Year of Publication

2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Geography

First Advisor

Dr. Richard H. Schein

Abstract

Little information beyond generalities exists regarding the cultural landscape of the Chickasaw Indians in their ancestral homelands prior to Removal in the late 1830s. This dissertation evaluates one possible archival source for specifics of Chickasaw land use, the field notes and survey plats compiled as part of the Public Land Survey System (PLSS). The process of original survey following land cession treaty divided the ceded area up into the familiar square-mile rectangular system of townships and ranges that extends from the Mississippi Territory westwards, in the so-called public land states.

The research compiles all cultural observations made by the surveyors within a fourteen township area (totaling 504 square miles). This study area, generally located on the west bank of Town Creek between present-day Tupelo and Pontotoc MS, was chosen to cover the traditional center of Chickasaw settlement and elements of important roads such as the Natchez Trace. The resulting catalog of observations was compared to similar features on the township plats and to other cultural resource inventories to identify patterns of inscription and possible erasure of Native American cultural activities. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology was used to consolidate and compare these data resources.

The PLSS survey documents provide a useful but not complete resource for identifying Chickasaw cultural presence within the study area. No consistent pattern of omission or erasure of Chickasaw activities was identified. The analysis identifies several opportunities and caveats for future researchers who might extend this analysis, including technical challenges in applying GIS technology to this data.

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