Characteristic Chickasaw HeadThe Chickasaw were a warlike tribe of American Indians who migrated to the Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma in 1832 after they’d been forced to sell their lands around the Mississippi to the US government. Other tribes were compelled to move as well and the route they took was called the Trail of Tears.

The subduing of such a previously indomitable tribe was inevitable, but they’d given their opponents a hard time previously. Warrior training of boys began as soon as they were born when instead of being wrapped up warmly they were placed on panther skins. Both sexes had their foreheads flattened while they were babies and when they grew upĀ  they removed all body hair in favour of tattoos. They wore their hair long except that the men would have a single lock of hair on a bald scalp, a scalp lock, when going to war.

The Spartan life of the young boys led to them being fast runners and excellent swimmers. One of the games they played which tested their skills was a ball game that lasted a whole day and involved several communities. It was a brutal contact sport which bears similarities with the forerunner of football in Medieval England.

The preferred method of warfare of Chickasaw warriors was surprise attacks by small war parties, in which technique they were extremely successful and much feared. They believed they would be haunted by any warrior who went unavenged and so they would always take revenge. They had numerous enemies among fellow tribes and almost no friends. After various experiences with Spanish conquerors and French traders, whom they were able to defeat when other tribes failed to do so, they allied themselves with the British who supplied them with large quantities of firearms. In return, the Chickasaw provided the British with slaves for their plantations. These slaves weren’t taken from among their own people, but captured from other Native American tribes. The Chickasaw were to pay for their support of the British during the American Revolution when some of their people had their lands in Georgia confiscated in 1783.

Native American woman memorial statue, Oklahoma City
Native American woman memorial statue, Oklahoma City

The Chickasaw, known as the Unconquered or the Unconquerable, were a key factor in the defeat of the rival claims of the French and the Spanish for control of the United States. However, when Oklahoma State was created in 1907, their tribal government was dissolved and the Chickasaw Nation ceased to exist. When the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act was passed in 1936, they were too stubborn to reorganise under it. However they did so under a later constitution and are now the eighth largest tribe in the United States.

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