Friday, October 16, 2015

The Chickasaw Village

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 the county.

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 suffered together.

No comments:

Post a Comment