Thomas Jefferson Papers

Petition of Puckshunubbee and Others, 20 September 1803

Petition of Puckshunubbee and Others

20th September 1803

To the President of
United States through
Silas Dinsmoor his Agent

The Petition of the undersigned Chiefs and Warriors of the Choctaw Nation of Indians Humbly Sheweth

That Whereas considering the situation of our Country & the large and many failures on the part of our Nation in making due and regular payments to our Merchants and Traders for supplies furnished our Said Nation from time to time by them, and the Game having so decreased that we find it impossible to discharge the arrearages due by us, unless we do it by disposing of so much Land as will pay the same.

We therefore Humbly Pray Our Father the President to take our case into his serious consideration, and relieve us from the heavy debts which we now justly owe and are desirous to pay, if our Father will accept of so much land, as he may deem adequate and sufficient to pay the same; and should he receive the Land, we Pray that he will pay to our Merchants & Traders whatever may appear to be justly due them.

The Land we wish to dispose of lies bounding on the Mississippi, the Yazo, and the line run by General Wilkinson near the latter river.   And your Petitioners will ever pray


Puckshunnubbee his × mark Head Chief of Oak, tuck, foliah
Oak Chumma his × mark  Ditto of The Town
Tuska Miubba his × mark Ditto of Coffetroy
Tish Sha Hulutto his × mark Ditto of Shu, Nock, Koha
Ponshaba Wela his × mark Warrior of  Ditto
Baukatubba his × mark Warrior of Oak, Tuck, foliah

Tr (DNA: RG 11, Ratified Indian Treaties). Tr (DNA: RG 75, Ratified Treaties).

Puckshunubbee (ca. 1739-1824), in a conference with commissioners Benjamin Hawkins, James Wilkinson, and Andrew Pickens at Fort Adams in December 1801, spoke for the Choctaws’ Upper Towns. On that occasion he asked for a blacksmith, tools, and spinning wheels, but, describing himself as a factor for a merchant, he said that the Choctaws were satisfied with their ties to firms that traded through Mobile and had no wish to establish new commercial connections. He also urged, without success, that the United States compensate the Choctaws for lands conveyed in an earlier era. By the autumn of 1805, he was the leader of the westernmost of three divisions of the Choctaw nation. Federal commissioners, using the Choctaw term for a chief, recognized the three division chiefs as “medal mingoes.” Puckshunubbee used annuity payments from an 1816 land cession to establish a school run by Protestant missionaries. In 1820, he resisted a major cession of lands negotiated by Andrew Jackson but, along with the other medal mingoes, acceded to the final agreement. Puckshunubbee was the son or nephew of one of Franchimastabé’s leading advisers. A non-Indian settler described him late in his life as “a large man, tall and bony,” who “had a down look and was of the religious or superstitious cast of mind.” He was considered to be “a good man, and it was said that he was a man of deep thought and that he was quite intellectual.” He died from an accident while traveling to Washington with a Choctaw delegation. His name appears sometimes with an A—“Apukshinubi,” for example—and sometimes with a B, as in “Buc-shun-abbe” and “Buckshun Nubby.” Oak Chummy, the nephew of a deceased primary chief of the Choctaws, also addressed the commissioners at Fort Adams in December 1801. He granted permission for a road, but declared that it was “not our wish that there should be any houses built” along the route. He also asked for a marking of the boundary of the Choctaws’ territory and in 1802 was one of the signers of a convention for running the boundary. He attended the 1820 conference with Jackson. Tuskamiubbee also signed the 1802 convention. He, Puckshunubbee, and Oak Chummy were signers of a November 1805 treaty that was intended to complete the offer made in this petition to give up land for payment of Choctaws’ debts to merchants. Tuskamiubbee may have been the person described in 1822 as “an aged chief” who visited the school established by Puckshunubbee. In 1830, Tish Sha Hulutto was perhaps one of the signers of the treaty that provided for the exchange of the Choctaws’ remaining lands east of the Mississippi River for territory in the west. Ponshaba Wela may have participated in at least one of the treaty conferences, but his name is difficult to relate with authority to any of the signers. Baukatubba may have signed the 1801 Fort Adams treaty (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832-61, 38 vols. description ends , Indian Affairs, 1:661-2; Charles J. Kappler, comp. and ed., Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, 5 vols. [Washington, D.C., 1975], 2:57, 64, 88, 137, 194, 316; Gideon Lincecum, Pushmataha: A Choctaw Leader and His People [Tuscaloosa, Ala., 2004], 26, 29, 86; Clara Sue Kidwell, Choctaws and Missionaries in Mississippi, 1818-1918 [Norman, Okla., 1995], 17, 37, 42, 46-7, 66, 93-4; Greg O’Brien, Choctaws in a Revolutionary Age [Lincoln, Neb., 2002], 34-5, 102, 104, 105, 110-11; Richard White, The Roots of Dependency: Subsistence, Environment, and Social Change among the Choctaws, Pawnees, and Navajos [Lincoln, Nebr., 1983], 104, 114-16, 125; Missionary Herald, 18 [1822], 181).

take our case into his serious consideration: Silas Dinsmoor, the U.S. agent for the Choctaws, probably sent this petition to Washington with a letter of 2 Oct. in which the agent informed the secretary of war that the Choctaws were ready to offer land to clear their debts. In a letter dated a few days earlier, Dinsmoor also reported that a Choctaw delegation would be traveling to the capital. Earlier in the year, TJ and Dearborn had instructed Dinsmoor and Wilkinson to push the Choctaws to give up land, particularly between the Yazoo River and the Mississippi, and to use payment of the debts to trading firms as an incentive. The president referred to the petition printed above in remarks to the visiting delegation, which included Puckshunubbee, in Washington on 17 Dec. (Dinsmoor to Dearborn, 30 Sep., 2 Oct., recorded in DNA: RG 107, RLRMS; Vol. 39:494n, 529-30).

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