Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chickasaw Education After the Removal

After the Removal, the Chickasaws were despondent. Many had died and were continuing to die from exposure, malnutrition, and disease. In the new land the people lived clustered around government supply depots, instead in clan based villages as before. In the Removal treaty Chickasaw district had been included in the Choctaw Nation, a situation which the individual Chickasaw could never accept. In addition, the Choctaw had located the Chickasaw district far to the west of the Choctaw settlements, to create a buffer between them and the hostile plains tribes, who considered the eastern tribes as intruders, and repeatedly raided their settlements. The Chickasaw's only protection was Fort Towson, which was a full 70 miles east of their border. 

As a result, the Chickasaw were unable to even move into their district until 1844, when Fort Washita was built on its eastern border. Still most of the tribe waited until 1851, when Fort Arbuckle was built further to the west. It was only then that the Chickasaw began to establish their own farms and schools. In the meantime many of the Chickasaw lived in Choctaw settlements where there were some schools. Others remained in the vicinity of the old government supply depots, living off periodic annuity payments.  

       Map of Indian Territory: Note Ft. Towson in southeast corner, 
                 Ft. Washita just inside Chickasaw border,
            and Ft. Arbuckle in middle of Chickasaw Nation.

In spite of these handicaps, the Chickasaw did have some opportunities to educate their young people during the postremoval period. One of them was the Choctaw Academy in Blue Springs, Kentucky. The Choctaw Academy had been established in 1824 by the Baptist Church. Its superintendant was Richard Mentor Johnson, who had been vice president under James Van Buren. Johnson had first achieved notoriety as a Colonel in the war of 1812 when he allegedly shot and killed the great Shawnee Chief, Tecumseh. He used the following jingle during his campaign for vice president: "Rumsey Dumsey, Rumsey Dumsey, Col Johnson killed Tecumseh." 

In spite of Col. Johnson's notoriety as an Indian fighter, he did apparently have sympathetic feelings for the Indians and also for other victims of prejudice and oppression. Like Thomas Jefferson, he had a Negro mistress, and for many years he devoted himself to the education on Indian youths. The US government originally sent 25 students per year to the Choctaw Academy, and the number was later raised to 45. The Chickasaw removal treaty provided $3000 annually for ten years to send 10 young men to the Choctaw Academy, and several of the graduates later became leaders of the tribe. After the ten year period the Chickasaw made a contract with Plainview Academy in Connecticut to provide higher education to Chickasaw youths.

Footnote: Wikipedia under Richard Mentor Johnson, and Oklahoma, by Arrell Gibson, P 161.

The Choctaw also developed neighborhood primary schools and academies, equivalent to high schools, and some Chickasaws took advantage of these schools.

In about 1843 or 4 my great great grandmother Ela-Teecha's first husband, Jason McClure, was fatally stricken with hydrophobia, better known as rabies. My great great grandfather, Smith Paul, who had been working for McClure, then married Ela-Teecha. By the way, I don't believe this implies a scandalous affair by my great great grandmother while she was  married to McClure, as has been suggested by some. Smith Paul and Jason McClure were both Scotsmen, and they were friends. It was a difficult time. Ela Teecha was left alone by McClure's death to care for two small children. She was thirteen years older than Smith Paul, but she needed a husband, and so they were married. It was a practical and a compassionate arrangement.  

                                Smith and Ela-Teecha (Ellen) Paul                            

Ellen's older son, Tecumseh, was fourteen at that time, and Smith sent him to Boggy Depot where the Choctaw had a school. He stayed with William Guy, one of the conductors for the Chickasaw Removal who had married a Chickasaw woman and had remained in Indian Territory. Tecumseh was later a student at Post Oak Grove, in the Chickasaw Nation. After his education Tecumseh moved back in with the family, and later married a full blood Chickasaw named Mary McKenzie. Tecumseh McClure became a respected leader among the Chickasaw. He served in the Chickasaw senate and later became governor.  

Footnote: Leaders and Leading Men of the Indian Territory: Choctaws and Chickasaws, by Harry F. O'Beirne, 1891. P 308 

Ela-Teecha's daughter Catherine stayed with the family, and in about 1848 or 1850 she married Tom Waite, a farmer from Illinois. I'm not sure how much education she had, but as you will learn later, her dedication to providing education for her children was remarkable.  

With the building of Fort Washita in 1844, Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian missionaries began to establish churches, and when Fort Arbuckle was built in 1851, the Chickasaw provided the churches with funds to create schools in the new Chickasaw communities. Four academies were established: the Colbert and Burney Institutes for boys, and the Bloomfield and Wapanucka Academies for girls, as well as six neighborhood schools with an enrollment of 180 students. The Chickasaw achieved their independence from the Choctaw in 1854, and by 1856 they had written a constitution and had established their own government. Unfortunately the Civil War erupted in 1861, and again disrupted Chickasaw society in its attempts at nation building.

Map of Chickasaw Nation: Note Colbert Institute, Wapanucka Academy,
                Burney Institute and Bloomfield Acadamy

In 1851, when Fort Arbuckle was built, Smith Paul started farming in the area adjacent to the fort and soon he had won a contract to supply corn to the government for the soldiers there and also for the many Indian tribes which came to the fort for rations. This situation provided a unique education for Smith and Ellen's children: Sam, Jesse, and Mississippia, or 'Sippia,' who were 16, 14, and 6 when the Civil War began. According to my great uncle Buck, his father Sam was able to communicate in the languages of all the Five Civilized Tribes, as well as those of the Caddo, Comanche, Kiowa, and Wichita. He once hosted and served as interpreter at a meeting of the Intertribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes.  

 Map of Ft. Arbuckle Area (from Advancing the Frontier, by Grant Foreman)
Note six lines extending from left side of map pointing to: 1. Road to Wichita Mts, 2. Smith Paul's farm, 3. Area Reserved for Indian Purposes (campground for visiting tribes), 4. Road to Ft. Belknap, 5. Spring, 6. Ft. Arbuckle.

Uncle Buck also said that his father Sam completed the third reader in primary school and that he attended military school for two years. I have no further information about the 'military school.' It might have been provided by the officers of Ft. Arbuckle, but it was also common for Indian children to be sent east to school. Sam Paul obviously continued his education informally, because in addition to serving in the Chickasaw legislature, he also edited two newspapers and worked as an attorney in the Chickasaw court system. Sam's younger brother Jesse's education was probably similar to Sam's, but he suffered an untimely death, probably in the late 1860's, and little is known of him. Aunt Sippia left a description of her education after the Civil War which I'll include in my next post.

                                                          Sam Paul


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chickasaw Education in the Old Country

In the old days the Chickasaws, had a culture, long of history and rich in tradition and practical knowledge about their world, and there was much for a young boy or girl to learn. A girl had to learn which season was best to plant and harvest the three sisters - corn, squash and beans. They had to learn how to store the corn in corn cribs and the fruit in hay stacks, how to cure the meat in smoke houses for the winter, and how to season their cooking with spices and bear oil to cook the food for which they were renowned. The boys had to develop the toughness, the tracking skills and stealth which made Chickasaw warriors feared by the other tribes in battle. They had to learn to hunt, to recognize the signs of the deer and the bear in the forest. Some developed the wisdom and judgment to become leaders, and others were chosen to become healers. 

The Chickasaw lived in clans. There was the Minko clan from which the king or Minko was chosen, the Imosaktca or fish clan, to which my great great grandmother belonged, whose men were known as great fighters. The Tcukilissa or timber people who lived in the forest, hunting and fishing, and stayed to themselves. There were also the wildcat, bird, deer, raccoon, wolf, alligator, and skunk clans, each with its own place in the hierarchy, and each with its own special characteristics, but all were united as Chickasaws.  

The Chickasaw had legends about their origins west of the Mississippi River, and how the Great Spirit, Ababinili, had brought them to their home in the east, guiding them with a staff which he caused to lean in the direction they should go. There were legends about the origin of corn and tobacco, and about how the rattlesnake got its rattles. There were funny legends about how the rabbit fooled the alligator or the coyote. There were legends that taught lessons, like the story of a great hunter Ubiahuntatok, who challenged the great forest creature, Ihoff, who hung him up in a tree to teach him a lesson about humility. 

                           Ihoff and Ubiahuntatok, an illustration by Freda deOdis Flatt
                        from The Hunter Who Was Not So Great, A Chickasaw Legend
                                                    as told by Dorothy Milligan

To the Chickasaw there was no division between the spirit world and the physical world. There were good spirits and evil ones, spirits of the forest, and the spirits of the departed. Dogs were always kept nearby because they could see and warn the family when spirits were near. Special charms and ceremonies protected the Chickasaw from evil spirits and enlisted the aid of friendly ones. 

Since Chickasaw villages were distinguished according to clan, they were essentially extended family groups. Families were close, and lineage was traced through the mother. The mother's family, especially the aunts and uncles, were responsible for the care and education of children.  

In addition to traditional education, the Chickasaw benefitted by their intermarriage with several British and Scottish traders during the mid-eighteenth century. These white men taught their families to speak and understand English, and several of their sons became tribal leaders, advising and translating for the Chickasaw Council in treaty negotiations. This enabled the Chickasaw to negotiate more effectively with the US government than the tribes who had to communicate through interpreters. 

There was one treaty in which the Chickasaw were especially shrewd, the Treaty of Chickasaw Bluffs signed in 1801 for the construction of the Natchez Trace, a 400 mile road from Nashville Tennessee to the Mississippi River at Natchez, Mississippi. The road crossed both the Chickasaw and Choctaw Domains. At the insistence of the Chickasaw, the treaty stipulated that all businesses in the Chickasaw Domain be operated by Chickasaws. The Natchez Trace later became the most heavily traveled road in the southwest, and all the ferries, roadhouses, and trading posts were operated by Chickasaws.  

                                                  Map showing Natchez Trace

The Natchez Trace brought prosperity to the Chickasaw, who had seen the game in their hunting grounds dwindle over the years. The Council also requested that the rations paid by the US government to tribal members be paid in specie instead of in goods. Thereby the Chickasaw learned to use money in purchasing supplies and trading their produce. In 1829 the Chickasaw created a code of written laws.  

In 1819 the US Congress passed the "Indian Civilization Act" which subsidized Christian missionaries in establishing schools among the Indian tribes. When missionaries came to enlighten the Chickasaw they were treated with courtesy, but the Chickasaw showed little interest in their religion. The Chickasaw Council contributed money for schools, but later complained that the missionaries spent more time preaching than teaching.  

My great great grandmother Ela-teecha was born in about 1796, and she married a Scotsman named Jason McClure in about 1828 or 9. She had two children by him, Tecumseh in 1830, and Catherine in 1831. Ela-teecha was of the Imosaktca or fish clan, and she almost certainly lived with McClure in an Imosaktca village. She is said to have spoken English fluently, but since she was taught by her husband she spoke it with a Scottish brogue. Ela-teecha had a brother, Ja-pawnee, and four sisters. I only know the name of one sister, Kaliteyo, because my aunt was named for her. Little Tecumseh and Catherine were seven and six at the time of the Removal, so I'm sure some of their education was conducted according to tradition.  

Footnote 1: There are some who think Jason McClure came to live with the Chickasaws as a missionary, but in an interview with him reported in A Traveler in Indian Territory, the Journal of Ethan Allen Hitchcock, he's not described as a missionary, and there's no mention of him doing missionary work.   

                                    Jason, Ela-Teecha, and Tecumseh McClure

In 1830 the Indian Removal Act was passed, and the mission schools were closed in order to put pressure on the Indians to cooperate with the Removal to Indian Territory, the future state of Oklahoma. The Chickasaw held out until 1837, when they finally agreed to join their close relatives the Choctaw in Indian Territory. The Removal was a great tragedy for the Chickasaw people. Many lives were lost, and they found themselves in a strange land, surrounded by hostile tribes. But what was possibly as bad was the separation from their homeland and the spirits that protected them there, and the breaking up of the clans, which changed forever their way of life.