My Fifth Great-Grandfather, Chief Mushulatubbee of Okla Chahta
I am the eldest child of Brian Hunter, who’s the eldest son of Marjorie Hunter (née Tubby). My grandmother is the eldest child of McKinley Tubby, a WWII veteran (c. 1920–1999), who himself was the sixth child of Simpson and Minnie Tubby according to a 1929 census. My great-great-grandfather, Simpson is a son of Lewis Tubby, who’s a son of Aliktabbi, who is a son of Chief Mushulatubbee who died in 1838 (Swanton, 102). Mushulatubbee was “the last great chief of the Choctaw” (Swanton, 127).
His greatness came from his desire to preserve ancestral ways in the face of American expansion westward. He also acted in the best interest of his people as best he could, up to and including making the westward migration in the Trail of Tears to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). There, a few short years after migrating and settling on the Arkansas River near Skullyville, he was elected chief of a district that bore his name. His community ran along the Arkansas and Canadian Rivers (Akers, 94). Mushulatubbee died in 1838 from smallpox along with over 700 other Choctaw (Akers, 115). In the end, the white man killed him, because smallpox was a European disease that returned each year since they came to America.
My great-great-grandfather, Simpson was to have been made chief upon reaching the age of forty, but when he joined the white man’s church (Methodist), he invariably eliminated himself from this possibility. Mushulatubbee was the most traditional chief in Indian Territory up to rejecting Christianity. One reason he was so opposed to Christian missionaries was that he held them responsible for the Choctaw people’s dispossession from their ancestral land (Akers, 104–05). When Simpson joined the white man’s church, long after the Chief died, he was thought to have rejected his own people to assimilate and, therefore, could not lead them.
Mushulatubbee > Aliktabbi > Lewis Tubby > Simpson Tubby > McKinley Tubby > Marjorie Hunter > Brian Hunter > Me
Mushulatubbee had two wives, one being entirely Choctaw and the other being 1/4 white, and a brood of children (Lincecum, 27–28). Mushulatubbee, being the principal chief of the Eastern region, ruled until Choctaw moved west of the Mississippi in 1830–31. Before the migration, Choctaw polity consisted of three autonomous regions led by their chief and his council of captains. Mushulatubbee would often imbibe in strong drink. However, as Choctaw culture appeared to assimilate more to white man’s culture, Chief and other Choctaw leaders waged war on alcohol using a group of five to twenty mounted men who patrolled the nation and were known as Lighthorsemen (Akers, 37–38), but I don’t believe Chief himself quit drinking. He also owned slaves, and his district held the majority of enslaved people (Krauthamer, 40).
Mushulatubbee was the remaining survivor of three great chiefs who traveled to Washington in 1824. The goal of this trip was to avoid American demand for lands based on a previous treaty from 1820. However, Apuckshunnubbee and Pushmataha died on the journey, the former in Kentucky on the way to Washington, and the latter in the capital (Akers, 70–72). As Choctaw became more American, they passed a constitution during this time that limited a chief’s tenure to four years upon which election took place. The office of the chief (Mingo) was hereditary through matrilineal lines and was for life before the constitution (Akers, 38). This is likely why Swanton referred to Mushulatubbee as the last great chief of Choctaw (Swanton, 127) because he saw a transition to the way things had always been done to a more American style. This, in turn, threatened the ancestral customs and identity of the Choctaw.
In 1830, white men wanted to move Choctaw to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) so that they would give up their lands in Mississippi. By this time, Mississippi was its own state and abolished tribal governments and laws. In turn, they were to become subject to Mississippi law which intended to drive them out. Mashulatubbi was in favor of removal to Indian territory, but more so that the people could set their own terms and not be forcibly governed by the United States. The chiefs ran up against odds when the captains who ruled alongside them resisted removal due to the Choctaw having earlier served in United States military. The Dancing Rabbit Creek Treaty outlined how some could stay in Mississippi (Article 14) which was seen as a compromise. Mushulatubbee desired to emigrate if the government would appoint him chief, and his migration would urge other full-bloods to go West, so it was believed (Osburn, 10–11).
The Choctaw served alongside Andrew Jackson to oppose the Upper Creeks and to defeat the British at the Battle of New Orleans. They truly believed they were allies of the Americans. Before the westward migration of many Choctaw, the whole of the tribe consisted of 19,000 by 1830, but from 1831–1833, 13,000 were moved to the west leaving only 6,000 in Mississippi. From 1801–1830, my tribal people ceded over 23 million acres to the United States thanks to American exploitation of the Choctaw so that what’s left of our ancestral land today is just over 35,000 acres.
This last great chief, Mushulatubbee my ancestor, did the best he could. He was friendly to the white man and from accounts written about him, a jovial fellow. His good nature, like the rest of the Choctaw, was only exploited when they knew nothing of European markets, debt, and the value of what they had. They lost so much, but he will forever go down as one of the last links between the ancestral and modern Choctaw.
Akers, Donna L. Living in the Land of the Death: The Choctaw Nation, 1830–1860. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2004.
Krauthamer, Barbara. Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2013.
Lincecum, Gideon. Pushmataha: A Choctaw Leader and His People. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2004.
Osburn, Katherine M. B. Choctaw Resurgence in Mississippi: Race, Class, and Nation Building in the Jim Crow South, 1830–1977. Lincoln. University of Nebraska Press, 2014.
Swanton, John R. Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Choctaw Indians. 1931: repr., Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2001.