University of Southern Mississippi professor's book tracing the
lives of two remarkable 18th century Choctaw Indian chiefs has won
the Mississippi Historical Society's coveted McLemore Prize for
The award recognizes
Choctaws in a Revolutionary Age, 1750-1830, by Dr. Greg O'Brien,
a Southern Miss associate professor of history, as the best book
on a Mississippi history topic for the year. O'Brien will be formally
recognized at a March 1 society meeting in Jackson.
very grateful for the honor and recognition awarded me by the Mississippi
Historical Society," said O'Brien, a member of the Southern
Miss faculty since 1998. "The award makes the years of research
and writing that went into this book worthwhile.
of southeastern Indians like the Choctaws is quickly becoming one
of the most cutting-edge fields within southern history and ethnohistory,
and I am glad to be a part of that effort," added the professor,
who grew up in Charlottesville, Va..
the time period covered in the book, which was released by University
of Nebraska Press last Sept. 12, as a "watershed moment in
Choctaw history the receding of a traditional, mystically
oriented world and the dawning of a new market-oriented one."
Bolton, professor and chair of the Southern Miss History Department,
said O'Brien "is rapidly being recognized as one of the best
young scholars in the field of Native American history.
Prize is the second major award he has earned for scholarship in
the last six months," Bolton noted. "I am sure many more
honors will come his way in the years ahead."
specialty courses at Southern Miss include American Indian history
and Colonial America, also won the prestigious Fletcher M. Green
and Charles W. Ramsdell Award last fall as author of the best article
published in the Journal of Southern History during the two preceding
years. The article was titled "The Conqueror Meets the Unconquered:
Negotiating Cultural Boundaries on the Post-Revolutionary Southern
a Revolutionary Age traces the lives of two remarkable Choctaw chiefs,
Taboca and Franchimastabe', who followed very different paths of
leadership during a period of revolutionary change in the late 18th
century. Taboca was a traditional "prophet-chief" whose
authority was rooted in the spiritual realm. The foundation of Franchimastabe's
power, however, was more capitalistic resting on trade with
Europeans and American colonists, and the acquisition of manufactured
mid-18th century Choctaws looked to the mastery of spiritual power
as the basis of individual esteem and authority, and women were
viewed as possessing inherent spiritual power as creators of life.
On the other hand, men had to prove their spiritual worthiness through
accomplishment in warfare or by other means.
late 18th century, this traditional world view was challenged by
the actions and beliefs of certain Choctaw chiefs who increasingly
looked to the material Euro-American world as a basis for power
and authority," the professor said. "Thus, the fur trade,
cattle ranching, cotton farming, slave ownership and other capitalistic
enterprises came to dominate elite Choctaw world views...
book, I trace the careers of two chiefs who rose to power in the
18th century in a traditional manner, but then split over where
power derived and how it should be used," said O'Brien, maintaining
there is ample evidence that Choctaws of the 1700s also enjoyed
gambling and engaged in it frequently.
Band of Choctaw Indians, led by longtime Chief Phillip Martin, has
enjoyed business success in Neshoba County including ventures
in automotive wiring harness and speaker manufacturing, and a printing
company. The band's largest venture, however, is in the operation
of the Popular Silver Star Resort and Casino near Philadelphia.
a bachelor of arts degree at Randolph-Macon College in 1988, a master's
degree at James Madison University in 1994 and a doctorate at the
University of Kentucky in 1998. He became a tenure-track assistant
professor at Southern Miss in 2000 and was promoted to the rank
of associate professor last year.