JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Mississippi, once home to a greater variety of indigenous tribes than any other southeastern state, celebrates Native American Heritage Month in November.

Native American influence in Mississippi

Many names used today throughout the state, such as Yalobusha, Itawamba and Mississippi itself, have Indigenous origins. However, indigenous influences go much deeper. Up into the 1700s, local tribes included the Acolapissa, Biloxi and Pascagoula tribes on the Gulf Coast; the Bayougoula, Houma and Natchez tribes on the lower part of the Mississippi River; and the Chakchiuma, lbitoupa, Koroa, Ofogoula, Taposa, Tiou, Tunica and Yazoo tribes on the Yazoo River in the Mississippi Delta.

The original Mississippians were most likely the Choctaw, who date back to the early 1500s. The Choctaw were the most populous tribe by far and still are in 2023. 

Native American cultural spots

People can immerse themselves in Choctaw culture by stopping by the Chahta Immi Cultural Center at Pearl River or attending the annual Choctaw Indian Fair, held every summer in July. This regionally renowned event is host to the World Champion Stickball Games and includes a celebration of tribal music, crafts, and traditions.

Mississippi’s mound sites are another piece of Native American history and cultural importance. Many were built throughout nearly two millennia in Mississippi. These mounds were the centers of daily and spiritual life, and you can find sites remaining across the state. Among the most visited are the Winterville Mound site, located in Greenville, and the Pocahontas Mound A, located north of Jackson. 

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) recently celebrated the grand opening of the Mississippi Mound Trail. Stretching from Desoto County to Wilkinson County and following the Highway 61 corridor, the trail highlights earthworks built at thirty-three sites. Four sites—Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, Pocahontas Rest Area and Welcome Center, Winterville Mounds, and Emerald Mound on the Natchez Trace Parkway— are state or federally-operated and open to the public.

Visitors are welcome to walk among the mounds and learn more through interpretive signs and exhibits. Click here to view all publicly accessible mound sites across Mississippi.