This wonderful speech was given in 1938 by the Choctaw historian and linguist, James Culberson at Tuskahoma upon the dedication of the Choctaw Council House.
“Now, my friends, I wish to say something about the full blood Choctaw Indians and their leaders who pioneered into this country in the 1830s and made the beginnings of the state of Oklahoma. The history of the peoples of other races has shown that, in time of a national crisis, there has always arisen a leader to tide the people over such a crisis and this is very true of the Choctaw Indians.
While the Choctaws were living in peace and happiness in their original homes beyond the Mississippi River, they were organized for social purposes into the Iksa or clans, the rules of which have been lost in pages of the past and also in the great Removal to this country.
The families and the tribe were very closely united by the Iksa or clan to which they might belong, and this in turn was ruled by a Headman or Chief of his clan, and therefore the entire tribe was ruled by the Chiefs of several clans or Iksas.
There were a number of these Iksa but only three of them have any influence or importance in the public affairs of the Choctaw people and I shall mention them in the order in which they appear.
- HAIYUP ATUKLA or Twin Lakes – the Iksa of which Mosholatubbee was the Chief or Leader.
- OKLA HANNALI or the Six Towns – the Iksa next in importance whose Chief or leader was known as Pushmataha, and one of the greatest men of the Choctaw people for the great territory he wrestled from the General Jackson in the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek by which the Choctaws acquired all the territory from the Arkansas state line to the state of Colorado.
- OKLA FALAYA or Long People – the Iksa whose chief man or Leader was Apukshunnubbee who was also a Delegate and a principle figure in negotiating the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek.
These last two mentioned men; namely, Pushmataha and his co-patriot, Apukshunnubbee, were the promoters of the sale whereby the Choctaws secured such good terms in the deal for the western territory, but they did not live to see the consummation of the trade they had secured for their people for they both died in that service – Pushmataha while in Washington in 1824 on business relating to this treaty that was afterwards known as the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek; and Apukshunnubbee, while on [the same] journey to Washington to meet the Government officials in regard to this treaty, [falling to his death one night at Maysville] in the state of Kentucky.
Each of these Iksa played a very important part in the history of the Choctaw people, while they lived in their old homes before the migration, and more especially during the migration, for the simple reason that they removed to this new country under the leadership of their Iksa chieftains.
Mosholatubbee was born somewhere in the beginning of the 18th century on about the year 1800, as nearly as can be ascertained, and had practically no education so far as we know but he grew to manhood in the midst of the heated controversy among his people as to the grave question:
Should the Choctaw sell their lands and homes and move all their belongings to a far wilderness?
This was a very vital question to all the people and was the cause of much strife and dissension and Mosholatubbee did not hesitate to take a very prominent part of the discussion as he was a man of great eloquence and strong personality and very patriotic and devoted to his people.
He denounced the U.S. Government in no uncertain terms for the promises that they had already broken when they had formerly sold small parts of their lands under the solemn treaty that they would not at any future time be bothered or be asked to sell any more of their lands. He went throughout the entire [Choctaw] country speaking against any sale of any lands and became well known to all the people as the one man who dared to speak his mind on this great question.
However, after the final Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek had been signed in 1930, he realized more than most of his co-patriots that it was useless to plead any longer. After he had time to reflect on what had happened, he told his friends that he had decided that there was nothing else to do but to go to the new country in the West and that he was going to ask all his friends to go with him and all the Iksa to go too, as he wanted them to all be together in whatever change this might bring upon them.
And so Mosholatubbee, the man of decision, began to make speeches to his people to persuade them to go with him as he told them that he would lead them into that far strange country and help them to get located after they had reached that land.
This Iksa, to which he belonged, told him that they had decided to do as he suggested, and so the Iksa, Haiyup Atukla, got their possessions together and almost in a body followed the lead of Mosholatubbee into the far and unknown country to start life anew.
They came by the hundreds and the thousands at the behest of this unlearned man Mosholatubbee in whom they had implicit confidence and faith and he did not betray that faith for in all their troubles and sufferings on the long, wearying trail by land or the river, he had a word of cheer for them, and finally came to his promised land at Skullyville to the Choctaw Agency in 1832, which had deprived them of their homes, but which now was to provide them the means of getting settled in life again.
Mosholatubbee allowed his people to rest at, in and near Skullyville after they had obtained for their sustenance or rations as the same treaty provided, and then he took them by groups and bands into the prairies and the rich bottom lands of the Holeytosha, the Brazil and the Little and Big Sans Bois Creeks and settled them upon the lands of their choice, and also on the Poteau River and its tributaries did he settle the families and colonies of the Haiyup Atukla Iksa. And among those followers of the Mosholatubbee was my father [John “Tushpa” Culberson] who belonged to that Iksa.
And so we see that for this crisis that the Choctaw people had to face on this occasion, there was brought forth a great leader who need be no greater for the special occasion and none could have been more faithful to his trust or more loyal to his people in their dire need and probably no one else could have soothed their heartaches better that he, and so whatever may been his faults, for this very humane act, Mosholatubbee became IMMORTAL to the Choctaw people. Mosholatubbee died and was buried in an unknown grave somewhere in or near Skullyville at an early age in the year 1835.
When the Choctaw people adopted a constitution and a form of government they recognized the valuable services of these talented men and named the judicial districts of their nation for them; namely, “Mosholatubbee” was given to what was called the first district, and “Pushmataha” was called the second district, and “Apukshunnubbee” was called the third judicial district of the Choctaw Nation.
And so, my countrymen and friends, it is with the greatest of pleasure that I this day memorialize these three great men and patriots who gave their lives for the good of their people without hope of reward; to Mosholatubbee who was my godfather, and Pushmataha who wrested a domain from the great General Jackson for his people, and the less mentioned but no less famous Apukshunnubbee who gave equal devotion for all.”
~~Delivered By JAMES CULBERSON, Choctaw Roll #6722, Durant, Oklahoma
Source: Choctaw Council House Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society Research Division
Mr. Culberson was a great historian who understood the heart and soul of his people. He made many important contributions to the Oklahoma Historical Society and authored several articles for its periodical, The Chronicles of Oklahoma. Mr. Culberson was also half-Scotch, his mother Lucy (McDonald) being the daughter of a Scotchman who had come into the territory prior to the Civil War and had operated a blacksmith shop at old Skullyville. For more, see his Memorial Page. An excerpt from his obit:
An outstanding linguist, Mr. Culberson was interpreter for the Choctaw nation for many years, served as interpreter in both the Indian and white courts, and transcribed many documents from the Choctaw to the English language. He was secretary for Green McCurtain when the latter was chief of the Choctaws and was prominently associated in the distribution of Indian payments before statehood. At one time he served as Indian district clerk. During his later years, Mr. Culberson was used frequently by the state and federal courts as interpreter when Indians who could not speak English were witnesses. At the time of his death he was a member of the Choctaw council headed by Chief W. A. Durant and president of the Indian Credit Association.
NOTE: The spelling of the Chiefs’ names and of the Iksa names comes directly from Mr. Culberson’s type-written speech in the archives of the Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society.
***Much GRATITUDE for spending time on a Choctaw Journey with me.***