Lafayette County is situated in the portion of Mississippi occupied by the Chickasaw Indians upon the arrival of the first Europeagns. The Chickasaws, along with their cousins, the Choctaws, were the principal Mississippi tribes subjected to a series of r emoval attempts by the United States government, designed to bring about a clearance of valuable tribal-owned lands which were eagerly sought by increasing numbers of immigrant families. Lafayette County was one of the twelve original Mississippi countie s carved from the Chickasaw cessions, therefore the events which preceded removal are an important prelude to the formation of the county.
The Chickasaws, averaging only about four thousand persons, were a small tribe, yet were known for their prowess in warfare, being" hunters and fighters first and agriculturists only upon occasion."
However,by the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, they had ceased their more violent activities, and resigned themselves unenthusiastically to a pastoral routine.
While a few of the Chickasaws became prosperous frgom agricultural pursuits, patterning themselves in the mold of the white man, most of the tribesmen preferred an existence which centered around a modified version of old traditions. The men would devote some efforts to construction of houses and other community projects, but according to custom "spend most of their time on the game trail and warpath," while the women tended to domestic affairs and managed the plots where the small amount of crops were pl anted. When white civilization began to encroach upon the Chickasaw domain, game became less plentiful and the warriors of the tribe had fewer activities to keep them occupied,though as latp as 1815, at a time when government officials were prodding the Indians to migrate because of the supposed exhaustion of the game within their lands, the Chickasaws traded at least $23,812 worth of pelts, far more than any other tribe.
When the more pressing work had been accomplished, many members of the tribe repaired to an open area in the center of the town for dancing and athletic activity. Aa hunting and warfare became less of a viable vocation, the warriors found considerable ti me on their hands, and proceeded to occupy most of it in entertainment, usually involving drunkenness. This was interpreted as the height of idleness byw most white observers imbued with a Protestant heritage exalting the value of labor. The appearance o f lack of ambition in European terms on the part of the average Chickasaw man merely confirmed in the minds of the whites that Indians were incapable of assimilating European civilization, and particularly Chickasaw reluctance to develop a wholehearted de votion to agriculture solidified the belief that the tribe should not be allowed to remain on such valuable lands, if its members did not even desire to become serious farmers. The Indians who possessed business acumen and motivation that fit white stand ards usually were of mixed European and Indian parentage, examples being the numerous Colberts of the Chickasaws and the Leflores of the Choctaws. These individuals exercised influence of a degree far greater than their numbers would seem to justify, and were the persons with whom the government commissioners found it most profitable to negotiate for the cession of lands.
The mixed bloods tended to emulate their European fathers rather than their Indian mothers, with a result that through the process of education and association, they developed an affinity for civilization and its benefits, sharing the general aspiratiolns of the white population. This included the ownership and cultivation of land, with an impetus to display all of the trappings of a successful planter, such as a fine house and often substantial investments in slaves. In most instances, however, the ful l-blooded Indians refused to deviate from the old tribal ways, not realizing that coming to at least a partial accommodation with whiite civilization may have offered some benefits. The mixed bloods, through their development of economic wealth, were at a point where they could command far greater strength than their more primitive full-blooded brothers who were displaced from the positions where they could propagate and enjoy the old tribal customs. Yet there was no suitable substitute offered for the l oss of tradition and heritage, though many Indians sought an answer which might return tribal values to their accustomed place, but