Published on August 26, 2014 by Amy
The Choctaw are a tribe of Native Americans that originally resided in the southern United States in the area that is now Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. The Choctaw tribe was the first to travel the “Trail of Tears” and the majority came to reside in Oklahoma. Despite this relocation, the Choctaw still retain a strong cultural identity, and whites and Choctaws alike study their pre-removal lifestyle, including the tribe’s traditional dwellings.
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The Choctaw word for their traditional style home is “chukka.” It was a mud and reed cabin or wigwam with a thatched roof. It was shaped like a beehive with a high dome and a hole in the center to let in light and let out smoke. The door of the chukka was a small opening covered with mats, and the chukka did not have any windows.
The chukka was a small single-family residence, and several chukkas grouped formed a settlement. The cabin was a single room arranged to allow for a cooking fire at the center. The family slept on small cane beds raised off the floor. When a child in the family was old enough to wed, the new couple would construct their own chukka. The Choctaw were not nomadic, so they were able to construct permanent homes and settlements.
The technique used to build a chukka is called “wattle and daub.” The builders would construct the frame of the home from wooden poles. Next, they wove branches and vines — also known as wattle — between the poles. Finally, they applied daub to cement and insulate the structure; daub is typically a combination of mud and straw. The entire structure was covered with a thatched roof.
After relocation to what is now Oklahoma, the Choctaw Nation adopted a more European lifestyle. According to historical accounts, Choctaw communities were similar to other communities in the American West and South and included such mainstays as bakeries, embalmers and barbers. The chukka dwelling relied both on the pre-removal lifestyle and the American South’s natural resources.