Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation
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April 26, 1937 Sulphur, Oklahoma Interviewed by John F. Daugherty

My parents were Eli Carnes and Maggie Ellis Carnes, both born north of Caddo, Indian Territory. Father was a stockman. I have o­ne brother. I was born near Caddo, September 10, 1876. When I was a child my parents told me stories of bears and hunting. I went to a neighborhood school in Caddo. The building was a frame building. We had hewed log seats. My teacher sat o n a stool made from a block eight inches wide, six inches thick and twelve inches long, with holes bored in it, and three wooden pins stuck in it for legs. His desk was made of a sycamore block. I attended this school for five years and then I entered Spencer Academy for Indians near Hugo, and finished my high school course. This building is till in existence. Here I learned blacksmithing, barbering, carpentering and farming. I became a farmer and stockman. There were a hundred and fifty boys in school at the time I was there. We raised our own gardens. We cleared and broke forty acres of ground in four days at this academy o ne year while I was there. Mr. Jeeter was the Superintendent at that time. We brought our supplies at Caddo. There was no money. We gave hides for what we bought. If there was any change coming to us, we received hides. I they owed us 15 cents, we received three small hides. If they owned us $1.00 we received a large hide. We bought very little. Each family raised a Tom Fuller patch of corn, consisting of three to six acres, and from this corn we made several different things. We made mush from the meal. The meal was made by placing it o n a block and pounding it with a pestle, or maul until it was ground fine. It was parched and ground to make a cereal which was eaten with sugar and water. Another corn product which we all liked was Banaha. This was made of meal which was cooked. Beans were mixed with it. Then this was wrapped in corn shucks and boiled again until cooked thoroughly. Another corn product was coffee. The grains of corn were parched until black, ground and made into coffee. Father and some of our neighbors would go hunting each fall and bring home venison which they would dry and barbecue for winter use. We never put our hogs in pens. We would go to the woods and round up as many hogs as we wanted, kill and dress them, and take the meat home to cure for winter use. We also had beef at any time, and bear meat was no luxury for us. The horses belonged to the tribe. Any time we wanted a pony to ride we went to the heard and got the o ne we wanted. Our clothes were hand-made. Mother wove the cloth o n an old fashioned loom, spun her own thread and made our clothes. Each night before going to bed my brother and I would have to pick a shoe full of cottonseed out of the cotton which we had raised. We used plaited rag strings in wooden bowls of tallow for lights. We wore o nly moccasins o n our feet, and they were made of buckskin. We tanned this buckskin ourselves by covering it with bark. It was then buried for days. We took it up and rubbed it over a board nailed to a tree until the hair come off. Then we would cover it with tallow and bury it again. This would give it a velvety finish. Then it was ready to be made into moccasins. These were usually decorated with beads. We used wooden and buffalo horn spoons for eating. There were no knives nor forks. Poke berry juice was used for painting our faces for dances.

I was born in a log house which was built in 1855. It is still standing. It had three rooms with puncheon or hewed log floors. The logs were mortised together. There wasn’t a nail in it. Pins made from bois d’arc trees held the logs in place. There were no windows. The doors were made of hewed logs and hung o n wooden hinges which worked o n bois d’arc pins. The rafters were put o n with bois d’arc pins at the heel and at the top. Three foot boards were laid o n lath and pinned o n with bois d’arc pins. The house was painted with sand and lime. We made our own lime. We laid a row of logs, then a row of lime rock and a row of logs and so o n until they were piled higher than our heads. Then we built a log heap around this and set them afire. When this was burned we had our lime. We had no doctors except herb doctors. They made their medicines out of barks and roots. Their pills were made of Mayapple. a chill tonic was made of cherry bark and dogwood. They used buzzard oil for rheumatism. I very well remember attending a Stomp and Medicine dance of the Creeks at Perry’s Crossing o n the Canadian River in the Creek Nation. At this dance they would fast for three days and feast for three days. When a white person married into the Chickasaw tribe he must go through this ceremony as a sort of initiation into the tribe. There was no escape. They would go hunt the newly-married man or woman and bring him or her in. If they refused to do as told then they would make the bride or bridegroom drink a cup of buzzard oil, by sticking a feather in the oil and putting it down the throat of the victim. If a murder was committed it was death for the murderer. He was told to report at a certain place o n a set date, and he would always be there. They never confined a criminal in jail. When he came to be killed he would remove his shirt and a cross was made over his heart with gunpowder and water, for the gunmen to shoot at. There were three or four gunmen, but o nly o ne had a loaded gun. When the signal was given all guns were fired at the same time and the murderer was killed. They used whipping post for those who stole or committed other minor crimes. These offenders were given a hundred and fifty licks. My grandfather came from Mississippi in 1838 when he was twenty-two years old. His name was Harris Carnes. He freighted twice a year over the Fort Towson, Fort Arbuckle’s and Fort Cobb roads. He used a team of eight oxen, and received $500.00 a trip. He had a plow made out of a dogwood tree, with two limbs for the handle, and a crook made the foot-piece and beam. His breaking plow was made of wood with a wooden mold board covered with cowhide greased with tallow, so that it would shed the dirt. His next plow was a bull tongue plow made of wood, all but the shovel. Then came the double shovel. Our hoes were made of sharpened crooked sticks, which had grown in the shape of hoes. I was married to Myrtle Sparks, December 25, 1896. We had three boys and o ne girl, all-living. We moved to the Chickasaw Nation in 1905 and have lived here continuously since.

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