1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Choctaws
CHOCTAWS, Chahtas, or Chacatos (apparently a corruption of Span. chato, flattened), a tribe of North American Indians of Muskhogean stock. They are now settled in Oklahoma, but when first known to Europeans they occupied the district now forming the southern part of Mississippi and the western part of Alabama. On the settlement of Louisiana they formed an alliance with the French, and assisted them against the Natchez and Chickasaws; but by degrees they entered into friendly relations with the English, and at last, in 1786, recognized the supremacy of the United States by the treaty of Hopewell. Their emigration westward began about 1800, and the last remains of their original territory were ceded in 1830. In their new settlements the Choctaws continued to advance in prosperity till the outbreak of the Civil War, which considerably diminished the population and ruined a large part of their property. They sided with the Confederates, and their territory was occupied by Confederate troops; and accordingly at the close of the war they were regarded as having lost their rights. Part of their land they were forced to surrender to the government; their slaves were emancipated; and provision was claimed for them in the shape of either land or money. Since then they have considerably recovered their position. They long constituted a quasi-independent people under the title of the Choctaw nation, and were governed by a chief and a national council of forty members, according to a written constitution, dating in the main from 1838; they possessed a regular judicial system and employed trial by jury. Tribal government virtually ceased in 1906. The Choctaws number some 18,000. A few groups still linger in Mississippi and Louisiana. The Choctaw language has been reduced to writing, and brought to some degree of literary precision.