The Charity Hall Mission
In another project supported by the Chickasaw Nation and the Chickasaw Explorers, in 2018 we opened investigations of the Charity Hall Mission to the Chickasaws. Founded in 1820 by Presbyterian missionaries on Chickasaw territory in eastern Mississippi, Charity Hall was one of many missions throughout the eastern United States created as a result of the Civilization Act of 1819. This federal law provided churches with funds to develop missions and working farms for the children of Native American tribes. The wealthy Chickasaw landowner Levi Colbert donated land for Charity Hall, which lasted for ten years, until Native Americans throughout the eastern United States were forced to move to Oklahoma. To date, our fieldwork at Charity Hall has been exploratory, and has focused on locating the buildings where the missionaries and children lived and worked. The Civilization Act was one of several state and federal initiatives to assimilate Native Americans. One of our goals is to discover whether the Chickasaw children maintained any of their traditional practices in defiance of attempts to “civilize” them, a pattern that has been documented in similar missions elsewhere. Research at Charity Hall also has been supported by the Wenner Gren Foundation (Gr 9779).