This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

"In Time of Iron-Age: The Choctaw Civil War and the Southern Frontier




Sparacio, Matthew

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation




This dissertation is the first extended ethnohistorical study of the Choctaw civil war that occurred between 1746 and 1750 CE. Using gender as a primary lens of inquiry, it outlines the mutual intelligibility of Choctaw and French martial cultures, which manifested in masculine displays, gender-charged rhetoric, and violent acts. It offers a reconsideration of the origins of the civil war by focusing on the experiences of individuals silenced by the archive, namely, an unnamed wife of Red Shoe who was abused by a French officer. Red Shoe’s extended kinship network, bound by gendered obligations to avenge these attacks on his wife, joined his violent anti-French agenda, with family members comprising all the notable leadership positions within this faction. This dissertation proposes a periodization for the war, with the first phase epitomized by Red Shoe’s personal campaign of revenge against the French. This was interrupted at the end of 1747 and 1749 due to a smallpox epidemic. The final phase that followed was characterized by raids taken by eastern and southern Choctaws aimed specifically at eliminating villages associated with Red Shoe’s kinship network. Pro-French and pro-English Choctaw factions reestablished peace in 1750 with the adoption of a diplomatic approach that did not equate a ban on European traders with a ban on traders’ merchandise, thereby allowing a reversion to the form of playoff system that existed before the war which facilitated the acquisition of gender-affirming weapons and goods. The Choctaw civil war was a bio-social event spurred by individual gendered claims to power and authority.