New Heritage of Mississippi Book Published

James F. Barnett, Jr., explores the story of the region’s Native Americans in the newly published sixth volume of the Heritage of Mississippi Series. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, more than twenty American Indian tribal groups inhabited present-day Mississippi. Today the state is home to only one—the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. In Mississippi’s American Indians, Barnett explores the historical forces and processes that led to this sweeping change in the diversity of the state’s native peoples.

The book begins with a chapter on Mississippi’s approximately 12,000-year prehistory, from early hunter-gatherer societies through the powerful mound building civilizations encountered by the first European expeditions. With the arrival of Spanish, French, and English settlers in the New World, native societies in the region connected with the Atlantic market economy, a source for guns, blankets, and many other trade items.

Europeans offered these trade materials in exchange for Indian slaves and deerskins, currencies that radically altered the relationships between tribal groups. Smallpox and other diseases followed along the trading paths. Colonial competition between the French and English helped spark the Natchez rebellion, the Chickasaw–French wars, the Choctaw civil war, and a half-century of client warfare between the Choctaws and Chickasaws. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 forced Mississippi’s pro-French tribes to move west of the Mississippi River.

The Diaspora included the Tunicas, Houmas, Pascagoulas, Biloxis, and a portion of the Choctaw confederacy. In the early nineteenth century, Mississippi’s remaining Choctaws and Chickasaws faced a series of treaties with the United States government that ended in destitution and removal. Despite the intense pressures of European invasion and U.S. duplicity, the Mississippi tribes survived by adapting and contributing to their rapidly evolving world.

Mississippi’s American Indians presents information on each tribe’s language, social organization, appearance, subsistence, belief system, and settlement characteristics. The book also includes an up-to-date summary of Mississippi’s prehistoric archaeology and contains a detailed summary of Chickasaw and Choctaw treaties with the United States.

James Barnett is director of the Historic Properties Division of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. He is the author of The Natchez Indians: A History to 1735.

“Jim Barnett’s book will become the definitive work on Mississippi Native Americans,” said John F. Marszalek, vice-chair of the board of editors for the series. “The Heritage of Mississippi Series is fast becoming the outstanding publication about the history of any state in the United States.”

The Heritage of Mississippi Series is aimed at a broad audience of scholars, teachers, students, and interested general readers. The works are meant to stand as the definitive studies on the topics for years to come. Published jointly by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the Mississippi Historical Society, and the University Press of Mississippi with funding assistance provided by the Phil Hardin Foundation, the series will cover the history of Mississippi in fifteen volumes.

Five other volumes in the series have been issued—Art in Mississippi: 1720–1980 by Patti Carr Black, Religion in Mississippi by Randy J. Sparks, Rednecks, Redeemers, and Race: Mississippi after Reconstruction, 1877–1917 by Stephen Cresswell, Mississippi in the Civil War: The Home Front by Timothy B. Smith, and The Civil War in Mississippi: Major Campaigns and Battles by Michael Ballard.

Volumes in progress are Mississippi in the Twentieth Century: An Economic History, by Connie Lester, assistant professor of history, University of Central Florida and editor of the Florida Historical Quarterly, and From Poverty to Promise: Mississippi 1917–1945, by Chester M. Morgan III, professor of history, University of Southern Mississippi. Recently commissioned volumes include Reconstruction in Mississippi by political commentator Jere Nash, aided by William C. Harris, professor emeritus of history, North Carolina State University; Frontier Mississippi, 1798–1840 by James Michael Bunn, executive director, Historic Chattahoochee Commission, and Clay Williams, director, Old Capitol Museum, Mississippi Department of Archives and History; From Bondage to Freedom: Slavery in Mississippi, 1719-1865 by Max Grivno, assistant professor of history, University of Southern Mississippi; Mississippi: The Formative Years, 1840-1861 by David G. Sansing, emeritus professor of history at the University of Mississippi; and Mississippi Literature by Lorie Watkins Fulton, assistant professor of language and literature at William Carey University.

To order a copy of Mississippi’s American Indians, contact the Mississippi History Store at 601-576-6921 or Mississippi Historical Society members receive a 10 percent discount.

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