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.
Bernard 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.