Choctaw History Notes

August 1991, BISHINIK, page 4

Learn your tribal history


In 1854, the Choctaw Council allowed for toll gates. The rates were as follows: “For each four wheeled wagon, or their vehicle, drawn by four or more horses, mules, or oxen with driver, the sum of fifty cents; for each four wheeled wagon, or other vehicle drawn by one or two horses, mules or oxen, the sum of twenty-five cents; for each man and horse, the sum of ten cents; and for each animal in every drove of cattle, horses, mules, hogs, or sheep, one cent.”


Under a law passed by the General Council of the Choctaw Nation in 1854, all free males between the ages of eighteen and fifty years and all United States citizens, licensed mechanics and merchants, living in the Nation were required to work six days out of every year on the public roads or pay a fine of fifty cents per day. All schoolteachers and farmers belonging to the different institutions in the Nation, students in the schools, and doctors, were exempt from working on the roads.


Once in Indian Territory the Five Civilized tribes began applying the farming skills used in their former homelands in the southeastern U.S. Early in the nineteenth century the Choctaws learned to grow cotton in their Mississippi homeland. They brought this skill into the Choctaw Nation of southeastern Indian Territory, and planted the first cotton crop as early as 1825. Cotton farming was well established along the Red and Arkansas Rivers by the 1840s. The farmers used the steamboats which traveled up the Arkansas and Red Rivers to market their cotton.

Military Post

Ft. Towson was originally established in 1824 to protect a new frontier line and to establish federal authority on the international boundary with Mexico.

Ft. Towson’s major military role came during the war with Mexico (1846-1848). By the close of this conflict, Towson’s place as a frontier outpost was preempted with the establishment of forts farther to the west and its garrison was reduced drastically.

In 1854 Fort Towson was abandoned by the U.S. War Department and turned over to the Department of the Interior, which almost immediately turned the property over to the Choctaw Nation. In 1854 the Choctaw Council made Fort Towson the capital of the Choctaw Nation, and tribal councils were held there in 1855 and 1856. Many of the buildings at the fort, including those on officer’s row, were subsequently destroyed by fire in 1857. Fort Towson’s last use appears to have been during the Civil War, when it served as the headquarters of the Confederate forces operating in the Indian Territory and as a refuge for Indians loyal to the Confederacy.

The site of Fort Towson has been under the control of the Oklahoma Historical Society since 1968.

Written Constitution

The Choctaw was the first of the Five Civilized Tribes granted a domain in Oklahoma. The nation was organized in 1834 under a written constitution, the first constitution written within the boundaries of the state, adopted in a council held on the location which was named the Capital. The founding of a separate government by the Chickasaws in the western part of the Choctaw Nation in 1856, called for another Choctaw constitution, known as the Skullyville Constitution. Opposition to the Skullyville Constitution resulted in a convention of Choctaw citizens held in 1860, at Doaksville where necessary charges were made and a constitution finally drafted, referred to as the Doaksville Constitution, which remained in full force and effect in the Nation until 1907.

Indian Brigade

In January of 1864, when the first Choctaw-Chickasaw Indian Brigade was formed with Col. Tandy Walker in command, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations in their alliance with the Confederate government had reserved the privilege of limiting their activities to the Indian Territory. Regardless of this reservation, the the spring of 1964, by it’s own choice, Col. Walker’s brigade was transferred to Arkansas for service with the army of General Sterling Price and actively participated in the battle of Poison Springs, on April 19, 1864.