Population: 8,000 members of the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians across Mobile and Washington Counties.
County: Mobile and Washington
About: This area of south Washington County and north Mobile County is home to over. 8,000 members of the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians. In fact, the acronym, “MOWA” was chosen to represent the geographic location of the present-day tribe in those two counties. This area includes many small towns including Citronelle, Mount Vernon, and McIntosh.
In the 1830s, during the Indian Removal Act, many Choctaw Indians were forced to leave their lands and homes and travel westward on the Trail of Tears. Some of the Choctaw Indians stayed on their lands but had to agree not to speak their native language, practice their religion, or call themselves a tribe. Afraid to lose their homes and culture, many of the Choctaws evaded removal by hiding for decades in some of the most isolated lands in the state. They stayed isolated until the mid-1800s when timber companies came to the area to exploit Alabama’s pine forests. Since the Choctaw Indians were occupying these forests, state leaders facilitated an acquisition of the land by suggesting the Choctaw people be classified as “Cajuns.” This new classification and identity allowed the Choctaws to be counted in the Census, as well as be hired for cheap labor by the timber companies. Since many of the Choctaws were forced to relocate to logging camps and the forest that supported their way of life was destroyed, much of their culture and heritage was eradicated by the 1930s.
Education became more important for the Choctaws as they began to receive state and county funding in the 1940s. The Civil Rights Act in the 1960s also played a large role in the Choctaws beginning to come out of isolation and seek justice for their many years of mistreatment. In 1979, the MOWA Choctaw Indians were officially recognized by the state of Alabama. The MOWA Choctaws are still not a federally recognized tribe, which restricts their access to programs that could improve the lives of tribal members today.
Fun Fact: Choctaw Code Talkers were a great help to the United States Army during both World War I and World War II. They used their native language over radio to transmit coded messages to confuse U.S enemies.
Community Website: MOWA Choctaw Indians Website
Community Social Media: MOWA Choctaw Indians Facebook Page
Meet the MOWA Community Liaison, Maggie Rivers
ENI is a community-focused, community-shaped initiative. Community Liaisons act as a resource to help communities shape ENI to fit their needs and wants. If you want to learn more or get involved with ENI, reach out to your Community Liaison.
Maggie Rivers is the project director for the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians. In her role she is responsible for grant writing for the band. Maggie started her career in the classroom as a Title I Aide, school secretary, and classroom teacher. She has held several federal programming roles with Mobile County Public Schools and the Alabama Department of Education. In her latest role of President of Rivers Educational Services, Maggie wrote grants and acted as a consultant to schools, school districts, and State Departments of Education in the areas of school improvement and federal compliance.
Maggie holds both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of Mobile.