Pushmataha served as Chief of the Okla Hannali, or “Six Towns”, the Southern District of the Choctaw Nation in Mississippi. Little is known of his ancestry or early youth. In fact, Pushmataha‘s name, comes from the Choctaw phrase “Apushi Immvt Taha”, meaning “Childhood is Finished to Him.” He is quoted as saying, “Pushmataha has no ancestors; the sun was his father, the moon, his mother. A mighty storm swept the Earth; midst the roar of thunder, the lightning split a mighty oak and Pushmataha stepped forth a full-fledged warrior.”
Pushmataha was known to be an excellent hunter and a deadly warrior, whose forays took him into present-day Oklahoma and Texas decades before the Trail of Tears. His military prowess brought him into the office of District Chief around 1800. As a leader, he distinguished himself by his keen intellect and his beautiful oration in the Choctaw language. Pushmataha and other Choctaw leaders rejected Tecumseh’s 1811 appeal for the Choctaw Nation to fight against the United States in the War of 1812. Instead, the Choctaw Nation fought on the side of the United States. Pushmataha, who received the rank of Brigadier General in the United States Army, commanded his own Choctaw unit.
Beginning in 1802 with the Treaty of Fort Confederation, Pushmataha ably represented the Choctaw people in dozens of treaty negotiations with the United States. While negotiating the Treaty of Doak’s Stand, he articulated the plan that would be used for allocating some of the treaty proceeds to the education of Choctaw youth:
In the next place, we claim that out of the Lands we are about to swap the United States for, fifty-four sections of a mile square each shall be surveyed and sold to the best bidder by the United States, for the purpose of raising a fund to support the Chahta schools in the western country of the Chahta’s, the whole placed in the hands of the President of the United States to be dealt out by him for school purposes only in the Chahta nations.Chief Pushmataha 1820
On December 24th, 1824, Chief Pushmataha died on the same visit to Washington DC that took Chief Apukshunnubbee’s life.
His last recorded words were,
I am about to die, but you will return to our country. As you go along the paths, you will see the flowers, and hear the birds sing, but Pushmataha will see and hear them no more. When you reach home, they will ask you, ‘where is Pushmataha?’ and you will say to them, ‘He is no more.’ They will hear your words as they do the fall of a great oak in the woods.
He asked to be buried in Washington D.C. His wishes were carried out and he was buried with military honors in the Congressional Cemetery.
-Adapted from an exhibit on Chief Pushmataha at the Tushkahoma Capitol Museum
Read More books concerning the Choctaws at the Antlers Library.