The Chickasaw Indians were a relatively small group of Native Americans with a rich cultural history. They had an estimated population of about 5000 people in 1600. In the 2000 United States Census, over 38,000 people identified themselves as being Chickasaw. They were traditionally known as a tribe of hunters and fighters. They didn't hesitate to go to war with neighboring tribes if a conflict arose. Because of this, they were called the "Spartans of the Lower Mississippi Valley." The Chickasaw lived in villages that were relatively spread out during times of peace. In wartime, their communities compacted to live closer together. They also had structured political systems with laws.
When European settlers arrived, the Chickasaw Indians lived in what is now the Southeast. They inhabited Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky. It's believed that they previously migrated there from west of the Mississippi or perhaps Mexico. In 1831, the Indian Removal Act authorized the forced removal of five groups from their native homelands. These groups were called the Civilized Tribes, and the Chickasaw were among them. The United States Government moved them along the Trail of Tears to Indian Territory, or what is now called Oklahoma.
Spirituality played a major role in the traditional lifestyles of Chickasaw Indians. They relied on faith for healing and believed in an afterlife. It was said that those who performed evil acts would wander among witches after death, while good people would be rewarded. Their belief system included a number of positive deities and evil witches. Ababinili was worshiped as the most powerful Chickasaw god.