Grand Chief seeks local Choctaw descendants
WOODVILLE — Grand Chief Larry Rainwater is seeking local support in an effort to gain federal recognition for the Choctaw Nation.
Rainwater, 62, who lives between Woodville and Centreville, has spent the past several weeks contacting the U.S. Department of Indian Affairs, the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office and various area publications to get the word out concerning his recognition and identification effort.
“We are not the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma or the Mississippi Band of Choctaw, those are only portions of the old Choctaw Nation,” Rainwater said. “Our Nation was broken apart in the 1800s.”
Rainwater said the Mississippi Band of Choctaw requires a 50 percent bloodline, adding some area Choctaw don’t qualify because they are not 50 percent.
“Each tribe sets its own membership qualifications and blood quota,” he said, adding the Choctaw Nation he wants recognized would require “you can trace back your descendants to Choctaw and are able to establish your ancestry.”
Rainwater would like to establish a tribal headquarters office somewhere east of Natchez.
He said, historically, the area of Bude was the last stronghold of the Choctaw Nation.
Jim Barnett of The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians said Natchez Indians went to war with the French in the 1730s. As a result of their loss, they were forced to migrate out of this area.
Choctaw Indians were in the local area after the Natchez Indians left the region in the mid-1700s, Barnett said.
“The Choctaws were the largest Indian group in this region,” he said. “They were not a single ethnic group but a large confederacy. They had about 20,000 people during the 18th century, compared to the Natchez, which was about 5,000.”
The newly minted United States government signed the Treaty of Fort Adams with the Choctaws in 1801, ceding the Natchez area, along with 2,641,920 acres of land between the Yazoo River and the 31st parallel, to the United States.
According to the Mississippi Band of Choctaw, the treaty was the first in a series between the Choctaws and the United States, forcing more Choctaw land to the federal government, ending in 1830, when the Choctaws had ceded more than 23 million acres to the United States.
Rainwater feels the history behind the Choctaws’ connection to the greater Natchez region has been lost.
“I grew up on a blanket being taught history,” he said. “My grandfather was a chief and a medicine man. I follow pretty much in that way as a shaman. I go to different towns and do ceremonies.”
Rainwater hopes to visit The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians Dec. 21 to perform a winter solstice ceremony and spread his message.
“I feel like I am making progress because I have already had people contact me, and I have established communication with different people,” he said. “It’s just a matter of us coming together.”
Rainwater can be reached at 601-826-3533 or 601-519-1678.