School of Music


Doctor of Worship Studies (DWS)


Jerry Newman


Choctaw hymnody, Byington, Wright, indigenous hymns, Christianity, Worship music


Liturgy and Worship | Music


Working with the Native Choctaw populations of early America, missionaries did much in the way of music and composition. One result was a compilation of original hymns written by English missionaries in the native Choctaw tongue, but there were also Choctaw composers and contributions. Singing these hymns in church services, gatherings, and social situations remains an activity where the Oklahoma and Mississippi tribal members participate today. The recorded history of the known hymns and composers is scarce and is disappearing daily in favor of teaching the ancient cultures rather than the religion of the white colonists. The research chose a qualitative method to study the lives, backgrounds, and motivations of the Choctaw composers of these hymns. The study further employed a form of historical observation to examine the members of the tribe who promoted the hymns throughout the community and the white missionaries that collaborated with them to translate the hymns into their original tongue. Little has been written or published regarding hymns in the Choctaw language. A few writings on the subject exist from the 1940s and the 1970s. The study should specifically target the Choctaw community by reevaluating the origins of these hymns and their place in modern and historical Choctaw culture. Additionally, the results of such an investigation should benefit and further other studies into Native American cultures of various tribes and the outside and inside influences regarding Christianity and musicality within those tribal cultures.