Choctaws at the Crossroads
The Political Economy of Class and Culture in the Oklahoma Timber Region
Choctaws at the Crossroads examines the political economy of the Choctaws as the twentieth century draws to a close. Forcibly relocated in the 1830s from the lower Mississippi Valley to the southeastern corner of Indian Territory, the Choctaws today are a dynamic and complex rural ethnic community in Oklahoma. Many work as nonunionized laborers for large corporations such as Weyerhaeuser and Tyson Foods yet seek to hold on to vestiges of their traditional way of life.
Combining fieldwork and archival research, Sandra Faiman-Silva uncovers the processes by which the local economic and social practices of the Choctaws have become intertwined and, in some respects, dependent on corporate and global economic forces. Low wages and often temporary work force the Choctaws to supplement their income through tribal economic assistance and through traditional practices of horticulture, fishing, craft production, canning, and residence sharing. Faiman-Silva finds a troubling paradox in this strategy. Such traditional economic activities are central to Choctaw identity and way of life and are outside the non-Indian controlled, capitalist system; at the same time, these practices help sustain the power and profits of corporations. This sensitive and theoretically informed study makes an important contribution to understanding the historic, economic and social conditions of contemporary Native Americans.
Sandra Faiman-Silva is a professor of anthropology and Coordinator of the Woman’s Studies Program at Bridgewater State College, Massachusetts. Her articles have appeared in American Indian Culture and Research Journal and Journal of Forest History.