Last modified: 2010-11-06 by rick wyatt
Keywords: choctaw | oklahoma | native american |
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image by Donald Healy, 28 December 2007
map image by Peter Orenski based on input from Don Healy
Choctaw - Oklahoma
The Choctaw of Oklahoma were the first of the five "Civilized Tribes" to accept expulsion from their native lands, in what is now the southern halves of the states of Mississippi and Alabama, and move to Oklahoma (ENAT, 61-63). Along the "Trail of Tears" - the long march from the southeast to Oklahoma - the Choctaw lost almost a quarter of their people to disease, starvation, and attacks by whites.
© Donald Healy 2008
When the Civil War broke out in 1861 the Choctaw, along with most tribes forced into Indian Territory, sided with the Confederacy. During this alliance the Choctaw became the first United States Tribe to adopt a flag. That flag is
documented (FBUS, 256-258) as a light blue flag bearing a red circle edged in white in the center. Within the red circle are a peace pipe, a bow, and three arrows representing the three subdivisions of the Choctaw Nation. These subdivisions are named for three chiefs: Apuckshenubbee, Pushamataha, and Mosholatubbee (The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation, The Oklahoma Chronicles, XXXIII:4, Winter 1955-56, 357-358). That design is the basis of the Choctaw national seal to this day. A replica of this flag is displayed in the Oklahoma Historical Museum in Oklahoma City. It was used only in 1861-1864, but it has continued to inspire flags for the Choctaw in Oklahoma. A variant of this flag exists in the Oklahoma Historical Society (Emblems of Southern Valor, Joseph H. Chute, Louisville, Kentucky: Harmony House, 1990, 108-109).
In the 1970s, Paramount Flag Co. of San Francisco filled an order for Choctaw Nation flags. This reappearance of the Choctaw flag followed exactly the pattern of the first of the earlier flags, but drastically altered the colors. The field became dark red, the ring around the central disk became light blue while the disk changed to a deep yellow, and the bow, arrows, and peace pipe appeared in natural colors.
The current flag (sample flag provided by the Choctaw Nation, Durant, Oklahoma) follows this basic design, but adds more detail. The inner circle remains deep yellow, but the peace pipe and bow and arrows are now white edged in black. The peace pipe shows black smoke coming from it. The light blue ring is edged by two cords, a very narrow inner one and a wider outer one, both in light green. The blue ring bears a legend in black The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation". The deep red field has been changed to purple.
This flag seems to have been inspired by the drawing of the Choctaw flag carried by the Choctaw Confederate Troops as depicted in the 1958 sheet from the Oklahoma Historical Society entitled "Fourteen Flags Over Oklahoma" ("Official Seals of the Five Civilized Tribes", The Oklahoma Chronicles, XVIII:4, Dec., 1940, 430-431). It resembles a flag shown in old postcards depicting the "Flags of the Five Civilized Tribes" based upon gift flags from the State of Alabama. The postcard, however shows the flag as a bluish-purple ("Fourteen Flags Plaza", Oklahoma Today, Summer 1968, 14-16). This flag is the only other that includes writing around the seal.
The changing colors of the Choctaw flag may be an attempt to replicate a mistaken perception of an earlier flag's color. Usually only flag manufacturers and scholars are concerned with the impact of light and time upon fabric as the color fastness of the dye is lost. For example, blue dyes tend to transform slowly into a maroon and then into a purple; white will turn yellow; red will fade to purple and eventually to pale blue. It is possible that the variations seen in the Choctaw flag reflect the vagaries of time upon fabric.
[Special thanks to Dr. Whitney Smith, Flag Research Center, for much of the historical documentation on the Choctaw flag.]
© Donald Healy 2008
information provided by Peter Orenski, 29 December 2007