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A Southern People: Cultural Change and Identity Formation in the Choctaw Nation, 1800-1861

Presentation by Josh Phillips. The inscription on the tombstone of antebellum Choctaw chief David Folsom states that he was “the First Republican Chief of the Chahta Nation, the promoter of industry, education, religion, and morality.” This presentation explores how Choctaw leaders actively fostered changes in government, religion, the economy, and social relationships with whites. While staying true to Choctaw culture, these leaders guided a process of acculturation that met with a high degree of popular approval and seemed to provide a pathway to preserve Choctaw sovereignty. These changes were not just adaptations to a broad, generic American society, but to a particularly Southern one. By the time of the Civil War, the Choctaws had come to identify strongly with their white Southern neighbors and cast their lot with them for reasons that include slavery but go beyond it. White Southern leaders came to hold the Choctaws in high regard and offered them a very favorable treaty of alliance that seemed to secure the best chance to defend Choctaw sovereignty and fulfill the vision of leaders like David Folsom.

Friday, April 16, 2021

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