The Mowa Band of Choctaw Indians

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Sandra Hayes
Student #74959
Professor Dale Johnson
BBA 300 Intercultural Communications
December 13, 2011

The MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians

The Choctaw Indians of Alabama are a band of Indians that managed to remain behind in the outer regions of north Mobile and south Washington counties after their tribal lands were given up to the United States in 1830. Beginning in 1830, the most significant period of their removal from their homelands, the majority of the Choctaw tribe was forced along the Trail of Tears settling on reservation lands in Mississippi and Oklahoma. A small group of about 45 families avoided removal by settling and hiding out in the woods surrounding the small communities of Citronelle, Mt. Vernon, and McIntosh. “There were four major families: the Reed, Weaver, Byrd, and Rivers families. The next largest are the Snow, Johnston, Taylor, Orso, Chestang, and Fields families. Other family names that appear often within the group are Evans, Davis, Cole, Frazier, Smith, Lofton, Hopkins, and Sullivan” (Matte, Greenbaum and Brown, Origins of the MOWA Band of Choctaws). Over time, other Indians in the area that were without tribal communities of their own joined the Choctaw Indians of Alabama. Today, the Choctaw Indians of Alabama are known as the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians. This tribe took on the name of MOWA in the 1970’s when they began to seek government recognition to identify the Indians in Mobile and Washington Counties who are descended from several Indian Tribes: Choctaw, Creek, Cherokee, Mescalero, and Apache. Over time the tribal members have intermarried or partnered with nearly 30 different tribes nationally. The name MOWA is an acronym which combines the first syllables of Mobile and Washington counties; the two counties where the tribal reservation straddles both counties. The name “MOWA” does have a distinctive ring to it; but the name does not have deep roots in Indian linguistics. It was taken on because it was similar to tribal names adopted by other groups who have sought federal recognition. It was also adopted to distinguish them from the Mississippi Band of Choctaws. The MOWAs was the first tribe in Alabama to become incorporated and state recognized.

Very little is known of the MOWA Choctaw Indians between the 1830’s and 1890’s because they kept very few written records. Most of their history was passed down by mouth from generation to generation. Their efforts to avoid removal, persecution, and to retain their way of life by hiding in the swamps and piney woods of Mobile and Washington counties; an area that contained enough game to provide their food supply and a good water source that was used for farming was unsuccessful after the white man more than likely used deceptive schemes and underhanded tactics to take ownership of the land that the Choctaws inhabited. The MOWAs lived in poverty and isolation until the 1940’s, struggling to remain alive. Outside of their community there was very little work they were allowed to do. The MOWAs were uneducated so they had to perform work that could be done using their hands. The men hunted and sold game and deerskins and prided themselves on being great negotiators. During the Great Depression in the 1920’s, logging became the primary occupation for many Indians. They begin to log and cut ties for railroads but their major occupation became cutting pulpwood. The women often sold firewood and some of their local wares such as baskets; but the primary responsibility of the women was the farming. An inter-communal system of farming was established where each family raised crops that was typical of the area such as squash, beans, and corn. These crops was raised on communal land and shared among all of the families in the tribe. Many of the women still employ the “three sisters” method of gardening with beans, squash, and maize. The Choctaw are a traditionally matrilineal society, which means they trace their...
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