were attacking a small stockade, a band of about 200 Chickasaw fell upon them, whereupon an unaccountable terror took possession of the invaders, and they fled precipitately.
There was at one time a detached body of Chickasaw on the lower Tennessee River not far from its mouth.
They also had a town among the Upper Creeks for a brief period (Ooe-asa), and a settlement near Augusta, GA, from about 1723 to the opening of the American Revolution.
The Chickasaw maintained friendship with the American Government after its establishment, but, being pressed upon by white settlers, parted with their lands by treaties made in 1805, 1816, 1818, and 1832.
The actual migration to new homes in what is now Oklahoma began in 1837 and extended to 1847.
The Chickasaw and Choctaw mingled rather indiscriminately at first but their lands were separated in 1855 and the Chickasaw set up an independent government modeled on that of the United States which lasted until merged in the new state of Oklahoma.
Mooney (1928) estimates that there were about 8,000 in 1600.
In 1702, Iberville estimated that there were 2,000 families of Chickasaw, but in 1715 a rather careful enumeration made by the colony of South Carolina, gave 6 villages, 700 men, and a population of 1,900.
In 1761, a North Carolina estimate gives about 400 men; in 1766, about 350.
Most of the subsequent estimates of the number of warriors made during the eighteenth century vary between 250 and 800.
In 1817, Morse (1822) places the total population at 3,625; in 1829 General Peter B. Porter estimates 3,600 (in Schoolcraft, 1851-57, vol. 3); and a more accurate report in Schoolcraft gives 4,715 in 1833.
The figures of the United States Indian Office between 1836 and the present time vary from 4,500 for 1865 to 1870 to nearly 11,000 in 1923, but this latter figure includes more than 5,000 freedmen and persons intermarried in the tribe, and, when we allow for mixed bloods, we shall find that the Chickasaw population proper has usually stood at between 4,500 and 5,500 during the entire period.
There has probably been a slow decline in the absolute amount of Chickasaw blood owing to constant intermixture with other peoples.
The 1910 census returned 4,204 Chickasaw and that of 1930, 4,745.
The Chickasaw were noted:
(1) as one of the most warlike tribes of the Gulf of Mexico
There are post villages of the name in Mobile County, AL, and Mercer County, OH, and Chickasha, a variant form, is the name of the county seat of Grady County, OK.