The Port of Gulfport is a United States port of entry located on the Mississippi Sound off the Gulf of Mexico. Co-seat of Mississippi's Harrison County with Biloxi, the Port of Gulfport is about 13 nautical miles (23 kilometers or 14 miles direct) west-southwest of Biloxi Port and about 64 nautical miles (108 kilometers or 67 miles direct) northeast of the Port of New Orleans. The 2010 US Census reported a population of almost 67.8 thousand people living in the city of Gulfport and nearly 250 thousand in the Gulfport-Biloxi metropolitan area. Surrounded by rivers and coastal bayous that are rich with fish, the deep-water harbor at the Port of Gulfport is a mainstay of the local economy. Tourism is also important, particularly since casino gambling began in the 1990s. Shipbuilding is a major industry in the Port of Gulfport as well.
Before Europeans arrived in the future Port of Gulfport area, the Choctaw people live in what would become the State of Mississippi. They were hunter gatherers and farmers had strong trade relations with other tribes in the Southeast. As white settlers became established in the region, the Choctaw built a strong economy by selling their livestock and goods to the Europeans. However, expansion of the new United States forced the Choctaw to negotiate for their lands, and in the 1801 Treaty of Fort Adams, the Choctaw surrendered more than 2.6 million acres of land to the US government.
From 1801 to 1830, they lost over 23 million acres to the US. In 1830, Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek addressed their removal to Oklahoma. Almost 70% of the 19 thousand Choctaw that lived in Mississippi were removed, and more followed. Today, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians are descendants of those who would not be removed to Oklahoma. They live on the Choctaw Indian Reservation of some 35 thousand acres scattered over seven Mississippi counties.
The town of Gulfport was incorporated in 1989. Its founders, William H. Hardy and Joseph T. Jones, dredged the Port of Gulfport harbor and opened the shipping canal to the Gulf of Mexico in 1902. The Port of Gulfport quickly became a working seaport handling mostly lumber. By 1910, the Port of Gulfport had a post office and customs house. In 1916, Andrew Carnegie established a Carnegie library in the Port of Gulfport.
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina's east side struck the Port of Gulfport, and much of the town was either destroyed or flooded in a matter of hours. Katrina gutted the public library, which had to be completely rebuilt. The following year, Port of Gulfport's The Sun Herald won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Journalism for its coverage of the destructive and dramatic hurricane.
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