Born 1759 - Died 1834.
Levi was the most famous of James
Logan Colbert's sons. He obtained the title of Itawamba Mingo
meaning "Bench Chief". When Levi was a young man, he learned
that the Creek Indians were going to attack the Chickasaw to take
their land. It was fall and many Chickasaw warriors were away hunting.
Levi immediately gathered as many of the young men of the nation
that he could, of those that were still at home, and went forward
to meet the enemy. His outnumbered, small band of young warriors
surprised, and killed or wounded the would be attackers.
After the hunters returned and learned of the brave and successful
act, they rewarded Levi giving him the name "Itte-wamba Mingo".
Itte meaning "wood" which alluded to the bench or stool
he was given to sit upon in council. Prior to this, the custom was
that all warriors sat on the ground while in council. Levi was physically
elevated by being given a stool to sit on. From his quiet manner
he was also given the name "Okolona" which means calm
or peaceful. Itawamba County, Mississippi and the town of Okolona,
Mississippi are both named for him.
Levi Colbert was possibly the wealthiest and most powerful of the
Colberts. He lived just west of Cotton gin Port located in Monroe
county, Mississippi. He owned four-thousand cattle, five hundred
horses, a large herd of sheep and several head of swine. At one
time he had a part interest in the famed Colbert Ferry on the Natchez
Trace which was said to have been worth $20,000 annually. Levi's
brother George Colbert was the principle owner and keeper
of the ferry.
Levi and his brothers took part in many treaty meetings with the
Americans from the 1790's through the 1830's. During this time Andrew
Jackson was very much in favor of removing the Indians to the
west. In 1826, the United States sent a delegation of three commissioners,
William Clark, Thomas Hinds, and John Coffee to meet
with the Chickasaw to persuade them to exchange their homelands
for territory located west of the Mississippi. Indian delegates
were not impressed and Levi Colbert responded:
..."We never had a thought of exchanging our land for any
other, as we think that we would not find a country that would suit
us as well as this we now occupy, it being the land of our forefathers,
if we should exchange our lands for any other, fearing the consequences
may be similar to transplanting an old tree, which would wither
and die away, and we are fearful we would come to the same... We
have no lands to exchange for any other. We wish our father [the
President] to extend his protection to us here, as he proposes to
do on the west of the Mississippi, as we apprehend we would, in
a few years, experience the same difficulties in any other section
of the country that might be suitable to us west of the Mississippi...
Our father [the President] wishes that we should come under the
laws of the United States; we are a people that are not enlightened,
and we cannot consent to be under your Government. If we should
consent, we should be likened unto young corn growing and met with
a drought that would kill it."
The commissioners returned to Washington, DC., without a treaty.
In 1828, Levi Colbert lead a party of Chickasaw to explore lands
in the west and toured portions of what is now Oklahoma in the winter.
The expedition returned and its members reported to the council,
which informed the United States Government that the Chickasaw would
not "consent to remove to a country destitute of a single corresponding
feature of the one in which we presently reside."
By 1829, Levi was so prominent in tribal affairs, that he was identified
as being "to the Chickasaws, what the Soul is to the body.
They move at his bidding. They agree or disagree to any measure
that he, and those over whom he knows how to exercise his authority
as the Speaker of the Nation may bid. As to their King, he is without
power. Like all Indian kings, or the most of them, he is but the
subject of some more able and intelligent mind Levi Colbert
is that mind." McKenney to Eaton, June 27, 1829, ibid.
In 1830, two events would finally break the Chickasaw resolve to
not be removed. Congress enacted Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal
Act and the state of Mississippi passed statutes that abolished
the Chickasaw tribal government and tribal laws. Chickasaw leaders
were subject to $1,000 fine and imprisonment if they attempted to
govern their people. This violated Chickasaw treaties with the United
States Government. The tribe immediately asked President Andrew
Jackson to stop Mississippi from enforcing these laws, but he refused
Negotiations began in 1830 to cede the Chickasaw lands. President
Jackson met with the Chickasaw in Franklin, TN in treaty. Levi Colbert
and other leaders bargained shrewdly for as much compensation as
possible for their homeland and the improvements they had made to
it. The Franklin treaty provided for the cession of all remaining
Chickasaw lands in exchange for a tract west of the Mississippi.
And that the United States was to pay for the tribe's traveling
costs, provide the Chickasaw with food for 1 year after their emigration
and give them a $15,000 annuity for 20 years.
This treaty had a nullification clause in case the Chickasaw could
not find a suitable tract of land. In October of 1830, a delegation
of Chickasaw was sent west once more. They could not find suitable
land and returned. Levi Colbert sent a letter to President Jackson
stating that the Chickasaw could not find suitable land, and cited
the Franklin treaty's clause. That letter nullified the agreement.
Another treaty signed at the Pontotoc Creek council house in 1830
was signed by tribal leaders under duress. After many subsequent
meetings, in 1834, the US government finally agreed to amend the
treaty to provide the Chickasaw with larger individual allotments,
a Tribal Fund for their traveling expenses and provided for a Chickasaw
Commission to handle the affairs of Indians deemed incompetent to
handle business affairs and thus protected them from the swarms
of land speculators that were eager to cheat the Chickasaw out of
a fair price for their land.
From the 1834 treaty, Article 4 "...Many of their people are
quite competent to manage their affairs, though some are not capable,
and might be imposed upon by designing persons; it is therefore
agreed that the reservations hereinafter admitted, shall not be
permitted to be sold, leased, or disposed of unless it appear by
the  certificate of at least two of the following persons,
to wit: Ish-ta-ho-ta-pa the King, Levi Colbert, George Colbert,
Martin Colbert, Isaac Alberson, Henry Love, and Benj Love,
of which five have affixed their names to this treaty."
This commission existed from 1834 to 1845 in order that Chickasaw
property owners would be treated fairly by eager land speculators,
even if they were not very knowledgeable of business affairs. The
commissioners protected their people from being swindled.
Levi Colbert died in 1834 on his way to Washington DC to discuss
the Pontotoc treaty, he fell ill at the home of his daughter and
son-in-law at Buzzard Roost (Levi's former home which was a half
mile south of Barton Station on the Southern Railroad) and did not
recover. It is unknown if Levi was buried there or taken back to
his home at Cotton Gin Port.
Levi had married several wives. Seletia Colbert, had lived
at Colbert's Ferry where the Trace crossed the Tennessee River.
Another wife is said to have lived at what is now known as the French
Farm, not far from Okolona, in Monroe County. His granddaughter,
Frances Elizabeth Kemp
tells us of his wife, Minto-Ho-Yo who was a full-blood Chickasaw.
Levi and his wives had many children: sons - Martin, Charles,
Alex, Adam, Lemuel, Daughtery, Ebijah, Commodore, and Lewis;
daughters - Mariah, Charity,
Phalishta and Asa.