The Chickasaw Village at the Chickasaw Cultural Center
The Chickasaw Village reveals a lot
about how the people lived. The first
building that is obvious is the Council House.
Larger than the other structures, it was the focal point of tribal life
and combined the functions of an auditorium, convention center, church, tribal
dance arena, and seat of government. It
features a sunken floor in the middle, and a fire was built in the center of
that. A trap door in the roof, operated
by ropes from the floor, opened to allow smoke to escape. Council members daily sat around the step
created by the sunken floor and settled current business. Women and children were free to sit around
the meeting council members, but could not participate.
When the Chickasaw were forced from
their Mississippi homeland to the Indian Territory, they first had to ‘move in’
with the Choctaw. In 1855, a treaty between the Chickasaw and
Choctaw tribes set aside lands for the creation of the Chickasaw Nation. It was in a log lodge or council house like
this that they created their own government and constitution, which served to
govern the Nation until they built their two-story brick capital building in 1858. The original log council house has been moved and
preserved at the Chickasaw Council House and Museum on Capitol Square, in
Tishomingo, OK. The brick Capitol was
replaced in 1898 by one of granite, but the Tribal Nation was forced to vacate
their capitol building when Oklahoma achieved statehood in 1907, so it could
be used as the Johnston County courthouse.
In 1992, the Chickasaw Nation was able to buy their building back from
Just above and clear of the left
roof line of the council house is a summer home. It is basically a pole shed. It is rectangular in shape, has a floor
elevated 2-3 feet above the ground to allow storage beneath, a thatched roof
for shade with open roof ends and eaves to allow free movement of any breeze
through the home. There were no sides to
the house, but thin panels on frames were ready to quickly be set against the side of the pole
shed and laced in place in the event of rain.
Shelves built between the poles allowed for storage and work surfaces.
Beyond the summer house are two
winter homes. These were built with a
spiraling floor plan similar to the pattern of a snail’s shell. The walls were of much heavier construction
with logs set on end in the ground, and then chinked or daubed with a mix of mud,
grass, and crushed shell. The
overlapping spiraling walls at the entrance would keep rain, snow, and wind
from blowing into the interior, and also offered a narrow opening that could be
further insulated with hung hides. The conical
roof was supported on four poles set in a rectangle in the center, and was
thatched with bark or grass. The floor
was often dug out to a depth of 2-3 feet around the fire ring, like the council
house, with a fire set in the center.
The shelf thus created was covered with work surfaces and bed frames
covered with hides.
The village may be surrounded with
a stockade wall, and the fields of crops would be set outside. They typically raised primarily corn, but
also squash, peas, beans, sunflowers, pumpkins, melons, and tobacco. The village had a communal crib for crop
storage, which was often raised several feet off the ground to provide for dry
storage underneath. They lived in a
socialist society where all worked for the common good, and all prospered or