The Choctaw Indian Reservation consists of 35,000 acres of trust land scattered over 10 counties in east central Mississippi. The nearly 10,000 members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians live in the eight reservation communities of Bogue Chitto, Bogue Homa, Conehatta, Crystal Ridge, Pearl River (the site of tribal headquarters, the industrial park, Pearl River Resort, the Choctaw Health Department/Center, and other main tribal services), Red Water, Standing Pine, and Tucker.
When Europeans began settling America in the 16th century the Choctaw were living in the south-eastern United States, largely in the area that was to become Mississippi. The Choctaw lived off both agriculture and hunter gathering. Their principal source of food was corn, beans and pumpkins, nuts, fruit, fish, bear and deer. In the wars between the French and the British during the 18th century the Choctaw allied themselves with the French. Consequently, following the defeat of the French in the French and Indian war (1754-63), some of the Choctaw land was taken from them by the British, forcing some to move westwards in search of new land.
Mississippi Choctaws have a strong tradition of doing business. As early as 1700, the tribe had developed a strong economy based on farming and selling goods and livestock to the Europeans who were beginning to venture into Choctaw territory. Trade between the Choctaws and other Southeastern tribes had long been established. Throughout the 18th century, the Choctaws were a prosperous people with large land holdings. Their lands spread over what is now central Mississippi.
As the United States of America came into being, however, the expansion of the new nation brought pressures for more land and the federal government turned its attention to land held by American Indians. Like other Southeastern tribes, the Choctaws were placed in the position of negotiating over their lands. In fact, after the formation of the Mississippi Territory in 1798 and the election in 1800 of Thomas Jefferson to the U. S. presidency, the federal government had an increasing hunger for Choctaw land. President Jefferson issued his military strategy that the federal government acquire all the lands bordering the east side of the Mississippi River for purpose of defense against France, Spain, and England.
Shortly thereafter, in 1801, the Treaty of Fort Adams was signed in which the Choctaws ceded to the United States 2,641,920 acres of land from the Yazoo River to the thirty-first parallel. That was the first in a series of treaties between the Choctaws and the United States. More and more Choctaw land was ceded to the federal government with each successive treaty — between 1801 and 1830, the Choctaw ceded more than 23 million acres to the United States. The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830 marked the final cession of lands and outlined the terms of Choctaw removal to the west. Indeed, the Choctaw Nation was the first American Indian tribe to be removed by the federal government from its ancestral home to land set aside for them in what is now Oklahoma.
When the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed, there were over 19,000 Choctaws in Mississippi. From 1831 to 1833, approximately 13,000 Choctaws were removed to the west. More followed over the years. Members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians are descendants of the proud Choctaw individuals who refused to be removed to Oklahoma in the 1830s.