Banaha Indian Bread
2 c. cornmeal
1 1/2 c. boiling water
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
Corn shucks (boil about 10 minutes before using)
Mix dry ingredients. Add water. Mixture should be stiff enough to handle easily. Form into oblong balls. Wrap in corn shucks. Tie in the middle with corn shuck string. Drop into a deep pot of boiling water. Cover and cook for 40 minutes. Serve hot.
Blue Grape Dumplings
1/2 gal. unsweetened grape juice
2 C. sugar
2 tablespoon shortening, melted
1 tsp. baking powder
1 C. water
Bring grape juice to a rolling boil with the sugar. Mix water, shortening and baking powder. Add enough flour to make a stiff dough. Roll out thin on a floured board and cut not small pieces. Drop each of these o ne at a time into the boiling juice. Cook over high heat about 5 minutes. Then simmer for about 10 minutes with cover on before serving. May be served with cream or plain. Note: Grape Juice and Sugar must be boiling before adding the dumplings. Also a reader suggest to double the amount of dumplings and adding a tsp of salt to make a better serving.
Cheddar and Corn Chowder
1 lg. onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
2 tbsp. margarine
8 c. chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. diced jalapeno pepper
1 tsp. dried parsley
3 c. fresh or frozen corn
1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 c. lowfat milk
1/2 tsp. black pepper & salt each
In large pot, sauté onion, celery and red pepper in margarine for 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, bay leaf, jalapeno pepper and parsley. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes then stir in cheese until smooth. Add milk, salt and pepper. Heat but do not boil. Ladle into soup bowls.
This makes a very large casserole.
2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 chopped onion
1can mild enchilada sauce
1 can mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 c. grated cheese
1 pkg. plain Doritos (sm.)
Brown beef, onions and seasonings in skillet. Add sauce and soups. Layer in oblong baking dish, Doritos meat mixture and top with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Choctaw Hunter’s Stew
2 lbs. deer meat
2 tbsp. beef suet
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
6 to 8 carrots
3 ribs celery
2 lg. onions
2 lg. potatoes
1 lg. can tomatoes
1 lg. can whole kernel corn
Cut the meat into bite-size pieces and brown in suet then add the salt and pepper, cover with water and cook until done. In the meantime, prepare the vegetables and cut into bite-size pieces. Add these to the tender meat and simmer until done. This is very good served with cornbread or fry bread.
Choctaw Persimmon Cake
1/2 C. sugar
1 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. soda
1 C. persimmon pulp
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoon butter or margarine, softened
Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix well then pour into a well greased and floured pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes. This is good served with a whipped topping.
1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. milk
2 c. whole kernel corn (canned & drained or fresh corn)
3/4 tsp. baking powder
Sift flour, measure and resift with baking powder and salt. Combine beaten eggs, milk and flour mixture all at o nce and stir until smooth. Fold in corn thoroughly. Drop from a teaspoon into deep fat heated to 375 degrees and fry until golden brown. Lift out o n paper toweling. Serve hot with syrup if desired.
Corn on the Coals
Gather fresh ears of corn
( 1 ear for each person)
Salt to taste
Soak the unhusked ears of corn in water for approximately 2 hours. Lay these over hot charcoal and roast until the husks are browned. Peel the husks off; serve with salt and butter.
Cornmeal Griddle Cakes
1 1/3 c. cornmeal
1 1/2 c. boiling water
1 tbsp. melted butter, margarine or shortening
3/4 c. milk
1 tbsp. table molasses
2 eggs, well beaten
2/3 c. sifted flour
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
Let the griddle heat slowly. Pour the boiling water over the cornmeal and mix well, then let cool slightly. Add the melted butter, margarine or shortening, milk, molasses and eggs and mix thoroughly. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together and stir into the cornmeal mixture quickly. Drop by spoonful o n the hot griddle. Brown o n o ne side then turn and brown the other side. Serve piping hot.
1 C. cornmeal
1/2 C. flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
2 C. milk
1 C. cracklings (Crisp pork rinds, cracked)
Mix all ingredients. Pour into a greased pan. A heavy cast iron skillet or pan is best for baking cornbread. Bake at 450 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot.
Crisp Salt Pork
Select salt pork with as much lean as possible, wipe off the excess salt then slice thin. Put the slices in a pan of water and bring almost to a boil. Pour off the water then dry with a paper towel. Lay the slices in a cold frying pan and fry until crisp. This is good served with fried or scrambled eggs, also is great with beans, turnip greens and cornbread.
Easy Blackberry Cobbler
2 c. sugar
1/3 c. butter
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
1 c. blackberries
2 c. boiling water
Cream 1 cup sugar and butter then add flour, baking powder, salt and milk. Mix well and pour into 12x8x2 inch pan. Pour the blackberries over batter and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Pour the boiling water over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot or cold. May be served with cream.
Fresh Pork & Corn Dumplings
3 lbs. fresh pork backbone
1 sm. hot red pepper
1 tsp. sage
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. cornmeal
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Place pork in large kettle, add 2 quarts water, red pepper, sage and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and bring to boil then simmer for approximately 3 hours or until pork is tender. Remove pork from kettle and reserve liquid in kettle, keeping it hot. Brown pork in a 350 degree oven. Combine the cornmeal, flour, remaining slat and baking powder then stir in 1 cup boiling water and 1 cup of reserved liquid. Form into egg-sized dumplings and drop into remaining hot liquid in kettle. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
10 ears of sweet corn
3 tbsp. butter or margarine
3 tbsp. bacon fat
1/2 c. boiling water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. Pepper
Cut the corn kernels off with a sharp knife and scrape with a downward motion to remove all the pulp. Heat the butter or margarine and bacon fat to sizzling. Add the corn and water and cook o n high heat, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat, cover tightly and cook 15 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Ad salt and pepper. The water should be completely evaporated when served.
Fried Liver & Onions
3 tbsp. bacon drippings
margarine or shortening
3 lg. onions, peeled and sliced
1 lb. calves livers
1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. Pepper
Heat the fat or drippings in a large frying pan and sauté the sliced onions until they are tender and yellow, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from pan and keep hot. Have the liver sliced in uniformly thick slices, 1/2 inch or slightly less. Cut into small serving piece and dip into flour. Place in the fat and brown o n both sides, about 3 minutes each. Place the o nions back into pan with the liver. Add a little water then cover and steam all together for several minutes. Place on a platter then sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
5 c. self-rising flour
1/2 c. oil
Sweet milk, amt. to make biscuit dough
Mix flour, oil and lukewarm mild. Let dough stand and rise 1 hour. Roll the dough o n board and cut with doughnut cutter. Fry the bread in skillet using oil for frying.
4 lbs. lean pork, ground
1 lb. fat pork, ground
3 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. powdered sage
1 tsp. powdered allspice
1 tbsp. grated lemon peel
Mix both the fat and lean ground pork in a large bowl with the salt, pepper, sage, allspice adn grated lemon rind. Cover adn store in the refrigerator overnight before using. The lemon peel may be omitted, if desired. This makes 5 pounds of sausage. Before refrigerating, the Indians could protect it and leave it outside into eh winter.
1 lb. ground beef
2 cans red kidney beans
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 cans tomatoes
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 o nion, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
Cook onion in 2 tablespoons fat. Add beef and stir constantly until separated well – add tomatoes, salt, sugar and pepper. Cook until tomatoes are cooked to pieces and mixture is thick. Add chili powder and beans. Let simmer awhile.
1 c. minced onion
2 or 3 slices of bacon, chopped
2 lg. cans cream style corn
1 egg, well beaten
2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 c. milk
Brown bacon in heavy skillet then ad o nion and sauté. Mix the corn and egg then add to o nion mixture. Blend sugar and flour then blend with the milk. Stir this into the corn mixture and pour into a buttered casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour or until set.
Indian Fry Bread
2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
1 c. milk
Mix flour, salt and baking power together. Add milk or water and stir to make a stiff dough. Turn into well-floured board and pat down to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into squares with a slit down the middle. You can make these any size you want. For Indian Tacos, you get a ball and roll it out to about 7 or 8 inches. It should be big enough to nearly cover a plate. Serve hot with syrup, honey, etc. as a snack.
Venison or any other lean meat
Salt & Pepper
Salt and pepper the lean strips of meat thoroughly to discourage insects, then hang over peeled willow poles to dry in the sun. You might build a small chip fire far below the hanging meat and leave it 1 to 2 days. The sun and fire, both, will dry out the strips. the meat will have a slightly Smokey taste. You don’t want to cook the meat but to simply dehydrate it thoroughly. This made a good food for traveling.
12 lg. green tomatoes
6 red peppers
6 green peppers
3 or 4 lg. onions
1 tbsp. celery seed
2 tbsp. salt
3 c. vinegar
Grind the tomatoes, o nions and peppers then drain well. Mix all ingredients and bring to a boil. Cook 25 to 30 minutes then pour into hot scaled jars and seal.
1 lb. ground beef
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1 reg. size can Ranch style beans
2 c. shredded cheddar or Colby cheese
2 c. shredded lettuce
2 c. chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 to 2 c. chopped onions
Plenty of picante sauce
2 c. self-rising flour
1 c. milk or warm water
1 tbsp. cooking oil
Place ground beef in heavy iron skillet, stir and brown until all the beef is crumbled. Drain the meat and place back into skillet, then put in the seasoning mix with water as directions call for. Cook until well done. While the meat is cooking, shred the cheese and lettuce, also chop the tomatoes and o nions. Put these in covered containers to have ready, set the table and set out the toppings. Put the beans in a saucepan to heat, then get an iron skillet ready with cooking oil or you may wish to use an electric skillet. Now, mix the flour, milk or water and oil. Place the dough on a well oiled piece of wax paper and knead well. Next, pinch off a piece of dough the size of an egg. Roll this out to approximately 1/4 inch and fry in medium hot heat. Brown on one side then turn and brown the other side. Place o n plate and spoon a helping of meat on the friend bread, next a layer of beans. To this add lettuce, tomatoes and onions to your taste. Top this with cheese and pour picante sauce o n top. NOW ENJOY!!! I sometimes use chili seasoning instead of taco seasoning.
2 c. grit hominy
2 or 3 qts. water
3 lbs. pork backbone
salt to taste
Have water in pot ready. Wash your hominy before cooking. Put in pot and cook until half done, then put in the backbone. Cook it together until it gets done. Salt to taste. Stir it frequently.
Poke Salad Greens
Fresh Poke Greens
These are best picked in the spring when the shoots and leaves are young and tender. Cut or tear the leaves into smaller sizes then put into a pot of water and bring to boil. Boil for 5 minutes then drain water off, rinse again then cover with cold water and bring to a boil again. Boil another 5 minutes and repeat the process of draining and rinsing again. The process of parboiling twice is very important for removing any harmful ingredient in the poke. Now, put the poke back into the pot or sauce pan, barely cover with water, add salt to taste, season with salt pork or bacon and simmer until the meat is tender and the water has cooked down. This is very good eaten with pepper sauce, a pot of pinto beans and a pan of cornbread.
2 c. mashed potatoes, slightly salted
1 egg, beaten
1 sm. onion, chopped fine
1/3 c. self-rising flour
Mix first 3 ingredients together then add the flour and mix until blended. Shape as four croquettes then fry in hot grease but be careful not to get it too hot. Brown on one side then turn and brown o n other side. Take out and lay o n absorbent paper towel. Best when eaten hot but, also, good cold.
Potato, Butter Bean & Corn Salad
3 med. red potatoes (about 2 lbs.)
1 (15 oz.) can cooked dry white Lima beans or butter beans, drained and rinsed
Kernels from 3 ears very fresh corn
1/3 c. olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. chopped chives
Toss together potatoes, beans and corn. Set aside. Whisk together other ingredients except chives. Fold into vegetables. This makes just enough dressing to coat the salad ingredients. If you like more, increase amounts by half. Sprinkle with chives and mix. Refrigerate for an hour.
2 c. cooked corn
1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
3/4 c. evaporated milk
1/2 c. cracker crumbs
2 tbsp. margarine
1/4 c. sliced green pepper
Combine corn, eggs, salt, pepper and milk in 1 1/2 quart casserole dish, sprinkle with cracker crumbs. Dot with margarine and top with green pepper. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Microwave may be used in this recipe, also.
1 lb. venison steak, cut 1/2 inch thick
2 c. plus 3 tbsp. flour
1/4 c. cooking oil
1 lg. o nion, sliced
Salt & pepper to taste
Tenderize venison and cut into serving pieces. Dip meat into flour and brown in hot oil in cast iron skillet. Remove meat when browned. Stir 3 tablespoons flour into oil and gradually add 2 cups milk. Cook until thick, then add seasonings and browned steak. Place o nion slices on top of steak. Gravy should cover steak and onions. Cover and bake at 250 to 300 degrees for 2 hours. 4 servings.
Sweet Potato Pie
1 1/2 c. mashed cooked or canned sweet potatoes
4 tbsp. melted butter or margarine
1/4 tsp. powdered cinnamon
1/8 tsp. powdered allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1/3 c. honey
2 eggs, well beaten
1 c. cream or evaporated milk.
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Mix the potatoes with the butter or margarine, cinnamon, allspice, salt, sugar and honey. Beat until foamy. Add the eggs and cream or evaporated milk. Pour into an 8 or 9 inch pie crust. Bake 12 minutes then reduce to 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes longer.
5 med. sweet potatoes (yams)
2 c. sugar
1 c. flour
Wash and peel sweet potatoes. Grind up potatoes and add sugar to sweeten. Cook. Add small amount of flour and make into patties, then fry in medium hot oil until golden brown o n o ne side then turn and brown other side. Sprinkle with sugar if you wish.
Wild onions & Eggs
Wild onions, cut up (whatever amt. you want)
1 c. water
1 c. shortening, melted
Cut up enough wild onions to fill a 6 to 10 inch skillet. Place water, shortening and onions in a skillet. Salt to taste and fry until almost all the water is gone (15 to 20 minutes). Break eggs on top of the onions and stir well. Fry until the eggs are scrambled. Serve hot.
Throughout their history, Choctaws have hunted wild game to supplement the food that they were able to grow. Hunting maybe less important for survival today, but it is no less important as a sport. Deer, rabbits, squirrels, and game birds such as doves and turkeys are hunted. Most Choctaw hunters today use the same kind of weapons as their non-Indian counterparts, but this has not always been the case. Blowguns and rabbit sticks were once used.
The blowgun, a hollow cane anywhere from five to seven feet long, was used to kill small game usually birds. The hunter blows to propel a dart, carved from wood and padded with cotton or thistledown, through the cane. Choctaw craftspeople still make blowguns, but today they are more likely to be used in demonstrations and contests of accuracy than for hunting.
The blowgun is made from river cane ½ to 1 inch in diameter 5 to 7 feet long. The blank should be heat straightened. This is accomplished as follows: Look down the length of the piece you wish to straighten. Observe the crooked places. Hold the crooked area over a bed of coals, turning it and heating it evenly. Bend it as straight as possible and hold it till cools and it should remain straight. Do two or three joints at a time, let cool, then come back and do two or three of the sections in between the joints and let them cool, or do all the joints then all the sections. If you don’t do it this way, a little at a time, you will find that you are working against yourself and having to restraighten the same areas over and over again.
Next, the interior wall joints must be removed. In the survival situation this is best accomplished by splitting the blank into two equal halves down the length of it and using stone flakes or grinding stones to grind them away smoothly. The two halves should then be glued back together with hide glue or pitch glue and bound with buckskin, rawhide or cordage. If you make one at home, you may wish to use a heated steel rod to burn out the sections, instead of splitting the cane and polish the interior smoothly. Check the straightness once you have all the section knocked out by looking down the bore. You should be able to see a circle when looking into the light. It is more important to be straight down the bore, even if the outside appears to be warped. You may also find that looking through it as you turn it that the circle looks round at one point and not as you look through it as it is turned more. This is due to the weight of the length of the blowgun. If this is the case, mark a place on top of the blowgun blank so you will know what point to have up when using the blowgun. I usually carve a small mark and then when I have the blowgun decorated like I want, hang a feather fluff on a lightweight string or sinew straight down on the distal end of the blowgun as a wind direction indicator. That way when the feather fluff is hanging down, I know my point is up and I am always assured of a straight bore. It is still a good idea to check for straightness, every now and then, and re-heat straighten, if needed. Using any lightweight, small diameter wood makes the darts. Splits of river cane work well. Using thick walled cane so that it can be rounded. Flat pieces of cane have a tendency to ‘plane’. Heating the shaft material and twisting it into a corkscrew can overcome this problem. For most hunting though you will need a heavier material. You can use split round diameter, straight grained hard wood. Grind the point, rather than whittling it. It makes for a stronger longer lasting tip. Taper the point back if you don’t it acts like a blunt tip and doesn’t get the penetration you need. Another alternative that you probably will really find not necessary is to make a tiny point of stone or bone and hafting it in the point end of the dart.
Fletching should cover about 4 inches of the butt end and can be made from rabbit fur, cotton, thistle down, small bird feathers and some other plant downs. When choosing fletching material, keep in mind: (a) The material must be just light enough to give drag to the dart to stabilize it but not outweigh the rest of the dart; and (b) It must also be light and fluffy enough to fill the chamber of your blowgun as air is pushed through from your breath, causing it to be propelled out and yet be able to lay down aerodynamically when exiting the blowgun. Small bird feathers work well, you must use ‘fluffs’, though, or very tiny feathers, not stiff spine feather. The best are small turkey leg feathers. Tiny feathers must be tied in, layering one row on another as described with thistle down below. Fluffs may sometimes just be tied at the top at a point a few inched from the but end. If you use rabbit fur cut a thin strip and spiral wrap it, securing both ends. Rabbit fur is very heavy for a dart, so you will have to experiment with the weight ratio. Which brings us to Thistle down. Thistle down is the material of choice. Get a bulb that is dried but not opened or catch them before they open and tie them shut and allow them to dry till you’re ready to use them. Native Americans would split a piece of cane and clamp bulbs between the halves tied together until they were ready to use it. Remove the down carefully, keeping it flat and in one line. Carefully take out the seeds, brown chaff and rough up and soften the hard areas that held the seed, while keeping tightly pressed together between your thumb and forefinger. Holding a length of cordage in your mouth, with the other end secured in a notch in the butt end of the shaft of the dart you are rolling, son one hand holds the dart shaft, while the other holds the thistle down. Secure the fletching material by wrapping it with the cordage catching just enough of an edge to hold it and allow it to fluff out as you move down the entire fletching area, feeding the down into the string as you go and tie off at the end. The dart should slide in the blowgun easily but snug. It is placed in the end you will blow, flush, point first. The blowgun is held with both hands with the elbows resting on the chest and together. The dart is then blown with a sudden burst of air after aiming at the target.
The rabbit stick was another important weapon for early Choctaw Hunters. Carved from a hardwood limb, rabbit sticks are usually bout eighteen inches long. Most of the Stick is carved into a handle so that it may be easily held and thrown. About five or six or six inches of the stick are left in its natural state, forming sort of a wooden hammer. The bark is not scraped off. In experienced hands, the club becomes an effective weapon, being thrown in an overhand-sideways manner, which sends it spinning at the victim. The striking end outweighing the grip end. The side-wise flight of the thrown stick allows for a much better chance of intercepting the target as opposed to simply throwing it overhand, for there is more surface area to make contact with the target. Try it and you will soon find out. Hunters threw these sticks to kill small game, usually rabbits. Occasionally, Choctaw hunter’s still hunt with rabbit sticks just for the sport of it, but like the blowgun, these weapons are most often used for demonstrations and contests of accuracy.
Oka Homi Nam Pakanli
2 qts. Dandelion blossoms, fresh
1 yeast cake
4 qts. Water
4 lemons (juice only)
3 lbs. Sugar
2 oranges (juice only)
1 egg white, beaten
Place the flowers in a stone jar or crock and pour boiling water over them. Let this stand for a day and a half then strain. Add sugar and juices and let stand for 24 hours. Now put in the yeast cake. Watch for the scum to rise, then you add the egg white. Let stand 3 days before straining and bottling.
Back Left; Alto Battist, Sampson Moore, James Owens, Bill Blankenship, George Robinson, Dennis Baptiste, Audie Gibson, Melvin Tom, Terry Cole
Front Left; Herbert Jessie, Terry Loman, Eugene Bohanon, Nellie Hunter, Shirley Mantreno, Ron Scott, John Townson, David Jones, John Burleson
The Color Guard was formed for the purpose of honoring Choctaw veterans who had given their time in service to protect our country. Historians have documented well the contributions made by the Choctaw people, from the Choctaw Code Talkers to the present.
Chief Gregory E. Pyle was very aware of these contributions and through his visions and leadership the Choctaw Nation Color Guard was formed to recognize the accomplishments of the Choctaw veterans. The first performance for the Color Guard was May 2, 1998 at the Skullyville Cemetery. The next 12 months were very busy for the Color Guard; there were 49 different events conducted, 16 were funerals for Choctaw veterans. Also, one event was conducted in Washington D.C. and one in Bakersfield, California.
The Choctaw Nation Color Guard is honored to represent the Choctaw veterans and the great Choctaw Nation.
They sought no glories but for the good of the country. Let none of us forget that they did not falter to answer when came the call to serve for their country.
Bearing the names of Choctaw Warriors killed in action while defending our nation in wartime.
World War I
Nicholas E. Brown Calvin Bryant Simeon Cusher Leo Perry Jacob Walley
World War II
Hanson H. Jones Moses Winship R. G. King Woodrow Wooley Campbell LeFlore
Eltus C. Lewis
G. W. Maxwell
Walter Dana McClure
Ballard McCurley Porter McCurtain Alexander J. McKinney Eugene Zephray Anderson
Odell M. Bascom
Wilburn Stanley Beard
James Calhoun Beck
Orville O. Black
Buster Ray Burns
George R. Choate, Jr. LeRoy McNoel Murray C. Mills
Jonathan Coleman Robert Eugene Parrish Eugene B. Millsap Owen Mombi William Allen Morgan Herschel H. Nolen Edgar O. Oakes, Jr. Johnnie Ott
Billie Joe Dukes
Robert Clay Florence Walter Tobe Percer
Kenneth Merle Folsom Jack Pebworth Andrew Perry Davis Pickens
Benjamin Clay Freeney Jonathan Perry Frank M. Pittman
Dewey W. Foster
Leonard Clark Goode Walter Porter
Bruce O. Gooding
Wilburn R. Harkins William Clark Pratt Jr. Clarence Pulliam
Tommy P. Hattensty
Jack Carlyle Hickman John D. Sherred William Doyle Smith
Eastman G. Ward John Stallaby John Stevens
Clinton Lee Hulsey
Jack Franklin Irvin
Billie Boyd Jack
William Edward Swink Jr.
Woodrow W. James
Raymond W. Williams
Thomas Reed Satterfield
Daniel McKenzie John Floyd Wall Joshua Wilson Omagene Whitfield Henry T. Wall Turner Brashears Turnbull Benjamin Tom
Elam Frazier William Arnold Bryant Jr Tony Burris William H. M. Cole Morris Amos Preston Franklin Charles Kaniatobe Jim McClure Joe Calvin Green Isaac McCurtain Buster McCurtain Timothy Ontaiyabbi Leonard Sanders Watson Willie Rasha Leo Killingsworth
Dean Edward Armstrong Elwood Baker James Scott Brown Clyde Carter Jr. Gelmore Christy Forbis Pipkin Durant Jr. Michael Gene Warnick Wallace Going Joshua Hickman Gatlin J. Howell Clifford Curtis Johnson Howard Lee Jones Talton Lee Mackey Josh C. Noah Marvin Noah Charles D. Roberts James LeRoy Russell Frederick Sanders Ernest Taylor Turner Thompson Roy Arnold Womack Lee Chris Dixon
Choctaw Games of our Ancestors
[IMAGE] Jones Academy Boys At Choctaw Council House Ball Game 1939 Credit to: Archives & Manuscripts Division of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
[IMAGE] Credit to: Archives & Manuscripts Division of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
George Catlin made the classic description of a Choctaw ball game. This distinguished artist witnessed ball plays near Skullyville some thirty years before the Civil War and left vivid descriptions in word and picture of what he saw. The ball game which Catlin beheld involved some six or seven hundred players, with “five or six times” that number of spectators and aroused in his mind comparisons with the Greek Olympic games or contests of the Roman Forum.
The Choctaws continued to play this game until 1907. By that date the game had deteriorated into a diminished form with few participants, sometimes in nondescript baseball uniforms, performing as novelty entertainment. However, before 1900, “old-time matches were played regularly between districts or counties. Both teams, twenty-five or thirty players each, encamped with their supporters at the hitoka (ball ground) on the night before the contest.
Wagons, buggies, and Indian ponies of assorted sized, shapes and colors were scattered through the timber adjoining the clearing where the contest was to be staged. Spectators and players prepared to sleep out under the full moon of a summer night. Players with no experience would dress themselves in ball costume, and apokshiama (breech cloth) plus the tail of some animal, perhaps a horse or raccoon, attached behind in the belt. Each novice, endeavoring to represent some animal, a white horse, swift of foot, or a fighting “coon” did his best to make himself noticed by the leaders of his team in hopes that he would be chosen to play the next day. The managers and chief players, in the meantime, held meetings to discuss such matters as strategy, rules and regulations. Players normally ranged in age from eighteen to thirty-five. The veterans were often slightly crippled, “perhaps from former play,” but most of the players were “of splendid Physique, spare and wiry.”
Soon after sunrise on the morning of the contest, the managers would collect their teams and send them to dress inn the thickets. When they were ready, each player would charge back into the clearing trying by his actions to imitate the animal he represented. The playing field was customarily more than two hundred yards in length with improvised goal posts at each end. These might be two split logs lashed together and placed so that the broad sides faced the playing field. To make a score, the ball must strike a goal post. Balls were manufactured from rags covered with buckskin and several were always provided, since they were often lost in the tall grass.
Each player was equipped with two ball sticks (kapucha). These were made from hickory saplings about thirty inches long, cut flat at one end and curved around to make a spoon like hoop. The turned end was lashed to the handle with buckskin thongs, the dangling ends of which were then used to lace the inside of the spoon.
Each team had its conjurer or medicine man, which painted his face, wore an appropriate disguise such as a sheepskin beard and perhaps carried a leafy branch of hickory. The medicine men stood near their respective goals during the play, where they sang, clapped their hands and performed any other actions thought necessary to bring good luck for their team. Before the game began a “conjure dance” was sometimes held in which the women were allowed to participate. An evidence of the decadence that threatened Indian ways appeared as early as 1853, when the rhythm for a conjure dance was furnished by a “tin pan beaten with a stick.” Just before the start of a contest nine or ten players would march onto the field, each team led by its medicine man. As each team neared its goal posts, the formations would break with shouts and turkey gobbles, where upon the players “milled around” and battered the posts with their ball sticks “to scare the spirit of bad luck away.” The shout was shukafa, literally “to peel off.”
Just before the start of play, the participants would station themselves at appointed places from midfield to the goals. The ball would be tossed into the air by one selected for that duty and the rough scrimmage would be on. Nothing was barred except butting with the head, for which a five-goal penalty was prescribed. The ball had to be carried or thrown by means of the sticks. A player who obtained possession of the ball, shouted, “Hokli Ho!” an imperative signal to each of his teammates to seize and hold the nearest opposing player. While individual wrestling matches were staged, accompanied by many Hokli Ho’s, the player with the ball tried to run so that he could score easily or throw the ball to a teammate nearer the goal. Meanwhile, the players dropped their sticks, seized each other by the belts, and fought viciously. In one game, played in the 1890’s the altercation left five men crippled, of who two later died. Obviously, the game was not for the fainthearted.
This game was also similar to throwing dice. Played with a dozen or so corn kernels, seeds, or beans, which had been blackened on one side, the number of black calculated the score or white sides landing up after the grains were tossed. Cherokees, Creeks and Choctaws played this game.
There are six players on each team. The object is to guess under which shell the team has hidden an object. One player from the first team will start the game by hiding the object under one of seven shells. The person on the opposite team across from that player tries to guess where the marble is hidden. If the guess is correct, his team receives one point and that team continues guessing in turn. If the guess is incorrect, he scores nothing for his team and the opposing team begins guessing. The game continues until all of the twenty counters have been distributed. This game, like other Indian games, keeps score with small markers or counters, which may be a small pebble, a pottery fragment, a grain of corn, or a special disc made of stone. The team with the largest number of the points wins the game.
Chunkey was a popular game played by men in the Southeastern Indian tribes, a version of the hoop and pole game played by Native Americans all over North America. A wheel shaped disc made of polished stone or clay was rolled down the field. Two players held long poles, and just as the chunkey stone stopped rolling, each player cast his pole at the stone. The player coming closest to or touching the stone wins.
Hominy Corn & Pork Meat “Choctaw”
First you get the hominy corn, (which is called “Tom Fuller”) and cook it for 3 hours in a large pot of water.
Then you can add either 1 backbone, neck bone or rib meat to the corn and let it cook until the meat is tender.
The corn will rise so you need only 2 cups of corn to make a meal.
After corn starts boiling, cut your heat down low and let it cook but you need to stir it every once in a while to keep it from sticking.
Our anonymous French authority says regarding this:
When a youth wishes to marry, he goes to find the father and the mother of the girl whom he desires. After having made his request he throws before the mother some strings of glass beads, and before the father a breechcloth. If they take the presents it is a sign of their consent, and then the youth leads the girl away to his home without other ceremony. From this moment the mother can no longer appear before her son-in-law; if they are obliged to remain in the same room they make a little partition between them for fear lest they see each other….They may abandon their wives whenever they wish, and take many of them at a time. I saw one who had three sisters. When they marry a second time they take the sister of the dead wife, if she had one, otherwise a woman of the family.
Romans merely remarks:
They take wives without much ceremony and live together during pleasure, and after separation, which is not very frequent, they often leave the second to retake the first wife.
The Rev. Israel Folsom, a native Choctaw missionary, is thus quoted by Cushman on this subject:
When the young Choctaw beau went the first time to see his “Fair One,” after having resolved upon matrimony, he tested his own standing in the estimation of his anticipated Bride by walking indifferently into the room where she was seated with the rest of the family, and during the general conversation, he sought and soon found an opportunity to shoot, slyly and unobserved, little sticks or small pebbles at her. She soon ascertained the source whence they came, and fully comprehended the signification of those messengers of love. If approved, she returned them as slyly and silently as they came. If not, she suddenly sprang from her seat, turned a frowning face of disapproval upon him and silently left the room. That ended the matter, though not a word had been spoken between them. But when the little tell-tales skipped back to him from her fingers, followed by a pair of black eyes peeping out from under their long silken eye-lashes, he joyfully comprehended the import and in a few minutes, arose and, as he started toward the door, he repeated his informal “Ea li” (I go), upon which a response of assent was given by the father or mother in the equally informal “Omih” (very well).
He returned in two or three days, however, with a few presents for the parents, and to secure their approval. Which, being obtained, a day was appointed for the marriage, a feast prepared and friends invited. When all had assembled, the groom was placed in one room and the bride in another and the doors closed. A distance of two or three hundred yards was then measured off, and at the farther end a little pole, neat and straight, was set up. Then at a given signal, the door of the bride’s room was thrown open, and at once she springs out and starts for the pole with the lightness and swiftness of an antelope. As soon as she has gotten a few rods from the start, enough for her to keep him from overtaking her if she was so inclined, the door of his room was thrown open, and away he runs with seemingly superhuman speed, much to the amusement of the spectators. Often, as if to try the sincerity of his affection, she did not let him overtake her until within a few feet of the pole, and sometimes, when she had changed her mind in regard to marrying him, she did not let him overtake her, which was public acknowledgment of the fact, and the groom made the race but to be grievously disappointed, but such a result seldom happened. As soon as he caught her, after an exchange of a word or two, he gently led her back by the hand, and (they) were met about half way by the lady friends of the bride, who took her from the hands of the groom yielding to their demands with seeming reluctance, and led her back into the yard to a place in front of the house previously prepared for her, and seated her upon a blanket spread upon the ground. A circle of women immediately formed around her, each holding in her hands the various kinds of presents she intended to bestow upon her as a bridal gift. Then one after another in short intervals began to cast her presents on the head of the seated bride, at which moment a first class grab game was introduced. For the moment a present fell upon her waiting head it was snatched there from by some one of the party, a dozen or more making a grab for it at the same instant, regardless of the suffering bride, who was often pulled hither and thither by the snatchers’ eager fingers becoming entangled in her long, black ringlets. When the presents had all been thus disposed of, the bride not receiving a single article, the twain were pronounced one, man and wife. Then the feast was served, after which all returned to their respective homes with merry and happy hearts.
As the land was free to all, the happy groom a few days after his nuptials, erected with the assistance of his friends, a neat little cabin in some picturesque grove by the side of some bubbling spring or on the banks of some rippling brook. A small iron kettle in which to boil their venison, and a wooden bowl in which to put it when cooked, were sufficient culinary utensils for the young housekeepers.
The same writer thus refers to the taboos between son-in-law and mother-in-law already mentioned, and also those between husband and wife.
There was a peculiar custom among the ancient Choctaws, prior to 1818, which according to tradition, was as follows:
For many years after the marriage of her daughter, the mother-in-law was forbidden to look upon her son-in-law. Though they might converse together, they must be hidden, the one from the other by some kind of screen, and when nothing else offered, by covering their eyes. Thus the mother-in-law was put to infinite trouble and vexation lest she should make an infraction upon the strange custom; since, when traveling or in camp often without tents, they were necessarily afraid to raise their heads, or open their eyes through fear of seeing the interdicted object.
Another peculiarity, which, however, they possessed in common with other tribes, was, the Choctaw wife never called her husband by name. But addressed him as “my son or daughters father”, or more commonly using the child’s name, when if Shah-bi-chih, (meaning to make empty, the real name of a Choctaw whom I know) for instance, she calls her husband “Shah-bi-chih’s father.”
Gregg parallels this bit of information closely enough to indicate that he obtained his knowledge from the same source.
There is (says he) a post-nuptial custom peculiar to the full-blood Indians of the Choctaws, which deserves particular notice. For years, and perhaps for life, after the marriage of her daughter, the mother is forbidden to look upon her son-in-law. Though they converse together, he must be hidden from her by a wall, a tent, a curtain, or when nothing else offers, by covering the eyes. During their emigration, it is said these poor superstitious matrons were put to infinite trouble so as not to infract this custom. While traveling, or in camp often without tents, the mother-in-law was afraid to raise her head or open her eyes, lest they should meet the interdicted object.
It is another peculiarity, which they have in common with some of the more northern tribes, that the Choctaw wife, of the “old school,” never calls her husband by name. But if they have offspring, she calls him “my son’s father,” or more commonly using the child’s name, when, if “Ok-le-no-wa,” for instance, she calls the husband “Ok-le-no-wa’s father.” And yet another oddity regarding names: the ignorant Choctaw seems to have a superstitious aversion to telling his own name: indeed it appears impossible to get it from him, unless he has an acquaintance present, whom he will request to tell it for him.
In this connection a bit of folklore might be added as reported by Cushman relative to the traditional first marriage between the Choctaw and the whites:
A white man at an early day, came into their country, and in course of time married a Choctaw girl and as a natural result, a child was born. Soon after the arrival of the little stranger, (the first of its type among them), a council was called to consider the propriety of permitting white men to marry the women of the Choctaws. If it was permitted, they argued, the whites would become more numerous and eventually destroy their national characteristics. Therefore it was determined to stop all future marriages between the Choctaws and the white race, and at once (they) ordered the white man to leave their country, and the child (to be) killed. A committee was appointed to carry the decision into execution, yet felt reluctant to kill the child. In the meantime, the mother, hearing of the resolution passed by the council, hid the child, and when the committee arrived they failed to find it, and willingly reported that the Great Spirit had taken it away. The mother kept it concealed for several weeks, and then secretly brought it back one night, and told her friends the next morning that the Great Spirit had returned during the night with her child and placed it by her side as she slept. The committee had previously decided, however, that if ever the child returned it might live; but if it never came back, they then would know that the Great Spirit had taken it. The boy was ever afterwards regarded as being under the special care of the Great Spirit, and became a chief of their nation. The law was repealed; the father recalled and adopted as one of the tribe; and thus the custom of adopting the white man originated and has so continued from that day to this so affirms one of their ancient traditions, those Indian caskets filled with documents from the remote past, but which have long since passed into the region of accepted fables.
Interesting divergences are shown in Claiborn’s description of Choctaw courtship and marriage. I am not sure that his understanding of the ceremony is to be relied upon in all particulars:
Bah-na-tubbe, an intelligent fellow, in the course of his examination, stated that it was usual for the woman, especially widows, to give “the first banter,” viz: first advances. This is usually done at night, in the dance, by squeezing the hand or treading gently on the foot of the favored warrior. Perhaps this may be rather a necessity than a freedom; because if a man should take these liberties with a squaw she would immediately resent it by attacking him with a stick, and every squaw present would assist her. Witness has seen twenty squaws thus beating a too ardent lover. These “banters” are often given by old women, invariably to very young men. Old women usually select a lazy fellow, who takes her for her house and her ponies. Witness had, when only eighteen, been taken by a woman of fifty, but he soon left her for a very young girl. When the “banter” is mutually agreeable the parties quietly slip out of the crowd, and when they re-appear are considered man and wife.
Courtship and marriage, however, are sometimes more formal. A young warrior who is in love applies to the maternal uncle never to the father or mother and they agree on the price, which is paid to the uncle. On a certain day the groom and his relatives appear at an appointed place, dressed in their best, where they loiter till noon. The bride then leaves the lodge of her parents, and the friends on both sides gather about her. She watches an opportunity and flies to the adjacent woods, her attendants hovering around to cover her retreat. She is pursued by the female relatives of the groom. If she is anxious for the match, it is not difficult to overtake her. But if she dislikes it, she runs until she falls exhausted, and sometimes escapes, and wanders away to a remote village, where she is adopted and cannot be reclaimed. If the fugitive is overtaken, she brought back among the grooms many friends, but he has disappeared. She sits down, and the friends on both sides throw some little presents in her lap. Each female relative ties a ribbon or some beads in her hair, and then the provisions brought by friends are divided among the company to be taken to their respective homes. The bride is then conducted to a little lodge adjoining her parents, and late at night her lover finds his way to her arms. In the morning they have disappeared, and the fawn of the woods must sought in the camp of her husband.
The marriage endures only during the affection or inclination of the parties, and either may dissolve it at their pleasure. This, of course, very often occurs, in which case the children follow the mother; the father has no control over them whatever.”
His reference to polygamy is most illuminating. He says:
This was tolerated by the Choctaws, but not universal. When a man had two wives, and he died, each wife claimed to be the head of a separate family. They always occupied separate cabins, and generally ten or more miles apart. No instance came before us where a man had two wives in the same house, or even in the same yard or enclosure, unless they were sisters, and then they sometimes lived in the same yard, but in different houses.
An amusing instance came before the commissioners. I-og-la (Imokla or Yukla) presented her claim. The witness, Hi-a-ka (Haiaka) deposed that at the time of the treaty claimant was one of the wives of Tusk- a ma-ba (Tashka imataba), who had emigrated west. He had many wives. He made the circuit among them regularly, and thus passed his time. He neither hunted nor worked. He had ten wives, scattered round the country, fifteen or twenty miles apart, and he had his regular stands, going from one to the other, being well fed, and a favorite with all of them. He was a fellow of medium height, about five feet seven, well built, very muscular and active, lazy and fond of eating and drinking. He provided his own clothing, nothing more. He made his home at the house of Ho-pia-ske-tena (Hopaii iskitini), (Little leader,) at the old town of Yocka-no-chick-ama (perhaps Yakoi achukma). Two years before the treaty he married Claimant, but only visited her about two days in every month: her house was one of the stands on his circuit; he never worked for her or contributed to her support, it was his custom to spend some time with every woman when he first took her, but the novelty soon wore off, and he went his usual round. Claimant had a house before she married this man; he finished it for her, he had several wives before he met her, and took several afterwards. He threw none of them away. Witness never heard any complaint on the part of his wives of neglect on his part. But when he emigrated, he left them all.
The next description of a wedding ceremony is from Halbert:
When a young Choctaw, of Kemper or Neshoba County, sees a maiden who pleases his fancy, he watches his opportunity until he finds her alone. He then approaches within a few yards of her and gently casts a pebble towards her, so that it may fall at her feet. He may have to do this two or three times before he attracts the maiden’s attention. If this pebble throwing is agreeable, she soon makes it manifest; if otherwise, scornful look and a decided “ekwah” indicate that his suit is in vain. Sometimes instead of throwing pebbles the suitor enters the woman’s cabin and lays his hat or handkerchief on her bed. This action is interpreted as a desire on his part that she should be the sharer of his couch. If the man’s suit is acceptable the woman permits the hat to remain; but if she is unwilling to become his bride, it is removed instantly. The rejected suitor in either method employed, knows that it is useless to press his suit and beats as graceful a retreat as possible.
When a marriage is agreed upon, the lovers appoint a time and place for the ceremony. On the marriage day the friends and relatives of the prospective couple meet at their respective houses or villages, and thence march towards each other. When they arrive near the marriage ground, generally an intermediate space between the two villages, they halt within about a hundred yards of each other. The brothers of the woman then go across to the opposite party and bring forward the man and seat him on a blanket spread upon the marriage ground. The man’s sisters then do likewise by going over and bringing forward the woman and seating her by the side of the man. Sometimes, to furnish a little merriment for the occasion, the woman is expected to break loose and run. Of course she is pursued, captured and brought back. All parties now assemble around the expectant couple. A bag of bread is brought forward by the woman’s relatives and deposited near her. In like manner the man’s relatives bring forward a bag of meat and deposit it near him. These bags of provisions are lingering symbols of the primitive days when the hunter was to provide the household with game, and the woman was to raise corn for the bread and hominy. The man’s friends and relatives now begin to throw presents upon the head and shoulders of the woman. These presents are of any kind that the donors choose to give, as articles of clothing, money, trinkets, ribbons, etc. As soon as thrown they are quickly snatched off by the woman’s relatives and distributed among themselves. During all this time the couple sit very quietly and demurely, not a word spoken by either. When all the presents have been thrown and distributed, the couple, now man and wife, arise, the provisions from the bags are spread, and just as in civilized life, the ceremony is rounded off with a festival. The festival over, the company disperses, and the gallant groom conducts his bride to his home, where they enter upon the tolls and responsibilities of the future.
The above account is based largely upon the following specific description of a wedding found among Mr. Halbert’s notes:
The following account of a marriage in Jasper county, Mississippi, in August, 1891, of two Six Towns Indians, Oliver Chubbee and Susan Simpson, may be considered as describing a typical Choctaw marriage in the closing years of the nineteenth century.
“The Indians in large numbers arrived on the ground the evening before the wedding day, and spent the night in their camps. The next morning, extensive preparations were made in the way of cooking the big dinner, which was to follow immediately after the marriage ceremony. The place was a kind of glade in the woods. Pots, kettles and pans were there in profusion and a number of Indian women were soon immersed in the culinary operations, preparing beef, bread, coffee, pudding and pie for the marriage feast. About eleven o’clock the long table was set, and it was announced that the marriage would now take place. Miss Susan then modestly made her appearance on the spot selected for the ceremony, a shawl was spread upon the ground, upon which she seated herself, and four men then took another shawl, and held it, one at each corner, over her head. “Halbina, Halbina” (presents, presents) was the cry that now resounded on every side. Forthwith many came forward and threw their presents on the shawl upheld by the four men. These presents consisted of bundles of calico, ribbons and other female paraphernalia, and even some little money, whatever in fact the donors chose to give. The presents, however, were not for the bride, but for the female relatives. They were intended as a kind of remuneration to these relatives for their assistance in cooking the marriage dinner. When all the presents had been deposited on the shawl, Miss Susan arose, walked off about fifty yards, where some of her female friends were assembled, and again seated herself. Here the presents were brought, taken possession of by some of the women and distributed among Miss Susan’s female kinfolk. At the same time that Miss Susan had seated herself on the shawl, and while the men were holding the other shawl over head seated herself on the shawl, and while the men were holding the other shawl over her head, Mr. Chubbee came within about twenty feet of her, spread a blanket on the ground and seated himself upon it, and quietly waited for the passive part he was to perform in giving a finality to the marriage ceremony. When Miss Susan raised from the ground, some half a dozen men, relatives of Chubbee, came forward and seated themselves in a line on his left. The male relatives (for the bride) now in succession, approached the patient bridegroom, addressing him by the title of relationship created by the marriage, and then delivered a short complimentary or congratulatory address
“When each had finished his talk to Chubbee, he then moved along the line, and shook hands with each one of Chubbee’s seated Kinsmen, calling him by the term of relationship created by the marriage, to which the kinsman responded simply by the assenting term Ma. For instance, Ashook hands with B, and simply said Amoshi ma, (my uncle) to which B responded with Ma. The Choctaw terms of relationship and their application are very intricate and perplexing to a white man. The following is the very short congratulatory address of one of the old Indians, George Washington, to Oliver Chubbee, “Nittak chashpo hokno sabaiyi chi ahanchi li beka tok akinli kia himak a annumpa holitopa chi anochi lishke. Sayup chi ahanchi li hoke.” In former days I called you Sabaiyi (my sister’s son), but note I put a scared name on you, I call you sayup (my son-in-law). Only two or three women came forward and spoke to the bridegroom and to him alone, for they paid no attention to the other men on the ground. T a subsequent inquiry made to George Washington as to the cause of so few women coming to give the bridegroom the term of relationship, the response was “Ohoyo at takshi fehna,” Women are very modest. When the men had finished their little congratulatory talks to Chubbee, the marriage complete, and bride and bridegroom were now one. Without any further ceremony dinner was now announced to which all hands forthwith repaired and did it full justice. As a general thing after the feast comes the big dance which was omitted on this occasion. Generally an old-fashioned Choctaw wedding takes place about sunset, after which comes the big feast and the nightlong big dance. In another feature Chubbee’s wedding differed from the usual old style, for commonly the couple sit side by side, and the wedding gifts are placed upon the head of the bride and are instantly snatched off by her kin. With the usual Indian impassiveness Chubbee did not go near or even look at his bride until all got ready to go home, which was about the middle of the afternoon.”
Following is Bushnell’s account of the ceremonies know to the Choctaw of Bayou Lacomb:
The marriage ceremony as performed until a few years ago, at a time when there were many Choctaw living in the region, was thus described by the women at Bayou Lacom.
When a man decided he wanted to marry a certain girl he confided in his mother, or if she was not living, in his nearest female relative. It was then necessary for her to talk with the mother or the nearest living relative of the girl, and if the two women agreed, they in turn visited the chiefs or heads of the ogla, or families, to get consent to the union. As a man was not allowed to marry a girl who belonged to his ogla, often the were obliged to make a long journey before seeing the two chiefs, whose villages were frequently a considerable distance apart.
After all necessary arrangements had been made; a day was fixed for the ceremony. Many of the man’s friends and relatives accompanied him to the girl’s village, where they seem to have had what may be termed “headquarters” of their own. As the time for the ceremony drew near, the woman with her friends was seen some distance away. The man and his party approached and he endeavored to catch the girl. Then ensued much sham fighting and wrestling between the two parties, and the girl ran about apparently endeavoring to escape, but she was finally caught by the man and his relatives and friends.
Then all proceeded to the place where the feast had been prepared, to which both parties had contributed. Off to one side, four seats had been arranged in a row; usually a log covered with skins served the purpose. The man and girl then took the middle seats and on the ends sat the two male heads or chiefs of their respective ogla. Certain questions were then asked by the chiefs and if all answers were satisfactory, the man and girl agreed to live together as man and wife and were permitted to do so. This closed the ceremony and then the feasting and dancing began.
The man continued to live in his wife’s village, and their children belonged to her ogla.
By mutual agreement the two parties could separate and in the event of so doing were at liberty to marry again. The man usually returned to his own village, taking all of his property with him.
If a man died in his wife’s village, even though he left children, his brothers or other members of his ogla immediately took possession of all his property and carried it back to his native village. His children, being looked on, as members of another ogla, since they belonged to their mother’s family, were not considered as entitled to any of this property.
The following descriptions of the marriage ceremony were given me by two of the best-informed men of the Mississippi Choctaw.
Olmon Comby stated that courting among the young people took place principally during the dances, such dances being held when the community happened to be together and there was plenty of food. If a youth’s advances were acc3epted, he carried the product of his next hunt to the girl’s mother and by that they knew that he wanted to marry her. Very soon his father would question him on the subject, and learned the girl’s identity, his mother was dispatched to the mother of the girl to obtain her consent. The latter would inquire whether her visitor’s son was a good hunter, and if she could truthfully say, “Yes, he is a great hunter,” the reply was sure to be favorable and the wedding day was fixed.
The youth then bought a piece of cloth, 75 or 80 feet long, which he gave to the girl’s mother, and she cut it into smaller parts to distribute among her female relatives, indicating to each of them as she did so that she wished her to provide a certain kind of food for a feast to be given to her future son-in-law’s kindred.
Before either party sat down to eat, the girl, at a given signal, started away on the run and the youth pursued her, she being assisted by her relatives and he by his. After she had been caught and brought back to the scene of the festivities, she was seated beside her intended husband, and his relatives brought quantities of cloth, ribbons and similar things, as also various kind of food, such as bread, beef, and pork, which was allowed to rest upon the girl’s head for a minute and then gathered up by her uncle, who tied the cloth up in bundles. These presents cost perhaps $60 to $75, and by then the girl was “bound.”
Then each family feasted the other, the relatives of the girl eating first. That made them kindred and they shook hands.
The girl’s people now brought baskets, sacks, and other similar receptacles and her uncle distributed to them in succession the articles provided by the groom. These had been placed in a pile and the distribution was made indifferently, beginning at the top, so that it was a matter of chance who received the best pieces.
Finally the chief delivered a long address, directed mainly to the newly married couple, telling them that they must be faithful until death and take good care of each other when either was sick. The chief also extended his remarks to the other young people, warning them not to run away to marry, and, so that the world might stand a great deal longer, not to marry near relatives. If they married persons already connected by blood, they would not know how to name their relatives. Thus the same man would be called father-in-law and uncle, and they wanted the names to be applied to different individuals.
From Simpson Tubby I gathered the following information.
The old people used to watch their children carefully, especially during the dances, to discover what attachments were springing up between them and prevent any taking root between those who were too closely related or whose associations were to distant or too diverse. That was the way in which they kept their children pure.
Mention has been made already of the taboos against marriage within the iksa and the still older taboo against marriage within the moiety. It is also said that they would not allow those related within four degrees to marry, no matter to what iksa they belonged, and that fifth cousins might marry only if they could prove there was nobody more distantly related who would make a suitable partner. (Claiborne mentions the case of a Choctaw named Pahlubbee who married his stepdaughter but was widely censured in consequence.)
Simpson affirmed that the girl must be between 20 and 25 years age and the youth be between 25 and 30. When they began to marry younger the offspring were “runts,” the tribe got smaller and weaker and ultimately became reduced to its present fragmentary condition. They also did not like to have their children marry into a band opposed to their own in the ball games. Opposition to marriage in other tribes had a practical consideration anciently because, should war break out between the two peoples, intermarried foreigners of the hostile tribe were generally killed.
A youth showed his fondness for a girl by calling often upon her brother, making him a special companion, and so on. These various signs having been observed by the old people, a courtship dance was held in the neighborhood and by watching the behavior of the young people, their parents satisfied themselves of the state of affairs. Sometimes attachments between three or four couples would be discovered on the same occasion. Then the father of one of the two parties would call upon the father of the other to talk the matter over. The mothers would also confer, after which all four had a meeting and came to an understanding. Then either the boy or the girl spent three days in the family into which he or she was to marry to see whether they would fit in there, because it was intended that they should spend the first few years of their married life in that particular household. If one of the parties was very young, such a disposition of them might be ordered by the chief.
While two young people were engaged, even though they were near neighbors, they did not see each other all the time. The old people meanwhile would visit back and forth, exchange salutations, and then bid good-bye as if they come from great distances and lived far apart.
The preliminaries having been satisfactory, the parents of the couple met and fixed upon a date for the wedding. Usually this was some time in the fall, because it was claimed that the nation would be weakened if people had sexual relations in the summer, a belief that was equally impressed on all married persons.
If a death took place the wedding would be postponed, the period of postponement being longer in proportion to the age of the deceased.
A great quantity of food was now procured by the girl’s family apparently, though Simpson omitted this point and they began cooking for the marriage feast about midnight, keeping it up until morning. On the other hand the youth’s parents made a considerable present of clothing and merchandise to the parents of the girl, consisting of some such articles as the following: One pair of shoes for each, a dress for the mother, a hat for the father, a barrel of flour, one side of meat, and $2 worth of coffee. If the young people eloped before such presents had been made, the marriage was not recognized as legal, and they legalized it by calling them in and going over the proper ceremony. At that time the head chief and captains made a final inquiry as to whether there was any possible blood connection between the two parties. Sometimes this took an entire day.
All obstacles having been removed, the girl was placed some 25 paces in advance of the crowd and the youth set out in pursuit of her. They followed a circular course, each being assisted by the members of his or her respective family. The harder the race the stronger it was believed would be their love for each other, but if the girl were soon caught, it was considered a sign that her love was weak. There was great excitement and much shouting. Sometimes the youth would fall and so enable his intended bride to get a long lead; sometimes she would fall and be caught almost immediately. It is claimed that the object of this race was to determine whether either party was indifferent to the match, as would be shown by running in a half-hearted manner. It is said that Little Leader (Hopaii iskitni), captain of the Sukanatcha band, put an end to the marriage race at the time when Sukanatcha was settled. The other marriage laws held on longer.
The girl having at last been caught, the two were brought back to the place where the feast was to be held and seated side by side, the boy being placed in his seat by the girl’s people and she in her seat by the boy’s. The chief or captain now made a speech in which he stated upon whom the obligation fell of decorating the girl, and upon whom the obligation of decorating the boy, the boy’s people in the former case and the girl’s in the latter. Those not related were directed to decorate both unless unable, for any reason, to do so, when they must remain quiet. Each party brought several yards of ribbon, perhaps from 5 to 7 or 10 to 40 yards of cloth, or dresses, which they laid upon the heads of the two until they were completely covered. This was to indicate their consent, and it was made the occasion of a property contest between the families, each striving to “out dress” the other. Afterwards each family took the property, which had been acquired in this way and distributed it to the nearest blood relations. Then they sat down to eat, a long speech was made by the chief or captain, and the dance followed, in which, if all was harmonious, all of the connections of both participated. If all of the relatives were not present the wedding was outlawed, and this was one of the ways in which trouble was created, usually by some outsiders, and perhaps by some one who had wanted to marry one of the parties to the match.
When a married woman came back to visit her parents, her husband did not usually accompany her. Whether or not she was present, he would not speak to her sisters and only to her father or mother if spoken to. Mother-in-law avoidance was common in old times, but it is said that the husband spoke more freely to his wife’s mother than to her father, because when his wife had a message to send to her parents it went more often to her mother than to her father, and so the husband had more occasion to meet the former.
Some white men who have witnessed native ceremonies furnished confirmation of details of the above, though with minor variations. They said that on the morning of the wedding day the groom was accompanied by a number of his male relatives, started toward the home of his intended bride and she at the same time, with a party of girl companions, set out to meet him. When the two parties had come within a short distance of each other, the girl and her company began running, and the young man, followed by his own company, gave chase until he caught her. Very often the girl carried a pack basket on her back filled with corn or with biscuits and as she ran the contents were scattered along the way and those who were present scrambled for them. After having overtaken his intended the groom brought her back to an open space where the ceremony was to be completed. They sat down side-by-side, and the headman usually made a speech. A feast, followed by a dance, concluded the day’s program, but on the next day there was usually a ball game. Some of these ceremonies are also remembered by the Choctaw in Oklahoma.
Now days it is said that the Choctaw of Bok Chito, the only band in Mississippi which is not formally Christianized, simply have a meeting between the two parties, a speech, and a feast.
Regarding widowhood and remarriage Claiborne says:
When a Choctaw husband dies the wife lays aside her jewelry or ornaments, and suffers her hair to fall disheveled over shoulders. Some six months after the cry for the dead is over the husband’s mother (or if she be dead, his nearest female relative) ties up and dresses the widow’s hair, and she is then at liberty to marry again. If she marries prior to this ceremony, or dances or flirts, she is discarded by the family of the deceased.
What I myself learned was practically the same. It was that the widow or widower had to wait until the mortuary ceremonies were completed, when the people of the iksa to which the deceased belonged dressed the bereaved in good clothing and said, “You are now free.” However, if there were little children, they usually preferred that the widower should spouse his wife’s sister, and similarly, a woman was more apt to marry her husband brother.
Medicine Made From Plants and Roots by Choctaws of Long Ago
In centuries past, Choctaws used plants and roots for many of their medicinal needs. Roots were dug in the fall of the year when they were purer and most of the poison had gone out of them. They were steamed to the boiling point but were not allowed to boil hard. A medicine is said to have been named most often for the insect or animal, which attends it. The following notes were obtained regarding specific remedies:
Rabbit tobacco, also called by the whites “life everlasting”, was made into an infusion and drunk in cases of fever. It was also used as a tobacco substitute.
Boneset was used in the steaming process to make one throw up “cold and bile.”
Jerusalem oak, or rather wormseed, called in Choctaw “children’s medicine”, was made the basis for a kind of candy and fed to small children who had worms.
The “pink root” was used with just enough whiskey put with it to keep it. It is a system builder, and when one has it, he needs no doctor. It makes one very sick at first but afterwards thoroughly well. It drives out fever and is a good tonic for old and young. When it was to be given to children it was weakened and in later times sugar was added.
The Choctaws used scurvy grass to clean the teeth.
Sampson snake root (Choctaw, nipi lapushkichi) is a poison to any other poison and was therefore used in cases of snakebite.
The Mayapple (Choctaw, fala imisito) or “crow pumpkin” is a fine medicine. The fruit is given to children as a purgative. In cases of biliousness they powdered the root, put half an ounce of this into a pint of water, boiled it down to about an ounce, and mixed it with whiskey. One swallow, or as much as a person could stand, was a dose. It received its name from the fact that the crow, which is a wise bird, feeds upon the Mayapple.
The wild cherry is looked upon as one of the best medicines for young girls. In winter, if cherry wine has not been put up, a tea may be made of the leaves, which is given internally to stop pain and cause perspiration. If enough is taken it was believed to purify the blood. If the leaves are gone, the outside bark may be peeled away and the inside bark used in the same way and for the same purposes.
The prickly ash (Choctaw, nuti alikchi) is good in cases of toothache. A piece of bark may be cut off to hold in the cavity of the tooth, or it may be powdered and made into a poultice.
Modoc weed “yellow root” (Choctaw, akshish lakna) was used for a weak stomach, in cases of fainting or when the nerves give way. The roots were boiled in water and taken along with whisky.
Golden rod (Choctaw, okhinsh balalli) and the puccoon root were sold to the whites for medicinal purposes but not employed by the Choctaw.
The pottage pea (Choctaw, balongtaichi tapachi) is an onion-like root with a sweetish taste used in cases of diarrhea.
The butterfly root (Choctaw, hatapushik okhinsh, “butterfly medicine”) was used for human beings in cases of colds. The tops could be employed as well as the roots. However, it seems to have been more often employed as a medicine for horses, being given when they had the blind staggers or seemed physically broken down. It was also given them in the fall to protect them from such sickness the following spring.
When they gave up their old out-of-doors life and came to live in poorly ventilated houses of poles and split logs daubed with mud the Choctaw were attacked by tuberculosis and suffered severely. It was suggested that they move out into the forest until they got well and those who did so saved a part of their families but most of the others died.
Information taken from Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Choctaw Indians by John R. Swanton, pages 237-238. <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
Plants used as medicine
Cayenne – Taken as a tonic beneficial for the heart and circulation, reduced vitality. Stimulant, astringent, carminative an antispasmodic. Normalizes circulation. Use for either high or low blood pressure.
Cinnamon – Brewed as tea for upset stomach and nausea, indigestion and gas.
Dandelion roots – Effective hepatic tonic and blood purifier. Combined with chicory for coffee substitute.
Garlic – Universally renowned culinary cure all. Home remedy used traditionally in many cultures. Effective alternative, stimulant, antibiotic. Ginger – Benefits stomach, intestines, circulation. Enhances effectiveness of herb. Used as a tea for indigestion, cramps and nausea.
Hops – Bitter tonic, drink before meals to avoid poor digestion and heartburn. Stimulating effect on liver.
Horehound – In Mexico, a tea of the leaves is taken for weight loss, formerly in domestic medicine, a tea or tincture of horehound was administered for sore throat and cough.
Nutmeg – To promote digestion, carminative, aromatic. Also as a flavoring and condiment and add to potpourri.
Peppermint leaves – Beverage tea; has antispasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic and stimulant effects. Good for stomach, intestines, muscles and circulation.
Sage – Infusion of leaves for indigestion and stomach acidity. Bitter tonic, suppressed menstruation. Inhibits roundworm or pinworm infection. Extremely bitter. Also called mugwork, wormwood.
Rosemary – Infusion of leaves for diaphoretic, stimulating memory, nervous disorders and hair and skin rinse.
Sweet clover – Fresh green plant used for floor covering in Navajo sweat lodge. External poultice for sore breasts. Tea for soothing stomach and chronic flatulence.
Wild Oregano – Favorite herb of Hopis especially when freshly gathered before flavoring. For cooking spice. Flowers steeped for suppressed menstruation, drink cool. Also for gastritis and indigestion.
Yucca – Traditional ceremonial hair wash used by Navajo and Hopi. <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
Traditional Choctaw Medicine
Information compiled from The Chronicles of Oklahoma.
A decade before the Choctaws’ removal to Indian Territory, Hoolatahooma, Chief of the Six Towns division of the Choctaw Tribe, expressed a desire to “follow the ways, of the white people.” Choctaw leaders had begun to realize that if they were to survive in a place increasingly populated and ruled by white people, then the Choctaws must adapt to white man’s ways.
Before the march along the “The Trail of Tears” missionaries helped educate the Choctaw people. Choctaw medicine reflected this, becoming a mixture of old traditions and new beliefs, and earning a reputation of being as useful as “ white mans’ medicine.” Some Choctaw alikchi (medicine man) were knowledgeable about the use of herbs and gradually adopted parts of the white man’s medicine. Some common Choctaw remedies were:
*Black root and ball willow were used for measles and smallpox
*Boneset and burnweed were each used as a purgative
*Mayapple fruit was given to children as a purgative
*Prickly ash bark could be held in a tooth cavity to stop a toothache or powdered for a poultice
*Pink root was combined with just enough whiskey to preserve it, and then used as a system builder
*Sugar, soot and spider webs were combined and applied to stop bleeding
*Persimmons were sun-dried and mixed with a type of bread to control diarrhea
*Sycamore bark was boiled, sweetened with sugar and given in tablespoon doses for coughs
*Ground Ivy was made into poultices, and used for treating sores.
*Slippery elm was combined with new milk and used as a wash to soothe burns.
*Wild Cherries were considered good for young girls; it was supposed to purify the blood
*Modoc weed roots were boiled in water and taken with whiskey for fainting, nerves and weak stomachs
*Jerusalem Oak was made into a type of candy given to children for worms <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
Medicine of the Choctaw Nation centuries ago
In the book Choctaw Social and Ceremonial Life, an interview with Simpson Tubby and notes from Cushman tell of the medicinal practices of the Choctaw tribe more than a century ago.
It was a common Choctaw belief that people got diseases from the food they ate, and therefore before killing a chicken, it was shut up and fed by the owner until what it had foraged for itself was out of it. On the other hand, it was thought that animals gathered their own medicine. The hog roots in the ground for his medicine and hog should not be shut or he will not be able to find his own proper remedies. This was one of the reasons advanced by Mushulatubbee in opposing allotment. He maintained that in time the stock would be enclosed so that they could not get their natural medicine and that the same thing would sooner or later happen to the Indians. The old Choctaw doctors are said to have held, like the Creeks, that animals caused diseases.
The same informant averred that the head chief appointed from one to three doctors from each of the five Choctaw bands, and that he and the doctors together appointed medicine givers who were later to appointed doctors themselves. After their appointment the doctors and medicine givers were placed in charge of the band captains who had to see that they carried out their instructions. Since it is said that medicine could be given only in the presence of one of these people, and that a man had to be present to see that a man took his medicine and a woman had to be present to see that a female took it, it would seem that the medicine givers at least were of both sexes. Medicine was administered by “swallows”, “fractions of swallows”, and “drops”. He also said that no one was allowed to take medicine except in the presence of a medicine giver, but it seems evident that only certain medicines were administered in this official manner.
Mention has been made of the readjustment of the pillow in response to certain symptoms. If one complained of a dead feeling in the legs and thighs, the doctor would reduce the height of the head end of the pallet so that the blood would flow less readily toward the feet.
If a person had lived some time in one place and had had much sickness, he would move. This was often at the direction of the doctor, and if the latter told him to move at a certain time he would do so, perhaps living in a tent until there was time to erect a house. Sometimes a man would move a dozen times on 40 acres of land.
Simpson also described what might be called fractional sweat bathing. In preparation for this a hole was dug in the floor big enough to hold a large pot. Over it crosswise were laid a number of sticks sufficient to hold up a quilt. A kettle containing water and medicines was then put over the fire and after the contents had been heated, it was placed in this hole and the affected part laid over it, a second kettle of medicine might be used after the first had become cool. After the steaming was over, the patient shut himself in his room and stayed there until the right temperature was restored, or as long as the doctor prescribed.
The use of cow horns was universal in the Southeast. Simpson says of it that in the first place the doctor took a sort of punch consisting of a piece of glass fastened on the end of a stick in such a manner that it could enter the flesh only a certain distance, place the point of it on a small vein over the afflicted part and drove it in with a little mallet. Then he clapped the wide end of the horn over the spot and sucked at the small end until most of the air had been removed, when he closed the hole by means of a bit of cloth previously lodged in his mouth. After waiting a certain time he drew the horn away and examined the blood it contained in order to diagnose the ailment. Another reason was probably to remove a foreign object, which some wizard might have injected. They also extracted from a patient such objects as lizards, snakes, terrapin, millipedes, or earwigs, which it was claimed were “aggravating him to death.”
(From Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Choctaw Indians by John R. Swanton, pages 235-236)
In 1700’s, Choctaw doctors’ opinion could mean life or death
In History of the American Indians, published in 1775, Adair says that the Indians of his acquaintance believed the time of a man’s death to be fated, and the following item regarding Choctaw doctors would seem to indicate that this fate was revealed to and consummated through the medical fraternity:
The Choctaw (sic) are so exceedingly infatuated in favor of the infallible judgment of their pretended prophets, as to allow them without the least regret to dislocate the necks of any of their sick who are in a weak state of body, to put them out of their pain, when they presume to reveal the determined will of the Deity to shorten his days, which is asserted to be communicated in a dream.
Since a doctor who lost a patient might be in jeopardy of his life while he was permitted to put an end to the existence of one whose death he had prophesied, it might be thought that the scales would be weighted heavily against the patient. This lends credibility to the following story reported in the memoirs of Milfort while visiting the Creek Nation:
The Choctaws revere greatly the priests or medicine men of whom I have just spoken, and in whom they have a blind confidence which the latter often abuse. These doctors exact high payments for their labors over a sick man, and almost always in advance. Their avarice is such That, when illness lasts for a long time, and the patient has nothing left with which to pay the doctor, the latter calls a meeting of the sick man’s family and informs them that he has employed all of the resources of his profession, but the sickness is incurable and it can end only in death.
The family thus forewarned decides that, the patient having already suffered a long time and being without hope of recovery, it would be inhuman to prolong his sufferings further and it is right to end them. Then, one or two of the strongest of them go to the sick man, ask him, in the presence of the entire family, how he is, and while the latter is replying to this question, they throw themselves upon him and strangle him.
In 1782 one of these who had been sick for a long time and who had nothing more to give to his doctor, found himself in danger of being strangled in the manner I have just described. As he was suspicious and was on his guard, he watched for the moment his family was assembled to hear the report of the doctor and decide to put an end to his sufferings by putting him to death. He took advantage of this moment to flee and escape the ceremony, which awaited him. He dragged himself, as well as he was able, as far as a forest, which fortunately was near his dwelling. He was not able to carry with him provisions of any kind, and found himself reduced to the necessity of living on the flesh of wood rats, known under the name of “opossum,” which are very appetizing and very healthful. His flight caused all his family great astonishment, but the doctor persuaded them that he had gone away only to conceal his inevitable death.
While this unfortunate was wandering in the forest, he remembered that he had frequently visited the Creeks in order to carry thither the belts or strings of beads which serve them as records. He determined to take refuge with them and inform them of his reasons for fleeing from his own country, not doubting that he would find help and protection in a nation with the generosity of which he was acquainted. He then sought out McGillivray, who was at that time head chief, and explained to him the reasons for his journey. He reminded him that he had visited him many times on behalf of his chiefs. McGillivray received him kindly though he was unable to recognize him for he looked like a skeleton. Food was given him and as he was still sick, some days later he had him take some emetic (i.e., cassina) diluted with sassafras water. This medicine was sufficient to cure his sickness, but as this savage had suffered much and had been ill for a long time, he remained four or five months with McGillivray in order to become wholly restored to health; I saw him often and he related his adventure to me himself. When he felt entirely restored, he returned to his own nation. About eight months had then elapsed since his escape, and his family had raised a scaffold and performed all the ceremonial rites preceding and accompanying funerals which I have described above. The doctor had so strongly persuaded the relatives of this savage that he could not recover from his illness that, when he appeared in their midst, they looked upon him as a ghost, and all fled. Seeing that he was left alone, he went to the house of one of his neighbors who, seized with the same terror, threw himself on the ground, and persuaded that this was only a spirit, spoke to him as follows:
“Why have you left the abode of souls if you were happy there? Why do you return to us? Is it in order to be present at the last feast, which your family and your friends hold for you? Go! Return to the country of the dead lest you renew the grief which they have experienced at your loss!”
The other, seeing that his presence caused the same fright every where, determined to return to the Creeks, where he saw again, in course of time, many of his relatives, since these were in the habit of coming there every year. It was only then that he was able to disabuse them and persuade them that the doctor had deceived them. They, angered at such a piece of rascality, sought out the doctor, heaped upon him the most violent reproaches, and afterwards killed him so that might deceive no one else. They then made all possible representations to this savage in order to induce him to return to them, but he refused steadily and married a woman of the Taaskiguys by whom he had three children, and he lives at the place where Fort Toulouse formerly stood.
Text in this historical article is from Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Choctaw Indians, by John R. Swanton. (Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution,) pages 213-214.
February 1, 1978, Hello Choctaw, Page 15
Chahta Pashofa Dance
By Sidney J. White of Tuskahoma
Pashofa is a dish prepared by the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes by boiling hominy corn (tafaula) with cured meat; for instance, the shoulder and ham bones. Pashofa was always prepared at the dance, which was held as a sacred ritual ceremony in recognition and respect of the sick.
The sick person, man or woman, was confined in a cabin several steps from the seething pots and dance ground. A limit line was drawn on the ground a few steps from the cabin where guards were placed to keep out intruders, or those persons not authorized to enter the cabin where the sick and ailing person lay.
In case the sick person was a man, only a man attendant, whom we will call (hatak alikchi) man doctor would be the only person allowed to enter the cabin of the sick. The man doctor knew all the medicinal plants. He knew for what use all the grasses, herbs and the different parts of trees that could be used for food and medicines. He knew how to cook, boil and prepare them in their natural state if necessary for the diseases and ailments prevalent in his locality. The sole attendant took whatever he prescribed to the sick and whatever the patient desired, if such as he wanted was available and not injurious to him.
If the ailing one was a woman, then her attendant was a woman, but the medication administered to her had to be prepared and directed by the (hatak alikchi) medicine man.
The guards were strong men, so your father told me, and if any man crossed the line with the intentions of entering the cabin or sick room, he was man-handled and forced to drink a bitter concoction prepared by the medicine man. The concoction, so I’ve been told, caused purging and vomiting. If such be the case we would judge that very few if anyone would dare to enter the prohibited area.
I understand that the Creek and Seminole Indians drink the bitter concoction before going into an Indian ball game. It cleans out their system and they do not become sick at the stomach while under such physical strain during the game. I never saw the Choctaws use the bitter concoction but I do know that they refused food at lunchtime when they were ready to participate in a game, which was to start at about 1:00 p.m.
In times past, tuberculosis (T.B.) was a menace and prevailing disease among the Choctaw people, and I am of the opinion that when a pashofa dance was held that the patient was very low. And it was held in hopes, of course, the patient would recover. But I should believe, from what I have heard about a pashofa dance, that the patient didn’t live too long after the dance. But, nevertheless, a pashofa dance was given in respect, honor and benefit of the sick. A great multitude often attended a pashofa dance, and like the Indian ball games, an occasional fight took place among the men and not too often someone might be wounded by gunshot or maybe killed outright. To the best of my knowledge, pashofa dances were discontinued shortly after the turn of the century.
The last match game, one county against another, of Indian ball to which I was a witness, was between the opposing teams of Jacks Fork and Tobucksi (Coal) Counties. The game was played, or attempted to be played, near Blanco, Oklahoma in the month of August 15, 1911. They left for home, the 16 games unfinished. All the games played in the Choctaw Nation since that time have been exhibition games played at picnics and county fairs. In such games I have taken a part myself.
The information in respect to the pashofa dance was related to me by Lyman Pusley and I wrote the above for his son, Smallwood Pusley. The above is the exact copy of the original.
Different names Palmetto, cabbage palm, cabbage tree, sabal palm, blue palm. Ways to make Use of Ethno botanic: The Seminole, Houma, Choctaw, and other Native American peoples in the southeastern United States used cabbage palmetto for a wide range of functions. The white, crisp palm hearts were eaten either raw or cooked by boiling or steaming. The leaf buds are alleged to have a flavor like cabbage. Nevertheless, both of these food uses—the heart and the buds—result in the death of the plant. The palm fruits, which ripen in the fall, are little and mostly seed, but they are sweet with a slight bitter aftertaste. The seeds and berries were used for headaches and to lower fevers. The plants provided fiber and lumber used to construct dwellings, make food, paddles, drying frames for animal skins, potato drying mats, fish drags, fish poison, ball sticks, arrows and hunting dance staffs. Most Seminole homes were built from the cabbage palm. Logs would be used as poles for the framework of huts that were thatched with the fan-shaped leaves. Split logs were used for floors. Young fronds were bleached in the sun, cut into strips, and plaited to make long strips, which were used for lashing or sewn together to make baskets. The stiff midribs of the leaves were sometimes used to create ball sticks or racquets. Palmetto-thatched huts may still be found in Houma country Louisiana. Wildlife Fruits ripen in the late fall and are eaten by crows, mockingbirds, warblers, pileated and red bellied woodpeckers and squirrels. Palmetto fruits supply 10 % to 25% of the diet of raccoons and robins in the Southeast.
Description General: Palm family. Cabbage Palmetto is an evergreen palm tree that can reach 20m in height. The erect, unbranched trunk has grayish to brownish bark with distinctive pineapple-like markings where the old leaf stalks were attached. Medium-green, rigid, fanlike leaves are palmate compound and spread in all directions as they surface from the top of the trunk. The fans, often wider than they are long (2-3m wide), contain several long and pointed leaflets with prominent midribs. During June and July, abundant, small (.5cm), fragrant, white flowers are borne upon drooping, branched cluster. The berry-like fruits are small (1.5cm), shiny and black. Each fruit contains one seed.
Language is far more than words. Language is the all-encompassing symbol of a way of life. A key to a culture. Communication is the gateway to understanding and to successful living among people of different cultures.
These two concepts make Todd Downing’s Chahta Anompa a significant work.
Greater understanding of the Choctaw’s history and his way of life, past and present, can be an enriching experience for individuals, and for the whole of society.
The Choctaw language can also be an immeasurably effective tool, in the most practical sense. Because of past Indian education policies, which made “Speak English!” the basis of language study, many Choctaws themselves do not know their tribal language. Their relationships with fellow tribesmen whose first – or only – language is Choctaw are handicapped by language difficulties. This situation comes at a time when many First Americans need better understanding of a society which is their own but from which they are too often alienated.
As for non-Indians endeavoring to learn more about the tribe, which gave Oklahoma its name, their study can be a rewarding venture. More important, the linguistic study can be a pathway to communication with people who like other tribes, face problems in today’s world. Their problems, however, are no greater than their resources, largely untapped, which can enrich America.
Vitally interested in recovering and preserving this country’s Indian heritage, particularly as a means of improving Indian education, the Muskogee area office of the U. S. Bureau of Indian Affairs is responsible for the publication of Chahta Anompa. The office’s education personnel believe that the work can be an important education tool and can lead to similar projects among other tribes.
Professor downing, the author, is a widely respected linguist, history scholar, and language teacher. A Choctaw himself, he is now devoting much of his time to in-depth study of his tribe’s culture, with emphasis on language.
Professor Downing is also teaching Southeastern State College’s first courses in Choctaw. His teaching is a development of the Choctaw Bilingual Education Program. Supported by the U. S. Office of Education, the program is a joint operation of McCurtain County Public Schools and Southeastern State.
Mary M. Frye
“Cannot all Choctaw nouns be treated as verbs?” Cyrus Byington asked in the manuscript of his Choctaw Grammar. “The root may be considered as in the infinitive mood: as hattak, to be a man: hattak’ (with the last syllable accented), it is a man: hattak okmat, if a man. “His Editor, Dr. Brinton, cited German and French authorities on the Aztec and Algonquin languages and arrived at the conclusion that “the primitive expressions in these languages are concrete, not abstract-nouns, therefore, not verbs.”
This is an argument into which we need not enter. In either case-whether verbs became used as nouns or vice versa-the result is of great help to the student in building up a vocabulary in Choctaw. If you learn one word, you can easily learn a group of words formed from it.
This pisa for example. It may be used either as a verb meaning “to see” or as a noun meaning what is seen or the person who sees. And it may be combined with other words to express a variety of things.
Holisso pisa may mean to read or study (books) or to attend school. Or it may mean a person who reads or studies, a scholar, a pupil, a student. The place where he reads or studies, the school, is holisso apisa. The Schoolhouse is holisso apisa chokka. Pisachi may mean to teach or a teacher (Literally the meaning is to cause to see, the suffix –chi signifying to cause.) Holisso holhtina nanna okla pisa may be translated simply as a class-that is, pupils counted together as one group of people.
Ikbi is another word (verb? Noun?) which has many uses. It may mean to make-or one who makes, a maker or creator. Holisso ikbi may mean to make, print or publish a book-or the author of a book, a printer, and an editor. Chokka ikbi may mean either to build a house or a carpenter. Nan ikbi is either to make things or a manufacturer. Hina ikbi (or Hinikbi) is to make or open up a road, path or furrow-or a road maker, a plowman, and a pioneer.
Impa used as a verb means to eat. Used as a noun, it may mean one who eats or what is eaten, food or a meal. Impachi is to cause to eat, to feed, to entertain at a meal-or a person who performs this action. Impa chito is a feast, a banquet. Impa iskitini is a snack, a bite, lunch. Ikimpo is to fast or one who fasts.
Ishko means to drink or a drink or a drinker.
This multiplicity of uses of a single Choctaw word will make up to the student for the fact that there is seldom any word in English with which he can associate it in order to help him remember it. Pisa, ikbi, and ishko- you simply have to learn them.
“Nan ikhana in kana sia mak osh sa hohchifo han takalichi lishke.” “I respectfully subscribe myself a friend of learning.” So wrote the Reverend Allen in Boggy Depot on March 25, 1880, upon completion of his Chahta Leksikon. I can find not better words with which to bring to a close this attempt to present the bare rudiments of the Choctaw language. T.D.
One more pronoun should be mentioned. This is the second person plural imperative ho- (ho-before a consonant) used to express a command or a request.
Oh-apila. Help him.
Ho-miniti. Come on.
Takbanli Nan Anoli
Choctaw belongs to the Muskogean stock of American Indian languages. It is related to the Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole but not the Cherokee, which is an Iroquoian tongue.
Unfortunately we Choctaws never had a Sequoyah to devise an alphabet for us, so in writing our language the English alphabet must be used. And in a few cases writers, editors and printers have not been in agreement, as to which letters should be taken as representing Choctaw sounds. This lack of uniformity may be a bit confusing to the student at first, especially when he consults various Choctaw wordbooks, but he will soon see that there is no great difficulty involved here.
The pioneer in the study of the Choctaw language was Cyrus Byington, a graduate of the theological school at Andover, Massachusetts, who in the winter 1820 arrived in Mississippi to take part in the missionary work of the Presbyterian Cyrus Kingsbury. (Was there ever a people more readily converted to Christianity than the Choctaws? They had requested that missionaries come into their nation and establish churches and schools.) Among the manuscripts left by Byington at his death in 1868 were a Choctaw grammar and a Choctaw-English, English-Choctaw dictionary. This grammar was published in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, in 1870. The dictionary was issued in 1915 as Bulletin 46 of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Both are virtually unobtainable today.
Another valuable work was the Chahta Leksikon of Allen Wright, D. D., the brilliant and versatile Choctaw who was as active in the religious and educational life of the Choctaw Nation as he was in the field of politics. This volume, consisting of only a Choctaw-English vocabulary, appeared in its first edition in 1880. In a preface to the second edition, published by the M. E. Church, south, in 1904, the Editor, T. L. Mellon, expresses regret that he has not succeeded in reducing the number of letters, which the Reverend Wright used in spelling Choctaw words. “But these letters have been too long in use, “he writes, “and appear in all Choctaw literature.”
A scholar of today, however, has been more determined in this matter than Editor Mellon. Thurston Dale Nicklas of the University of Kansas has made a considerable reduction in the number of letters required in the writing of Choctaw. His Choctaw Orthography is being used in the Choctaw Bilingual Education Program being carried on in Oklahoma by Southeastern State College and the McCurtain County Superintendent of Schools, with the support of the Office of Education, U. S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Consequently in the lessons, which follow, we have adopted the usage of Mr. Nicklas. If once in a while we mention the fact that certain words have slightly different spellings in the dictionaries of Byington and Wright, this will be done only for the benefit of students who may have occasion to read Choctaw as printed in books and newspapers of an earlier day.
Does the word CHAPTA above look familiar? It is the English CHAPTER in the spelling first used by the missionaries who translated the Bible into Choctaw. They translated the name Mary as Meli, Mark as Mak, Peter as Peta. Why? Because the sound of the letter ‘r’ does not exist in Choctaw.
We use 18 letters in writing Choctaw. They are: a, b, ch, (one sound), f, h, I, k, l, lh, (one sound), m, n, o, p, s, sh (one sound), t, w, y.
The three basic vowels – a, I, o – may be short or long or nasalized. The difference between a short and a long vowel is not so much in the sound itself as in the length of time it is held in pronunciation. When a vowel is long it is held twice as long as when it is short.
The vowel a is pronounced either like the a in the English word father or like the a in the word sofa.
The vowel I is pronounced either like the I in the word machine or like the i in the word big.
The vowel o is pronounced either like the o in the word go or like the u in the words put or rude.
Here are some Choctaw words with short vowels:
- Chahta – Choctaw
- iti – tree
- Hattak – man
- oka – water
- Hoshi – bird
- nipi – meat
In the following words the next to the last vowel is long:
- Achi, - to say
- nowa -, to walk
- Banaha – shuck bread
- toli – ball game
- Niya – fat
- waya – to grow
In Choctaw, as in French, the consonants m and n have had a strong effect on a vowel preceding them in the same syllable. As a rule, the vowel has become nasalized and the m or n has lost its sound, leaving the vowel long. The pronunciation of the vowels is similar to that of the vowels in the English words sing and song, but in Choctaw the nasal sound is softer.
Byington and Wright used different devices to indicate the nasalization of a vowel. The former wrote a small raised n after the vowel. The latter underlined the vowel. We are following the rules formulated by Nicklas:
Spell a nasal vowel as an, in, on except in the following cases:
- Before the consonants b or p write am, im, om, omba, rain. Impa, to eat.
- Before the consonant m write am, im, om. Momm, all, still.
Before the consonant n write an, in, on. Onna, to be arriving there.
In our Foreword we mentioned the elimination in modern Choctaw of certain letters, which formerly were in general use. An important example is the italicized v sound in Choctaw. But when John R. Swanton edited the manuscript of Byington’s dictionary for publication by the Bureau of American Ethnology, he changed this v to an a with a dot under it. Allen Wright stuck by Byington’s original use, however, and the printing of v became standard practice in the Choctaw Nation. The word for town appeared tvmvha. In accordance with Thurston Dale Nicklas’s system of orthography, we are writing this word tamaha.
“Katah hosh chikbi tok on?” is the first question in the first chapter of the Katikisma. “Who made you?”
“Chihowa yak osh sakbi tok oke” is the response. “God made me.”
“Chihowa hat pi pisa hon?” “Does God see us?”
“Chihowa hat pi pisa hoke.” “God does see us.”
Here we have in Choctaw and in English examples of personal pronouns used as direct objects of verbs. Chikbi is the contracted form of chi ikbi. Sakbi is the contracted form of sa-ikbi. In both examples, you will notice, the object pronoun is placed before the verb, not after it as in English.
Below is a list of the direct object personal pronouns in Choctaw:
- Sa- me
- Chi- you (singular)
- Him, her, it not expressed
- Pi- us
- Hapi- us
- Hachi- you (plural)
- them, not expressed
The first person singular sa-changes to si-before the vowels a or o.
In addition there are the reflexive pronoun ili- and the reciprocal pronoun itti-.
This last, which we mentioned in Lesson Seven, requires some comment. Itti- does have the reciprocal use, as in the English sentence “The boys hit each other.” But it also is frequently used with the meaning of together, in company with each other. “The boys shout together, in unison” When you hear it used in Choctaw, you will have to judge by the context which meaning it has.
The indirect object pronouns are:
- Am- (to) me
- Chim- (to) you (singular)
- Im- (to) him, her
- Pim- (to) us
- Hapim- (to) us
- Hachim- (to) you (Plural)
- Im- (to) them
The first of these, am-, changes to sam-when it does not begin a word.
The reflexive form is ilim-. The reciprocal form is ittim-.
Towa hon ampila. He throws the ball to me. He throws me the ball.
Towa hon iksampilo. He does not throw the ball to me. He does not throw me the ball.
Students who know their English grammar will point out that in the sentence “He throws me the ball” the word me is the indirect object but that in “He throws the ball to me” the last two words constitute a prepositional phrase. The meaning of the two sentences is the same, however, and they are expressed in the same way in Choctaw.
Here are some common verbs, which you may use for practice:
- Achi, to say, speak
- Anoli, to tell
- Apila, to help
- Atobbi, to pay
- Banna, to want
- Binili, to sit down
- Chompa, to buy
- haklo, to hear
- maka, to say
- hotihno, to count
- minti, to come
- ikbi, to make
- ikhana, to know
- impa, to eat
- ishko, to drink
- issa, to cease, go away
- nowa, to walk
- omba, to rain
- panaklo, to ask (a question)
- pila, to throw
In exceptions (2) and (3) the underlining of the m and n is necessary to show that double consonants are not being used. Note that in Okla homma, Red People, the adjective homma has a double m without any nasalization of the preceding vowel.
The consonants – b, ch, f, h, k, l, lh, m, n, p, s, sh, t, w, y – have, with two exceptions, practically the same sounds that they have in English.
The more important of these two exceptions is the sound of lh, which is not heard in English. To make this sound, pronounce an l but instead of giving it a humming sound, as in English, blow air out around the side or sides of the tongue. Ilhpak, food. Olhti, district. Lhamko, strong.
The Choctaw f has a sound only slightly different from the English f. In pronouncing this in English, the lower lip is brought up against the upper teeth. In Choctaw, it is brought up against the upper lip. Fala, blackbird. Fani, squirrel. Ofi, dog.
These instructions for pronouncing lh and f cannot be called hard and fast rules. Nowadays in many parts of the Choctaw Nation you hear lh pronounced like the th in the English word think. And you hear f pronounced exactly as in English. Such changes are inevitable, but our advice is to use the original Choctaw pronunciation. If it was good enough for Pushmataha, it should be good enough for us.
FOR PRACTICE IN PRONUNCIATION, READ ALOUD THE Lord’s Prayer in Choctaw. Here is the translation given in Katikisma, the Catechism prepared for publication by a group of scholars, which included Choctaw Chief Victor M. Locke and Peter J. Hudson, who was connected with the Oklahoma Historical Society for many years. No changes have been made except to modernize some of the spellings.
“Pinki aba Ish ahanta ma! Chi hohchifo hat holitopashke; Ish apelhichika yat alashke, nana Ish ai ahni kat, aba-yakni yan kaniohmi kan chiyohmi hosh, yakni-pakna yan ai alhtahashke. Himak nitak ilhpak pim aialhpesa kak on Ish pipetashke; mikmat pishno yat, kana hat na pim ashachi tok an, il in kashoffi chatok an chiyohmi hon, pim aiashachika putta kan, Ish pin kashofashke; mikmat anok-plika yokan, ik ia chik pim ai ahno hosh amba nan-okpolo an Ish pi a lhakofihinchashke. Amen.”
If you wish to come to an understanding with a man, do not start by arguing about points you disagree. Fix your attention on what you and he have in common.
While this rule may be applied to the learning of a second language, it is difficult to follow it in the case of a language as dissimilar to English as Choctaw. Therefore we are taking up here some of the marked differences between the two tongues.
In English it is thought necessary to distinguish between singular and plural nouns. Boy, boys, Man, men.
In Choctaw, as a rule, a noun has the same form for both the singular and the plural. Hattak, unmodified, may be translated as either man or men.
Sometimes, however, the speaker may wish to make it clear whether he means a single individual or more than one. In such a case, he adds a numeral adjective to the noun. Hattak achafa is one man. Hattak toklo, two men. Hattak lawa, many men. Hattak momma, all men.
In Choctaw it is usually not necessary to think of a noun as being masculine, feminine or neuter. Only a few nouns—such as hattak and ohoyo, woman – denote sex. A distinction between male and female may be made, however, by adding the words nakni, male, and tek, female. Thus, alla is a child of either sex. But alla nakni is a boy, while alla tek is a girl.
In English, the only inflection of nouns for case that has been retained is in the possessive – the man’s house. Whether a noun is used in the nominative case, as subject of a verb, or in the objective case, as object of a verb, it remains unchanged. The man sees. I seethe man.
In Choctaw, the case of nouns must be kept constantly in mind, as there are numerous articles whose endings depend upon the case of the noun, which they modify. Hattak at pisa, the man sees. Hattak an pisali, I see the man. Hattak osh pisa, a man sees. Hattak on pisali, I see a man. Hattak inchokka (in-chokka), the man’s house (literally, the man his house). This is an extremely important difference between English and Choctaw.
IV. Verbs and Subject Personal Pronouns
Note that in the preceding section we used pisali to mean “I see.” Pisa is the verb. The subject personal pronoun is the attached –li.
“You see,” the second person singular is ish-pisa, with the subject pronoun ish- usually connected with the verb by a hyphen. (If the verb had begun with the consonant s, the ish- would have become is-.)
In the third person singular and the third person plural no subject pronoun is used. If pisa were spoken or written alone, the subject might be he or she or they. The student may find this confusing sometimes.
In the first person plural, Choctaw has two ways of saying “We see.” One, called the paucal or the definite or the exclusive plural, is I-pisa. (If the verb had begun with a vowel, il- would have been used instead of I-.) the
“Pinchokka an atoklant I-pisa achin himma kiyo! We shall never see our homes again!” This was the cry of the Choctaws when they heard that agents of President Andrew Jackson had induced some of their leaders to sign the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek—only twenty years after Tecumseh warned them that unless the Indian nations banded together against the United States they would all lose their homelands.
“I-pisa achin” (the words are run together in pronunciation as if the spelling were I-pi-sa-chin) is the future tense of the verb pisa, to see. This tense is simpler in Choctaw than in English. There is no need to debate over the use of “shall” or “will.” You just add achin to all forms of the verb.
This makes four tenses that we have studied: the present, the recent past, the remote past, and the future. Let’s go over them here and get them fixed in our minds.
Pisali–I see Ish-pisa –You (singular) see Pisa– He or she sees I-pisa– We (a few people) see Iho-pisa –We (more than a few) see Hash-pisa–You (plural) see Pisa–They see Remember that if the verb begins with a vowel, the subject personal pronouns for the first person plural are slightly different. For the verb achi, we would have il-achi and iloh-achi. Another point. For conversational purposes at the beginning, do not try to make a distinction between the English simple present, emphatic present and present progressive. Pisali above might be translated either “I see” or “I do see” or “I am seeing.” By all means do not use a separate verb for “do” and “am.”
PAST TENSES RECENT REMOTE Pisali tok I saw Pisalit tok Ish-pisa tok You saw Ish-pisat tok Pisa tok He, she saw Pisat tok I-pisa tok We saw I-pisat tok Iho-pisa tok We saw Iho-pisat tok Hash-pisa tok You saw Hash-pisat tok Pisa tok They saw Pisat tok FUTURE TENSE Pisali achin – I shall see Ish-pisa achin – You will see Pisa a chin – He, she will see I-pisa achin – We shall see Iho-pisa achin – We shall see Hash-pisa achin – You shall Pisa achin – They will see see
The Choctaw conjunctions most frequently used here are: Mik mat or mikmat (shortened form of yohmik mat) Micha (shortened form of yohmi-cha) Ak mat Anonti In addition to using one or another of these conjunctions between nouns, as in English, Choctaws often place a word after the last of the connected nouns. This may be the word aina or ayina (old form, aiena), or it may be a numeral summing up how many nouns are in the series. (This would correspond to the English “John and Mary, the two of them.”) If such a word is used, it is followed by an article indicating the case of the nouns, which have been mentioned. Suppose we want to say “the Choctaws and the Chickasaws.” Which conjunction shall we use? The one, which sounds best. So we experiment a bit and say: “Chahta mik mat Chiksha aina hosh.” Or “Chahta mik mat Chiksha toklo-k at.” Or the reciprocal pronoun itti- may be prefixed to the numeral giving here “Chahta mik mat Chiksha ittitoklo-k at.” Suppose we want to say “the Choctaws and the Chickasaws and the Cherokees.” If we use a numeral here, we have “Chahta mik mat Chiksha mik mat Chilakki tochchina-k at.” Or “Chahta mik mat Chiksha mik mat Chilakki ittitochchina-k at.” In saying “the Choctaws and the Chickasaws and the Cherokees,” two different conjunctions might have been used in order to avoid repetition. For an illustration of such good style in Choctaw, we may turn to the Katikisma, where “the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost” is translated “Inki micha Ushi mikmat Shilombish Holitopa aiena.”
second, called the distinctive or inclusive plural, is iho-pisa. (If the verb had begun with vowel, iloh-would have been used instead of iho-.) Today many Choctaws use the first of these forms if they have only a few people in mind, the second if they are including a considerable number of people. But sometimes the second form is used to include the person spoken to and means “you and I,” nobody else. The second person plural is hash-pisa. (Hash- becomes has-if the following letter is s.) Observe that in all the above forms (pisali, ish-pisa, pisa, I-pisa, iho-pisa, hash-pisa, pisa) the verb pisa itself has not changed. So once you have learned the subject personal pronouns you will be able to use practically any active verb in the present tense. IV. POSITION OF ADJECTIVES Here is a comparatively simple difference between the two languages, which nevertheless accounts for the fact that English-speaking people often have difficulty in understanding Choctaw. In Choctaw, as in the Latin languages, a descriptive adjective follows the noun, which it modifies. Okla, people, is a noun. Homma, red, is an adjective. Okla homma, therefore, means red people. Three commonly used Choctaw nouns are” bok, a stream of water, whether a river or merely a creek; kali (kvlih, in Allen Wright’s spelling), a spring; tashka (tvshka, Wright’s spelling), a warrior. Adjectives are: chaha, high; chito, big; losa, black; toklo, two; inla, new, strange. With this vocabulary at his command, the student should be able to translate the following names of towns and streams in southeastern Oklahoma, as listed by Dr. Charles N. Gould in his book Oklahoma Place names: Bokchito Kullichaha Tushka Bokhoma Kullichito Tushkahoma Boklusa Kulliinla Boktuklo Kullituklo ANOMPA NAN-ISHT-AIOKPACHI
For further practice in reading Choctaw, here is the Doxology as printed in the Katikisma: “Inki, micha Ushi, mikmat Shilombish Holitopa aiena kat ik holitopa. Ammona kan yammak atok osh, himak an yammak ash inli, micha himak pilla han abiliat, ont ataha yat ik-shoshke. Amen.”
Chapta Tochchina Lesson Three “I don’t see why students have trouble with a foreign language,” said a school administrator who had never studied any language except English. “All you do in Spanish and French classes is talk Spanish and French.” This good man was not aware of the obstacles ahead of the person who sets out to learn to speak a language not his own-whether it is a European tongue such as Spanish or French or a Native American language such as Choctaw. These obstacles can be overcome, however, if the student wants to overcome them, really wants to, and if the will force himself to use strange-sounding words, to use them over and over again until they become familiar to him. Here is a start on conversation in Choctaw—ittim-anompoli, talking together, to one another. Do you speak Choctaw? Chahtah an ish-achi ho? The han shows that the noun Chahta is the object of the verb. The final hon (on after a word ending in a consonant) is an interrogative particle, simply indicating that the sentence is a question, not a statement. It is spoken with a slightly rising pitch. I speak Choctaw. Chahta han achili. I do not speak Choctaw. Chahta han ak acho. Ik, the sign of negation, becomes ak before a verb in the firs person. When either ik or ak is used, a verb ending in a or I changes this ending to o. Sometimes kiyo, not, is placed after the verb, in which case ik or ak may or may not be used also. Thus there are three ways of saying “He does not speak”: Achi kiyo. Ik acho. Ik acho kiyo. Where do you live? Katimma hon ishayansha hon? I live in Durant. Ayanshali Durant. Where does he live? Katimma hon ayansha hon? He lives in Idabel. Ayansha Idabel. The interrogatives (katimma, where; kata; who; nanta; what; katiohmi; how; how many; why) are followed by the articles, which we shall take up in the next lesson. You may be wondering which Choctaw word translates the English preposition “in.” Choctaw has few words that correspond to English prepositions. In the Choctaw sentences above, the verb is really ansha (sometimes anta) and the prefix ay (or ai-) expresses the idea of the English preposition “in.” If we used the English verb “inhabit,” we would be doing exactly what the Choctaw does. I inhabit Durant. He inhabits Idabel. What is your name? Chihohchifo mat nanta ho? Literally, “your name what?”
Lesson Seven Of all the great names in Choctaw history, the most resounding one is that of Pushmataha, Chief of the Six Towns District in Mississippi. It was a speech of his, delivered in 1811, that influenced the Choctaws to adopt the policy which they were to follow down through the years—that of peace and alliance with the United States. Tecumseh, powerful leader of the Shawnees, had come south to persuade the Muskogean nations to join the confederacy, which he was forming to resist the invasion of Indian lands by white men. On a hill outside Molasha Town the Choctaws and Chickasaws met in council to hear him. Tecumseh was a fiery orator, and unquestionably he spoke the truth as he recounted the wrongs, which the Indians had suffered at the hands of citizens of the United States. Many Choctaws and Chickasaws were in favor of joining him in a war of self-preservation. But then Pushmataha arose. “His long black locks fell back from a broad manly brow, from which shone dark, eloquent eyes full of depth and fire; his face broad and of a clear olive tint, his lips thin and compressed, all united to give an expression of firmness and intellectuality. The solemn manner and long silence that he assumed fell with unmistakable meaning upon the silent throng, upon whose faces still shone the light of the blazing council fire, reflecting no longer conflicting emotions, but one seemingly united all pervading sentiment. War and extermination to the whites.” “Omikhke!” Pushmataha spoke at last. “Anompa tilofasi ish haklo.” Attention! Listen to a few words from me.” The council listened—and then ordered Tecumseh to leave the Choctaw Nation. We have Pushmataha’s full speech only in an English version. But even reading this, with a dramatic description of the scene in Cushman’s History of the Choctaw, we can get a good idea of Choctaw oratory—its balanced phrases, its deliberateness, its sonorous dignity. “The war which you are now contemplating against the white men is a flagrant breach of justice; yea, a fearful blemish on your honor and also that of your fathers. And if you examine it carefully and judiciously you will find that it forebodes nothing but destruction to our entire race.” The Choctaw language is so well suited to speech-making that we have wondered if its abundance of little articles did not evolve from a tendency to make even everyday sentences oratorical—clear in meaning, balanced, euphonious. Of course the student cannot expect to learn to speak Choctaw oratorically in a short time. He should begin by expressing himself in short simple sentences. Instead of trying to say, “I went to town and ate,” say, “I went to town. I ate.” Tamaha iyali tok. Impali tok. The use of compound and complex sentences may be taken up gradually, because this will necessitate a study of the various conjunctions—so-called although most of them have case endings like the articles and some have verbal functions in that they indicate tense. For the time being, we are taking up only the translation of the English conjunction “and” when it connects two or more nouns.
Taking nipi, meat, as an example, we have: annipi, chinnipi innipi, pinnipi, hapinnipi, hachinnipi, innipi. As a general rule, ownership of inalienable nouns is expressed by the use of the following prefixes: Sa-, my Chi-, my i-, his or her pi-, our (if only a few people are concerned) hapi-, our (if a number of people are concerned) hachi-, your (if speaking to more than one person) i-, their
Let’s take nishkin, eye, and an example. Attaching the above prefixes, we have: sanishkin, chinishkin, inishkin, pinishkin, hapinishkin, hachinishkin, inishkin.
Some inalienable nouns, which express kinship, may use a- instead of sa- for the first person singular.
The word for mother is never used without a prefix, It will always have one of the following forms; ashki, chishki, ishki, pishki, hhapishki, hachishki, ishki. The same rule applies to the word for father. It will always have one of these forms: anki, chinki, inki, pinki, hapinki, hachinki, inki. To a Choctaw child in the old days, which was more import: inki, his father, or ishki, his mother? His mother, decidedly, because Choctaw society was matrilineal. Descent was reckoned from the mother. A sister of one’s mother was also called ishki, and the mother’s brothers had the duty of seeing to the upbringing of her children, disciplining them and in the course of time arranging marriages for them.
The verb “to be” is usually not expressed in Choctaw My name is… … … … … … Sahohchifo mat … … … … … … This question and this answer would have been out of place among our Choctaw ancestors. A person’s name was such a personal thing that he would not speak it unless it was absolutely necessary to do so. A good wife refrained from speaking the name of her husband. At most, she would refer to him as the father of one of their children. And there was a very strict taboo against uttering the name of a dead person.
Chapta Oshta Lesson Four In what is now Winston County, Mississippi, stood the sacred mound of Nanih Waya, legendary birthplace of the Choctaw people. A picture of Nanih Waya as it was in 1918 will be found in Angie Debo’s The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic, and anyone who looks at this will have little doubt that in the construction of the mound the Choctaws were influenced by the great Indian civilizations of Mexico, where long before Columbus arrived the Olmecs and the Mayas and the Toltecs were erecting pyramids to serve as bases for their temples. “Hopaki fihna kash, hattak at atoba ammona kat Nanih Waya.” Thus begins a Choctaw creation myth told by Isaac Pist Onat Abi, a Mississippi Choctaw, in the late 1900’s. The complete text appeared in Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Vol. IV, and is reprinted by Thurston Dale Nicklas in his Choctaw Orthography. It will serve to initiate the student into the use of the Choctaw articles, little words that are big in their importance. “A very long time ago,” a literal translation runs, “man the place-where-he-came-into-being first (was) Nanih Waya.” In “hattakat” we have the article a- with the ending –t because it is used with a noun in the nominative case. (A dash after an article indicates that the case ending can be added to it. A dash before a letter or combination of letters indicated that it can be used as a suffix.) In “atoba ammona kat” we have this same article with the prefix k- because it is separated from the noun, which it modifies, “atoba,” by an adjective, “ammona.” If the noun “hattak” had been in the objective case, the article would have had the ending –n instead of –t. “Hattak an.” Or if the contrasting article o- had been used, it would have had the ending –sh in the nominative case. “Hattak osh.” You will notice that in “hattak at” the article is not translated into English, since the noun is used in a general sense. In “atoba ammona kat” the word “kat” is translated “the.” Sometimes forms of a- become “a” or “an” in English. It is simply not possible to give a precise meaning for each of these articles. Others, with approximate meanings, are: ma- and yamma-, “that” or “those”; pa- and ilappa-, “this” or “these.” Any of these, including a-, may be used alone with the case ending required; or the suffix –o may be added to them for emphasis. Accordingly we have in the nominative case the following: Hattak at or ato - - - - - Hattak mat or mato - - - - - Hattak yammat or yammato Hattak pat or pato - - - - - Hattak ilappat or ilappato - - - - - If the noun is in the objective case, these become: Hattak an or ano - - - - - Hattak man or mano Hattak yamman or yammano - - - - - Hattak pan or pano
Chapta Hannali Lesson Six Every year, on the first Saturday in May, the Atoka County Historical Society presents an outdoor pageant. JOURNEY’S END, in which we reenact some of the great scenes from Choctaw History: the confrontation of Pushmataha and Tecumseh in 1811; the signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1831; the winter time removal of our people to new homes across the Mississippi River; the signing of the Atoka Agreement in 1897; and the final merging of Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory into the State of Oklahoma in 1907. After the performance in Stanley Park we always sense an amount of disappointment among the youngsters in the audience. They have come expecting to see what they have seen in so many movies: Indians in feathers and war paint dancing and whooping and attacking wagon trains. Instead they have seen peaceable, soft-spoken Indians whose main occupations were agriculture and trade, whose favorite diversion was the ball game. This home-staying, home-loving life of the Choctaws—contrasting with the nomad’s of the buffalo-hunting tribes of the Great Plains—may be reflected in the Choctaw language, with its highly systematized ways of expressing ownership of things, relationship to persons. Choctaw nouns fall into two classes: alienable and inalienable. Alienable nouns represent things that an individual actually owns, that may be bought and sold: a house, a boat, and meat. Inalienable nouns represent either things that an individual is normally born with—eyes, hands and feet—or his kinship with other persons. To express ownership of alienable nouns, which begin with a vowel or with the consonants b or p, the following basic pronouns are prefixed to the noun: Am-, my - - - - - chim-, your (if speaking to one person) - - - - - im-, his or her Pim-, our (if only a few people are concerned) - - - - - Hapim-, our (if a number of people are concerned) - - - - - Hachim-, your (if speaking to more than one person) - - - - - Im-, their Thus, taking pini, boat, as an example, we have the following forms: ampini, chimpini, impini, pimpini, hapimpini, hachimpini, impini. If the alienable noun begins with a consonant besides b or p, m or n, the m- of the above prefixes becomes n-. Taking chokka, house, as an example, we have: anchokka, chinchokka, inchokka, pinchokka, hapinchokka, hachinchokka, inchokka. If the alienable noun begins with the letter m, the m of the prefix is underlined, to show that this is not a double consonant but that the m of the prefix is silent and its preceding vowel nasalized. Taking minko, chief, as an example, we have: amminko, chimminko, imminko, pimminko, hapimminko, hachimminko, imminko. If the alienable noun begins with the letter n, the n of the prefix is underlined, to show that this is not a double consonant but that the n of the prefix is silent and its preceding vowel nasalized.
“Kanima” means somewhere, but here it is made negative by the ik- prefixing the following word. Ik, used alone or as a prefix, is the sign of negation in Choctaw. When it is placed before a verb, adjective or adverb ending in the letters a or I, these endings are changed to o. In “ilappakinlih” we have the article ilappa taking the suffix –k before adding the article inlih. The verb ayyasha, to have one’s home in a place, is formed from the “locative particle” ai-, which is found in many words. Now we suggest that you read aloud the whole excerpt from this creation myth, getting the meaning without pausing to analyze grammatical constructions. Bring out those little articles—at, kat, yosh, etc.—but do not worry if it is not always clear to you why one is used instead of another. “Hopaki fihna kash, hattak at atoba ammona kat Nanih Waya. “Mashkoki yosh tikba Nanih Waya akochchat tok oki. Hashi akochchaka ilhkolit tok oki.” “Mih man, Chiksha yosh atochchinat Nanih Waya akochchat tok oki. Chilakki at atiyat tok an iyakkayat ilhkolit tok osh.” “Mih man, Chahta yosh atochchinat Nanih Waya akochchat tok oki. Chilakki at atiyat tok an iyakkayat ilhkolit tok osh.” “Mih man, Chahta yosh ont ayoshtah man Nanih Waya yamman isht ayyopi akochchat tok oki. Kanima ikayoh osh yakni ilappakinlih on abinohlit tok osh, Chahta at ayyashah oki.”
Hattak ilappan or ilappano. Another common article is oka-, pronounced with the o long and not to be confused with the noun oka meaning water. It has the same forms as ma-: in the nominative, okat and okato; in the objective, okan and okano. Other articles are: o-, ash o-, inlih, the first two of which have –sh for a nominative ending. O- usually indicates decided contrast. Ash o- corresponds to the English “the aforesaid.” Inlih may have such translations as “the same” or “self.” O- and ash o-never add the emphatic suffix –o , thus we have in the nominative case osh and ash osh, in the objective case on and ash on. These last three articles—0-, ash o- and inlih—may be used after the articles a-, ma-, yamma-, pa-, ilappa- and oka-. When this is done, the suffix –k is attached to the first article. A- becomes ak. Ma- becomes mak. Yamma- becomes yammak, Pa- becomes pak. Ilappa- becomes ilappak. Oka- becomes akak. Thus, taking a- as an example, we might have in the nominative case: ak osh, ak ash osh, ak inlih osh. In the objective case these would become: ak on, ak ash on, ak inlih on. Two more articles should be mentioned: atok, pronounced with the a long, and ok. Neither of these is ever used alone. They are followed by another article, usually some form of ma- or oka-. Thus we might have in the nominative case atok mat and ok mat—or, with the –o added for emphasis—atok mato and ok mato. In the objective case these would become atok man and ok man, atok mano and ok mano. Here—in a rather tough nutshell—are the Choctaw articles. The student should not expect to master them all at once. Nor should he be discouraged if he has difficulty in finding exact English equivalents for them. It is probably enough at the start to note in reading or hearing them how they always indicate the case of a noun—whether it is used as a subject or object in a sentence.
Chapta Talhappi Lesson Five Let’s go on with the Choctaw creation myth, which we began, in the last lesson. “Mashkoki yosh tikba Nanih Waya akochchat tok oki. Hashi akochchaka ilhkolit tok oki.” “The Creeks came first out Nanih Waya. Toward the east they went.” A bow to the Creeks and the closely related Seminoles! Not only were they created before the Choctaws, according to this myth, but they also gave their name to the Muskogean linguistic stock. “Yosh” is the article osh with the letter y placed before it because the preceding word ends in a vowel. Sometimes hosh is used under these circumstances. According to Allen Wright, the use of these variations of osh (and other articles beginning with a vowel) is a matter of euphony. Choctaw has tow past tenses: the recent and the remote. Both Byington and Wright express these by adding tuk to the verb if its action took place recently, tok if the action took place along time ago. Nicklas, whose system of spelling we are following, uses tok to express the recent past and –t tok to express the remote past. Akochcha is the verb to come out, to emerge from a place. If the Creeks had come out of Nanih Waya recently, the form of this verb would have been akochcha tok. But this event occurred ages ago, so we have akochchat tok. Byington calls oki “a final particle of assertion.” It corresponds somewhat to an exclamation point in English and need not be translated. “Hashi akochchaka” means literally “the rising sun.” Ilhkoli is the verb “to go.” Ilhkolit tok is its remote past tense, “they went.” “Mih man, Chilakki yosh atoklant Nanih Waya akochchat tok oki. Falammi imma akon ilhkolit tok osh, falammi imma akon ont ayoklachit tok oki.” “Then the Cherokees secondly came out of Nanih Waya. Toward the north they went and in the north they settled and became a people.” “Akon” is the article a- with the letter –k attached because it is followed by on. It takes its case, the objective, from the noun “falammi,” the north. “Ont” is called by Byington a “directive particle,” indicating an action from the speaker, or the place of its origin. Usually the English translation is to go and do something. “Mih man, Chiksha yosh atochchinat Nanih Waya akochchat tok oki. Chilakki at atiyat tok an iyakkayat ilhkolit tok osh.” “Then the Chickasaws came thirdly out Nanih Waya. Where the Cherokees had made a trail, they went and followed.” Atiya means to travel a road for the first time. Iyakkaya, to go after, to follow, is formed from the verb iya, to go. “Mih man, Chahta yosh ont ayoshtah man Nanih Waya yamman isht ayyopi akochchat tok oki. Kanima ikayoh osh yakni ilappakinlih on abinohlit tok osh. Chahta at ayyashah oki.” “Then the Choctaws came out of Nanih Waya fourth and last. They did not go anywhere but settled down in this very same land, and it is the Choctaw’s home.” “Isht ayyopi,” the last ones. 13
- Chahta – Choctaw