Living in the Land of Death: The Choctaw Nation, 1830-1860

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With the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Choctaw people began their journey over the Trail of Tears from their homelands in Mississippi to the new lands of the Choctaw Nation. Suffering a death rate of nearly 20 percent due to exposure, disease, mismanagement, and fraud, they limped into Indian Territory, or, as they knew it, the Land of the Dead (the route taken by the souls of Choctaw people after death on their way to the Choctaw afterlife). Their first few years in the new nation affirmed their name for the land, as hundreds more died from whooping cough, floods, starvation, cholera, and smallpox.
     Living in the Land of the Dead depicts the story of Choctaw survival, and the evolution of the Choctaw people in their new environment. Culturally, over time, their adaptation was one of homesteads and agriculture, eventually making them self-sufficient in the rich new lands of Indian Territory. Along the Red River and other major waterways several Choctaw families of mixed heritage built plantations, and imported large crews of slave labor to work cotton fields. They developed a sub-economy based on interaction with the world market. However, the vast majority of Choctaws continued with their traditional subsistence economy that was easily adapted to their new environment.
     The immigrant Choctaws did not, however, move into land that was vacant. The U.S. government, through many questionable and some outright corrupt extralegal maneuvers, chose to believe it had gained title through negotiations with some of the peoples whose homelands and hunting grounds formed Indian Territory. Many of these indigenous peoples reacted furiously to the incursion of the Choctaws onto their rightful lands. They threatened and attacked the Choctaws and other immigrant Indian Nations for years. Intruding on others’ rightful homelands, the farming-based Choctaws, through occupation and economics, disrupted the traditional hunting economy practiced by the Southern Plains Indians, and contributed to the demise of the Plains ways of life.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870136849
  • Publisher: Michigan State University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2004
  • Series: Native American Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 202
  • Sales rank: 1,480,140
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Donna L. Akers, Associate Professor of History and Ethnic Studies at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an enrolled tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Her research specialties include American Indian Studies, Indigenous Women, Global Indigenous Peoples, Genocide in the US, Comparative Colonization, Native Peoples of North America, Human Trafficking, race, gender, and ethnicity, and Decolonization Studies. She has published numerous books and articles and book chapters on Native Americans and Indian-US relations.

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Table of Contents

1 A brief history of the Choctaw people to 1817 1
2 History, change, and tradition 21
3 The physical and spiritual world of the Choctaw people 41
4 After Doak's stand : Indian Territory in the 1820s 67
5 A perfect picture of chaos 87
6 A new life in the land of death : decade of despair 103
7 Marking death literal 117
8 Cultural continuity and change 133
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 22, 2009

    Choctaw Nation in Indian Territory - Native American history

    LIVING IN THE LAND OF DEATH - The Choctaw Nation, 1830-1860 by Donna L. Akers. Michigan State U. Press, 1405 South Harrison Road, Manly Miles Building - Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5202;; 202+xxvii pp. $24.95 trade paper, ISBN 0-87013-684-4. photographs, notes, bibliography, index. Twenty percent of the Choctow Native Americans died in the forced relocation from their ancestral lands in Mississippi to Indian Territory (in present-day Oklahoma) as a result of the U. S. government's Indian Removal Act of 1830. But this was only the beginning of their travails. In Indian Territory, they faced hostility from tribes already settled there, along with diseases, natural disasters, and starvation. Akers, a professor of history at Purdue and a Choctaw Nation tribal member, follows how the Choctaws managed to overcome such hardships by intermixing with other groups and developing their own micro-economy based on cotton plantations linked to the world market for this commodidity. Like other tribes, the Choctows also had to deal with betrayals of agreements with them by the U. S. government. At best, they worked out an ambivalent mode of survival involving adaptations to regional economic and social conditions and measures to preserve their identity and heritage even though they had been transplanted. Akers sets out the historical account with a multicultural sensitivity to the Choctow's perduring, though at times frayed, desire to hold on to to their traditonal ways.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2012

    Disjoined, activist history

    Akers has good reason to point out the horrible actions of the US government towards the Choctaws; owever, she quickly jettisons any semblence of objectivity in her analysis. Want to understand the Choctaws--read Kidwell

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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