Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in History

First Advisor

Mikaela Adams

Second Advisor

Susan Stearns

Third Advisor

April Holm


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



Between 1790 and 1840, the U.S. federal government instituted its so-called “civilization plan,” which encouraged Southern Indians to embrace republican values, patriarchy, yeoman farming, and individual property rights. The policies included in the civilization plan were highly influential, as the Native South transitioned from an economy built on the deerskin trade into one of cottage industries, plow-based agriculture, and ranching. Through a detailed examination of one Southern Indian community, the Chickasaws, my dissertation defines the civilization plan in terms of the ideology that the federal government envisioned and how the plan was interpreted on the ground level. My work centers on three pillars of analysis--land, leadership, and labor--that defined Chickasaw change and persistence during the early nineteenth century. I argue that the Chickasaw Indians, living in present-day northern Mississippi, reinterpreted this policy from one built on republican ideology, acculturation, and dispossession of indigenous land, to one that fit within their own cultural lexicon and accelerated ongoing economic change in Chickasaw country. My dissertation will be the first to examine the civilization plan on the ground level in the Native South. The Chickasaws dealt with changes in labor for both men and women, the incorporation of raced-based slave labor, the importance of physiography and geopolitical space, and the internal and external political responses by headmen during the civilization plan. The Chickasaws did not encounter incipient violence that hindered economic development, destabilized boundaries, and prompted hostility that other Southern Indians encountered. Instead, as my work suggests, the Chickasaws used their geopolitical position to successfully implement programs of the civilization plan on their own terms and within their cultural worldview.

Available for download on Wednesday, August 31, 2022