Mushulatubbee was an important early nineteenth-century Choctaw chief. He first made his mark as a warrior, leading Choctaw men in support of the United States in its 1813–14 war against the Red Stick Creeks. In addition to his exploits on the battlefield, kinship ties positioned Mushulatubbee for leadership. His uncle, Homastubby, had been chief of the eastern towns where Mushulatubbee lived, and his sister’s marriage to trader John Pitchlynn gave Mushulatubbee access to trade goods, translating services, and two nephews, John and Peter, who worked tirelessly to support him.
In 1820 Mushulatubbee declared that the deerskin trade had come to an end and that the Choctaw had to produce goods for the American market economy. He set an example for his followers in the eastern towns by raising cattle that he marketed in Alabama and by purchasing slaves to work his fields of corn and cotton. The chief also identified schools as important resources for his people. Mushulatubbee hoped that the children who attended the Choctaw mission schools and an academy that he helped sponsor in Kentucky would learn how to read and write in English, enabling them to make a living and to defend their land and sovereignty against American expansion.
In spite of his popularity, Mushulatubbee’s political fortunes waned in 1824 when he led an effort to cede Choctaw land to the federal government in exchange for the cancellation of his substantial debts. His advocacy for the resulting Treaty of Washington garnered universal scorn, and his efforts to win back his former supporters came to nought. The disgraced chief had to hide in the US agent’s cabin for some nights for fear of assassination. In April 1826 Mushulatubbee’s rival, David Folsom, convinced the eastern council to turn the chief out of office and elect Folsom as the eastern towns’ new leader.
Mushulatubbee had come to believe that the Choctaw nation could survive only by leaving Mississippi for Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). In 1829 he called a council to discuss Removal and found some support, so he began to correspond with Pres. Andrew Jackson on the subject. Old Hickory rewarded Mushulatubbee with the gift of a blue officer’s uniform that marked him as an important player in the politics of Removal. Emboldened, Mushulatubbee began denouncing his opponents, and in 1830 he attracted enough support to unseat Folsom as chief of the eastern towns. Mushulatubbee went on to participate in the negotiations for the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, which fulfilled his plans for the Choctaw Removal to Indian Territory.
After Removal, Mushulatubbee resigned as chief and was succeeded by his nephew, Peter Pitchlynn. Mushulatubbee settled in the Arkansas River Valley, where he died of smallpox on 30 August 1838.
- James Taylor Carson, Searching for the Bright Path: The Mississippi Choctaws from Prehistory to Removal (1999)
- Horatio B. Cushman, History of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez Indians (1899)
- William A. Love, Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society (1903)