Food and Culture, Past and Present in Choctaw Culture

Overview and Objectives

Overview and Objectives





Students develop research skills in science, health, and history while gaining an understanding of one group of North America’s indigenous people. Students become aware of the effect of colonization, cultural interaction and changes on local foodways. They reflect on their own personal and cultural history as they compare and contrast sharing of their research presentations.


Enduring Understandings:

  • A group’s food choices are influenced strongly by the geography and biology of their homeland.
  • The coming of Europeans to North America disrupted many of the practices that had allowed the Choctaw people to get sustenance from the environment.
  • Changes in foodways go further than the table – they affect the rest of culture as well as personal health.


Essential Questions:

  • How have the Choctaw life-ways and foods changed?
  • What were the significant cultural influences that brought about the changes?



4 class periods (based on 50-minute class periods and teacher’s choice)



  • Students will describe the geographical location and ecosystem of the Choctaw people.
  • Students will list the natural resources, ways and tools the Choctaw people traditionally employed to get food.
  • Students will list ways that obtaining food has changed since European contact.
  • Students will identify Choctaw celebrations and ceremonies related to available resources (particularly, food).
  • Students will list traditional foods and processes used in acquiring, preparing and cooking.
  • Students will list contemporary foods available to Choctaw.
  • Students will identify health issues related to changes from traditional to contemporary foods.


Learning Activities

Learning Activities


Activity One

Each activity below requires students to conduct library research using one or more of the resources listed in the next section, and to compare the information they learn with their own experiences.

  • Introduce the diversity of indigenous Native American cultures and relate this diversity of geographical locations, ecosystems and natural resources.
  • Research and outline the Choctaw history time line, life-ways and foods, identifying significant cultural influences and changes.
  • Compare the Choctaw foods to students’ favorite foods.
  • Research traditional foods’ nutritional values.


Activity Two

Each activity below asks students to compare what they learned about Choctaw foodways with their own local practices.

  • Collect and share cultural and traditional activities, images, recordings and lifeways in your area that have remained strong and involve food.
  • Research the foods you normally eat by listing everything you have had to eat or drink for 48 hours. Write the origin of those foods. Choose the main food item from each meal and list its ingredients (protein, carbohydrate, fat, sugar, salt, vitamins and minerals).
  • Create a story board that illustrates a comparison of the foods students eat with the Choctaw traditional diet, as well as positive and negative changes from introduced foods, technologies and other resources and influences.


Activity Three

Each activity below asks students to delve more deeply into the results of cultural change and to apply the information to their own lives.

  • Research and write about dietary diseases and food-related concerns of the Choctaw Indians and other Native Americans.
  • Document your own dietary habits and health risks, and develop an appropriate plan for improvement.


Materials and Resources

Materials and Resources


The following references provide information about general Choctaw culture and history as well as specific information about food and foodways. For the earliest written account of Choctaw hominy making, click here.

After Removal: The Choctaw in Mississippi, edited by Samuel J. Wells and Roseanna Tubby. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1986.

Choctaw and Chickasaw Early Census Records, compiled by Betty Couch Wiltshire. Carrollton, Mississippi: Pioneer Publishing Company, 1997.

The Choctaw Before Removal, edited by Carolyn Keller Reeves. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1985.

Debo, Angie. "Indians, Outlaws, and Angie Debo," The American Experience, PBS Video, 1988.

The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic, second edition. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961.

DeRosier, Arthur H., Jr. The Removal of the Choctaw Indians. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1970.

Foreman, Grant. The Five Civilized Tribes. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1934.

Howard, James H., and Victoria L Levine. Choctaw Music and Dance. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997.

Jordan, H. Glenn. "Choctaw Colonization in Oklahoma," in America's Exiles: Indian Colonization in Oklahoma, edited by Arrell Morgan Gibson, 1976.

Kidwell, Clara Sue, and Charles Roberts. The Choctaws: A Critical Bibliography. Bloomington: Indiana University Press for the Newberry Library, 1980.

McKee, Jesse O. The Choctaw. New York: Chelsea House, 1989.

McKee, Jesse O., and Jon A. Schlenker. The Choctaws: Cultural Evolution of a Native American Tribe. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1980.

Choctaw (Chahta): History, Culture and Language Curriculum Book, Bill Porter. Carmichael, CA: San Juan Unified School District, 1984.

Teaching Young Children about Native Americans. ERIC Digest. (ERIC Identifier: ED394744; Publication Date: 1996-05-00; Author: Reese, Debbie; Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL).


Academic Standards

Academic Standards

National Geography Standards addressed in the material

  • Standard 1: How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information.
  • Standard 3: How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth's surface.
  • Standard 4: The physical and human characteristics of places.
  • Standard 9: The characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth's surface.
  • Standard 12: The process, patterns, and functions of human settlement.
  • Standard 14: How human actions modify the physical environment.
  • Standard 15: How physical systems affect human systems.
  • Standard 16: The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources.
  • Standard 17: How to apply geography to interpret the past.
  • Standard 18: To apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the future.

Standards in History for Grades K-4

  • Standard 1: Family life now and in the recent past; family life in various places long ago.
  • Standard 6: Regional folklore and cultural contributions that helped to form our national heritage

NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts

  • Standard 1: Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • Standard 5: Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • Standard 7: Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • Standard 8: Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • Standard 9: Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.